I am not a big baseball fan, but it seems to me that in almost any sport, flexibility is important — both for the athlete, physically, and in the game itself. Baseball is after all famous for its “seventh inning stretch” — a chance to stand and limber up those muscles, whether you are a player or a spectator.

Sports terms are frequently applied to what is happening in the business world. In the case of this year’s Top Systems Integrators Report, the concept of baseball’s “curve ball” was an apt description, coined by No. 8 A3 Communications in their comments about the past year: “2020 was a year where the market shifted dramatically … [and] required us to remain nimble amongst the curveballs thrown our way.”

A baseball game can only have one winning team per game, but in the field of security integration, the winners this year were those companies who could pivot to new business opportunities, adjust on the fly, keep their staff employed and busy and, of course, make a profit.

2020 won’t win any prizes for being a stellar economic or business year: As No. 24 Dallas Security Systems puts it, “It would have been a good year if not for COVID-19.” Still, the common theme amongst the top 100 security integration companies was that in spite of quite a few highs and lows, they ended up at least even with — and in some cases slightly ahead — of where they had been in 2019.
In fact, as a whole these companies did more than just okay. Profit margins for all of the 2021 ranked companies stayed steady in 2020, with 69 percent reporting they either increased or stayed the same. Even more encouragingly, nearly three-quarters of the top 100 integrators expect 2021 revenues to increase over 2020, by an average of 13 percent.

One of the things that helped a lot of these top companies do well this past year was their focus on certain technologies, as well as their willingness to branch into new offerings. Whether it was thermal cameras, touchless access, video or managed services, there has been a definite shift in the needs of customers — and this is something many security integrators don’t see going away.

“As a result of the pandemic, we have embarked on a new digital world. Innovative products ensuring safety and security have become a priority for organizations worldwide and we anticipate additional growth within this sector for 2021 and beyond,” says No. 1 ranked Convergint.

A prime example of this shift is explored in more depth in this month’s special section, Video Monitoring Today . In the lead article, Video Monitoring in the ‘New Normal’, Courtney Wolfe writes that video monitoring helped many security dealers and integrators not just survive but do well. And like the top systems integrators, many feel this is the way forward, post-pandemic.
“Video is a great way to add services, increase RMR and build customer engagement that is critical to customer retention,” says Sean Forrest, CEO of Alarm Connections. “Video innovation has enabled residential systems to be more useful and provides a high level of return on investment in commercial uses with the reduction of guarding labor, loss reduction and improved employee and customer safety.”

If 2020 were a baseball game the number of innings would have felt interminable; and yet here we are in July of 2021 with more hope for the end of the pandemic than we have had in nearly a year and a half. Most states have fully opened at this point; they have stopped emergency pandemic measures and are moving forward with life. This month will also see the security industry’s first big live event, ISC West.

While the pandemic has not been declared officially over quite yet, we can all hope this period we are in is more like the Seventh Inning Stretch — complete with gatherings, hot dogs and beer — of a game that won’t go into extra innings or throw any more curveballs our way.