Exclusive Interview: Milestone on their partner ecosystem and the A/NZ VMS market
As an open platform VMS provider, Milestone Systems works quite closely with their partners in order to deliver value down the chain to end-customers.
They provide the base structure with their XProtect platform, and resellers provide further innovation through technology integration and development of solutions.
This gives customers a wealth of choices when looking at implementation, and widens the scope of potential use cases, so ensuring clear-cut communication with their resellers and distributors becomes even more paramount for delivering value to customers.
At the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium, we sat down with Milestone Systems South Pacific country manager Jordan Cullis and regional channel director Angelo Salvatore.
We discussed how they are faring in A/NZ as well as what things like AI and IoT mean for the future of the surveillance industry.
How important is the A/NZ market for Milestone?
Cullis: A/NZ has traditionally been a huge part of Milestone's business and obviously it will continue to represent a significant portion of that. It’s where we have our largest on-the-ground footprint and we’ve been putting significant investment into new verticals where we haven’t been particularly strong in the past.
Salvatore: When you look at the A/NZ market, it’s definitely maturing and the channel in the region has now stabilized. Our channel partner programs and the structure of the channel in that space have solidified to a point where we’re now looking at building that skill base so we can grow the market further. As much as I love the technology that we have available, if we didn’t have the channel to execute it, we would not be able to deliver on our brand promise.
With Jordan now on board, our Australian channel is in a good position to extend their reach in terms of new distribution partners and specialised reseller’s who deliver valuable solutions to the end client.
How is the channel expanding in A/NZ?
Cullis: The channel has just recently undergone a significant expansion, as we have just appointed a new distributor in CSD. That’s a big change for us, as their reach and their strength in the market is something that we’re really going to leverage moving forward. When we’re talking about integration partners - or resellers as we call them - we’re always looking for businesses that are a little more dynamic and looking to ‘create an intelligent world’.
How would you describe Milestone’s approach to market?
Cullis: Milestone really approaches the market from a thought leadership position, as we tend to view our platform as a launching pad, not an end-game. By delivering a Milestone VMS, what we’re offering our customers is the ability to develop and evolve an ecosystem of products over a period of time, allowing them to dynamically solve their business problems as they become apparent.
For example, we’ve been particularly successful in retail over the last few years, with many customers that have started out with relatively small solutions who have been able to grow those solutions out.
Salvatore: Moving forward, our CTO has said that 50% of all information coming into our system is probably not going to be video in the next 5 - 10 years and we have to prepare for that. Having the technology available to the channel will allow our partners to be able to upskill and change the way they do business.
We really push the idea to partners that they need to assess their business to really determine whether they’re maximising the opportunity they have with Milestone on an open platform.
On another note, one way I explain our market approach to people who aren’t necessarily from our industry is that 'Milestone is to the surveillance industry what a smartphone is to apps'. So, we provide the platform for all the manufacturers and they can then produce their technology on top of that.
Does A/NZ present any challenges that you don’t see in other markets?
Salvatore: There is a challenge in upskilling our reseller base and providing them with the adequate tools and information to provide value for clients. Looking back 20 or 30 years, the (physical) security market was quite stagnant from a technology perspective, we are now experiencing an exponential shift where there is something new to deal with or learn every day.
The other thing is we have to ensure that our partners are staying relevant to their customer base. Customers are looking for certain solutions, applications and skill sets to make sure their product is relevant. So for us, we’ve spent a lot of time and resources on creating certification programs and support models in order to counteract any brain drain.
How do you see your channel partner program as distinct? How does it deliver value for partners?
Cullis: Being quite new to the job, it’s been interesting to come into a business with a clearly structured and defined program for the reseller network beyond the distribution layer. We do have a very strong program in place which gives people very clear metrics about what we expect from them and - more importantly - what they can get back from us.
Resellers also have a very clear layer of communication with all of the distribution networks, enabling them the flexibility to buy from whoever they feel is most appropriate at the time. It’s a very well-rounded program that gives everyone the clarity they need to execute their business with absolute confidence.
Salvatore: Furthermore, the program rewards loyalty and participation. If they do take up the training and certifications that we offer, we acknowledge that and show that to customers. This gives a trust factor back to the end customer, so they can be assured that the company they’re dealing with has done the certified training.
Just picking up on that a bit, do you think there are issues around clarity in the wider channel space when we’re talking about partner programs?
Cullis: Absolutely there are. One of the things that most businesses grapple with is the distribution layer, because essentially we’re diluting it by adding more. In this situation, it doesn’t have the same impact because every layer is protected by the program, right down to the end user. That person or company can then have confidence that they’re buying technology at the right price, and have the project delivered to them by certified professionals with the appropriate skill set.
So this program gives clarity at each layer, so that everyone understands their role when it comes to their individual responsibility to the end-user. In the broader market that doesn’t exist. There are very limited cases where that kind of program has been successfully deployed. A lot of people have tried but they’ve had trouble getting it to work.
Are innovations in AI, IoT and Big data causing an explosion of demand for VMS? How will this play out going forward?
Salvatore: Having been a witness to this industry over the last 17 years, the last time this happened was when we transitioned from analogue to IP. That was an exciting period because there was general inertia around it beforehand, however, that was just a single product - it was analogue vs digital. That lifecycle moved on over the years and there hasn’t been the same level of innovation in the industry since.
What we’re seeing today is that next inflexion point, but we’re no longer simply talking about a product technology, we’re talking about an entire industry. From a reseller perspective, they can now go forward in practically any direction they want. They’ve got access to a plethora of tools that will stop the margin drain that’s existed in the industry as the technology has matured.
Cullis: We’re definitely at that inflexion point of creating a genuine Internet of Things. We see ourselves as the platform to accomplish that, as these devices become more readily available and the communication platform becomes standardised.