Integrated Security & Communications expands, takes hybrid approach to integration
TOMS RIVER, N.J.—Propelled by its work in the pharmaceutical vertical, Integrated Security & Communications is opening a new office in Raleigh, N.C.
“Logistically it’s a good market for us, with the Research Triangle, higher ed and pharmaceutical there,” Michael Thomas, president of Integrated, told Security Systems News, sister publication to Security Director News. “And it’s close to Charlotte, so we can cover a few markets from that area.”
Thomas launched Integrated in 2007. The business is headquartered here, with offices in Tyngsboro, Mass., and Chicago. Its expertise is in compliance-driven and regulated manufacturing facilities in verticals such as health care, petrochemical, financial and higher education.
In retrospect, 2007 may not sound like a very auspicious year to start a systems integration business, but Integrated has grown 20 to 25 percent year over year for the past three years and did north of $6.5 million in revenue in 2011. Thomas said he’s on track to “exceed [those] numbers again this year.”
Fortunately for Integrated, business with vertical markets such as pharma is driven less by the overall economy and more by what new drugs are being developed or the particular phase patents are in, he said.
Thomas also comes to the business with a unique background and takes what he calls a “hybrid approach” to systems integration work.
Before starting his business, he held several roles in manufacturing at Honeywell Security. He was involved in product development and “meeting regulatory requirements from a product standpoint,” he said. In that role, he met frequently with end users to understand their requirements. He then took those requirements and specifications to the software development team that developed access control products.
Thomas said he uses "a lot of Honeywell product as it is in our DNA, [but] also supports some of the industry's other leading manufacturers in access control and video surveillance with a commitment that all of its [Integrated Security's] resources are trained and certified in the products they support, not just a few people in any one product."
While at Honeywell, Thomas also had the Honeywell field support organization—which was responsible for training and certification of the integration channel—report to him. This gave him insight into “the best practices of some integrators and the not-so-good practices of others.”
Ten years ago, Thomas said he saw the lack of IT understanding among traditional security integrators. As a result, he said he’s gone “hybrid,” seeking or having his employees develop expertise in IT as well as physical security.
Most of his 26 employees are IT-savvy “project management level/applications specialist level, who hold a dual role as project manager and account manager.” His employees hold a variety of IT certifications such as VMware, Cisco, Oracle and SQL Server.
With many security projects, Integrated’s role has evolved into “program and project management, as a trusted adviser to its clients, [in addition to] the actual installation and service.”
In cases where the job is far from one of Integrated’s branch offices, Thomas partners with a "trusted network of the best integration companies in each market based on my relationships stemming from the manufacturing side of the business." However, in those cases, Integrated still manages the dispatch and installation from its company headquarters. Using its CRM, Integrated is fully involved in those jobs through to the test and inspection process. "This enables standards to be met for clients while also providing local choice for support," he said.
Integrated’s chosen niche is the result of Thomas’ background in the Navy and having seen manufacturing and security integration from the inside. “I saw the gap between the typical consultant role and the integrator and the end user,” he said. “So, depending on the job, we’re the installing company … in others it’s more interpreting specifications or creating and designing [the project and working with consultants and other integrators.]”