Imagine if every iPhone had a different, individualized phone charger. The chaos, confusion and frustration that would accompany this scenario was easily avoided by Apple’s strategic use of standardization.
This post talks about the importance of standardization and making processes more systematic. That applies to making technology more seamless to use, but it also applies to helping a business run as a well-oiled, profitable machine. There are tremendous benefits that await system integrators that address and improve their systems and standards in terms of how they serve customers. If you want to run a more profitable Integration business where customers are happy – read on.
A Look Back in History
In 1996, Axis Communications invented the first network-based IP camera, the Neteye 200. This revolutionary device was able to connect to a server, giving it the ability to send and receive information across computer networks. However, Axis realized that most people still had analog CCTV systems incompatible with the Neteye, leading them to invent the first video encoder in order to allow users to integrate existing systems with the new IP technology. While this was an improvement in terms of standardization, as Chris Hugman of System Surveyor recalls, “Because this technology was still so new at the time, each new camera that came onto the market required a different protocol. Recording software, therefore, needed to learn around 50 different protocols that then had to be incorporated into one platform.”
To combat confusion and create a unified platform, Axis, Bosch, and Sony Corporation came together in 2008 to form the standardized ONVIF protocol. The purpose of this, as described by Hugman, was to define common guidelines and integrate individual surveillance devices into a coordinated system. To be ONVIF compliant, cameras must be compatible with and easily supported by a standard video recording software.
The creation of the ONVIF protocol improved the lives of many through well-organized guidelines and systematic simplicity. Similarly, many businesses have found that incorporating a cohesive strategy and standards can greatly improve both efficiency and accuracy within their companies.
- In the software world, interoperability is a characteristic of a product or system that can communicate with other external products or systems. In System Integration, interoperability is important because it allows for a united IoT; the ability to connect various types of devices that creates an organized and cohesive operation. When multiple products from different corners of the market can work together, both convenience and efficiency skyrocket – making consumers wildly excited about the technology because it “just works”. A good example is the launch of the Nest® system, a smart thermostat that works with mobile devices and is simple it use.
- This concept also applies to the workplace - everybody on a team comes from different backgrounds and experiences. In order to fully utilize each person’s unique strengths within the group dynamic, members must find a way to not only coexist despite their differences, but to also produce exceptional work while doing so. Once expectations are defined and agreed upon, synergy can be achieved.
- Defined expectations working within a well-operating system can make System Integration more flexible and dynamic with customers. Once basic concepts are fleshed out; time and energy can be focused on ensuring a project is adaptable, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction.
- Let’s look at an example in the System Integration Business:
What would happen in if an integration company/team utilized a standardized protocol for site walks to gather customer requirements and combined all of the information such as notes, checklists, pictures and sketches into one unified system? Answer: It would provide significant time savings as opposed to doing it manually. That time saved gathering basic information could be used to focus on unique customer needs. Moreover, consistency creates a force-multiplier by enabling the most technical resources on a team to be better leveraged across more projects (less time wasted with inaccuracies).
- Ironically, it is standardization that can make the process more flexible by giving time back to the basics of listening to customer needs and identifying the unique requirements and details needed to make a project successful. Internally, groups can benefit from this flexibility as well. When standards are set in place and basic confusion is eradicated, the focus can be shifted to making a team dynamic and productive.
3. Future Proofing Projects and Profits
- Simplifying data and communication into a single, defined method leads to an organized approach that can better predict future performance.
- System Integrators must estimate projects every day. Estimation accuracy is the lynchpin for project profitability. Integrators must provide a quote based upon the expected amount of time or labor costs a project may incur. It’s necessary to have a realistic idea of what a project will entail before committing to it, and the more standardized and systematic a process is, the simpler it becomes to define and estimate before providing proposals and a statement of work. The problem is that most System Integrators get started without a standardized process and therefore leave money on the table by inaccurately estimating projects.
- Establishing and adhering to a system and standards for customer information gathering and workflow provides continuous data and normalized routines. Once a team has settled into a system, there is more recurring data that altogether forms clearer expectations for the work that can be generated in the future. Estimates get better and projects become more profitable. Keeping it “in our heads” is not systematic. It is wise to "raise a red flag" if that is how your company is conducting business.
- When a business operates under a well-defined common approach, it produces much cleaner, more accurate results. Once a standard is set in place, a business can retain more control over its outputs, allowing workers to focus on perfecting small details.
- Teams with a standardized system in place can redirect their focus and energy to exceeding client expectations. Without the need to constantly self-organize or manually make information cohesive, the end results are far more satisfactory. This leads to better reviews, happier customers, and eventually, higher profits. Quality becomes scalable, not something that is recreated with each customer engagement.
Standardize and Systemize for Better Customer Experience and Success
Imagine cooking a five-course meal, but only receiving confusing and complicated directions that use different languages and measurement metrics for each recipe. Take that stressful scenario and add deadlines, the need for team coordination, and high client expectations. It’s a great analogy for how System Integration can be without a standardized, systematic approach to the business.
Standardization equally benefits customers and integrators. Incorporating systematic policies and protocols leads to a better customer experience where expectations are clear and everyone across the company from sales to operations/support can deliver on a customer requirements. And, great things happen when people have great experiences: they refer you to others (the lowest cost way to get your next customer).
What to do next? It’s necessary for integrators to implement standardized systems not only within the workplace environment, but also regarding the equipment that they use. Tools like System Surveyor assimilate IoT devices into an accessible, organized and cohesive floor plan. With a strategic process organizing information, confusion and frustration dissipate – and high-quality work becomes routine. The ultimate result: customers are happy, and integrators run a healthier, profitable business. To begin improving systems and standards in your industry try a free trial here today.