The product-service evolution

June 2011 News & Events

Michael Howard discusses the product-service evolution in the security industry.

The security industry has become accustomed to associating value with tangibility. Like most things, we are generally accustomed to paying for things that can be touched, felt, seen and perceived to provide value in the form of features and functionality. The importance of product in its tangible form, often encompassed by its branding, has always been accepted by the layman as the epitome of quality and value.

The security industry is no different and realisation has ocurred that integration and convergence is unfolding across the entire technological lanscape. The tendency for disparate technologies to become integrated into complex systems that eventually interact with each other in a seamless way are inevitable. Features becoming available to meet end-user requirements that demand more functionality, with reduced cost of ownership and ease of implementation, ultimately results in increased complexity.

We have learned from the evolution of other technological orientated markets that:

* With the rise in technical complexity of integrated solutions for larger projects, the significance of product alone as a solution slowly diminishes.

* What is high-end product today, becomes low-end product tomorrow. Product is reduced to becoming only a part of a solution, but is not a solution in-itself, as complexity increases.

* Product, as part of larger systems integrated into complex solutions, requires not only a higher level of technical competence and skill, but also requires clear methodologies of implementation and execution based on experience and best practices, to bring a project to successful closure.

* Methodologies and best practices are likened to the mentality of ‘how things are done’ and are service-centric paradigms often referred to as professional, consulting or support services, more so than the mentality of ;what is implemented;, which is a product-centric paradigm typically encountered in most manufacturing and product orientated industries.

* Therefore the difference between systems-products and solutions is ‘service’.

In product organisations, at worst, services if understood at all, are sometimes viewed as incidental obstacles to successful product sales. Services are informal, taken for granted, and committed to often for free, over and above product, merely to secure the shorter term product sale. End-users sometimes find themselves reverting back to the manufacturers for technical services and support. As technical complexity increases, this approach no longer meets end-user expectations and manufacturers are viewed, sometimes incorrectly, as the saviours and the experts in the industry.

Service-centric solutions are well established in other industries and the evolution of the security industry can only follow these trends. The seperation and differentiation of services from product in tenders will bring quicker relief to consultants and end-users who struggle with services and continuity of project delivery.

Michael Howard is the author of the work titled ‘Product – Service Evolution’, providing insight into the service-centric approach to the implementation of complex technology in the security industry. He is a registered Professional Engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and the SA Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE). He currently heads the Security Systems business for Bosch in Sub-Saharan Africa, a leading global manufacturer. He can be contacted at

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