The Interview: Scott Johnstone, Gallagher
Gallagher’s national sales manager for Australia, Scott Johnstone, has worked with the company for 14 years, giving him considerable insight into the company’s technology, as well as the Australian access control market.
JA: What’s your sense of the Australian electronic security market at the moment, Scott? Would you say there’s growth and what are the primary drivers of new business?
SJ: The Australian market is quite robust, and we continue to see year-on-year growth. There are several pressures driving new business and they range from the expansion we are seeing in both commercial and governmental spend, a high focus on utilisation and optimisation, and the rapidly evolving cyber threat landscape, which Gallagher invests so readily in mitigating.
JA: In what ways has end user perception of access control changed since you joined Gallagher? Would you say more than ever that access control is integral – even indivisible – from integrated building management?
SJ: Since joining Gallagher in 2006, I have seen a massive shift in the way consumers think about access control. Different to many other security technologies, access control is not invisible. By its very nature it either enables or impinges free movement, and the reasons for doing so have become far more complex. Access control has become a vital business tool, not only for security, but for safety, compliance, optimisation, operations, and cost control. The integration of sophisticated access control and building management offers business continuity and efficiency that simply cannot be overlooked.
JA: What do quality integrators want most from modern access control solutions and their providers?
SJ: Innovation, reputation, and trust are at the core of a great integrator and provider partnership. For an integrator, the need to offer client solutions that serve emerging threats and trends is critical to the ongoing success of their business. Going to market with a proven and reputable manufacturer that applies best practice and ethical conduct to everything they do, gives an edge in the pursuit of new clients and a safety net under the commitments made.
JA: What impact has COVID-19 had on Gallagher’s end user customer base – what are your existing clients hungry for when they upgrade? And what are integrator partners showing interest it?
SJ: The impact of COVID-19 has been immediately felt by global industries, and consequently we have seen a surge in different workplace practices as they adapt to a new environment. The typical office dynamic is being relegated to the past, and decentralisation is on the rise. Staff have greater flexibility of where, when, and how they work, while companies are grappling with managed but frictionless entry, dynamic attendance rates, hot desking, end of trip facilities, carpark management, and elastic environments. In response to this, our partners are keenly embracing new authentication technologies as well as solving wider business problems using our Command Centre software and the myriad of tools it contains to solve these very challenges.
JA: When it comes to face recognition and Gallagher’s partnership with Invixium, what’s the initial interest level been like in Australia and what does the Gallagher team anticipate from face recognition authentication in the future. Will it be a core element, will it be the primary authentication technique in some applications?
SJ: We are really pleased to be working with Invixium and have seen strong interest in the pairing of our solutions in Australia. It is hard to imagine a world where facial recognition won’t have a significant presence in our daily lives for years to come. Whether the power of facial recognition and the extra smarts it can offer stays on the wall or resides in the palm of your hand, it will be a fascinating story to watch unfold.
JA: For security integrators, 2020 and now 2021, have been challenging times, yet inspiring, too. Some integrators seem to have been energised by the challenges of COVID in the way small owner-governed businesses often can be. How do you feel your channel partners have handled COVID-19 and what would you say the standout characteristics of the most successful integrators have been?
SJ: Despite the challenges of COVID-19, our channel partners have continued to innovate and go above and beyond customer expectations. Our partner network is a purpose-built collection of industry leaders that align with our focus on trust, culture, and enduring partnerships. The benefit this alignment brought to market was made even more clear through the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Beyond that, the characteristics I would highlight is a can-do attitude, a solution focus, and a highly proficient communication channel – all of which make the difference.
JA: Something apparent is that the tempo of the evolution of security systems and their functionalities has increased over the last 2 years – do you agree, and have Gallagher’s online training courses reflected that heightened cadence – a hunger from integrators in Australia and overseas to be across the latest solutions on behalf of customers with rapidly evolving needs?
SJ: The security industry is certainly moving at pace! Gallagher has taken well over 7000 registrations for online training in the past year, highlighting the speed at which we are developing and the thirst for knowledge to apply it. We have recreated our training offering to reach more people even faster. In the case of end-user training, over the past year we have launched 3 new online training courses – Operator, Administrator, and recently Advanced Administrator. Operator and Administrator courses have been made free for Care Plan customers, and Advanced Admin is also free from Tier 2. Our courses are all about empowering our users so they can understand and leverage the full functionality of the powerful solutions they already have.
JA: How important are long-term channel partners for Gallagher’s customers – is their expertise and experience a kind of unheralded benefit of deploying Gallagher solutions that guarantees superior applications and enhanced support?
SJ: Support doesn’t start and end with the technician standing in front of you, there is a tidal wave of support behind every Gallagher -certified technician. It is incredibly important to us to take a considered approach when selecting a partnership. We have more than 100 Gallagher channel partners in Australia alone, and the overwhelming majority have been in place between 10 and 20 years, some even longer.
These companies have been there through generations of product and software and have transitioned some of Australia’s most critical and secure sites through the Gallagher platform over decades. They understand how and why we do things and have long-held connections at all levels of our company. Our partners understand the benefits of these attributes and we understand it too. I cannot understate the value of our partnerships and the benefits that flow to our joint customers because of it.
JA: Could you explain to readers what Gallagher’s Care Plan is and how it will benefit your customers and channel partners?
SJ: Gallagher Care Plan is our new system and support package designed for customers to unlock further value and benefits from their relationship with Gallagher and our partners. At its core, Care Plan ensures customers are optimizing their Gallagher system configuration and maximizing the value of their software maintenance, through offering service and support across product, training, advisory services, and development.
Care Plan also provides an extension to the current 5-year warranty – providing total warranty protection for up to 10 years. This extended warranty expresses our commitment to quality and dedication to delivering a robust solution for our customers. From a partner perspective, Care Plan enhances the relationship with customers and reinforces a closer connection and tighter focus on solving their business problems.
JA: How important are your channel partners when it comes to product development – not only from the point of view of enhancements that assist integrators, but as a conduit for the operational input of end users?
SJ: Our partners have a very prominent voice in product development, and it is most often used in the context of delivering feedback from the end-user to enhance our offering in upcoming software versions. Our partners certainly help us identify needs and trends. Often these are the unseen aspects that help speed installation and configuration, or emerging opportunities they’ve uncovered that will ultimately benefit our customers too.
JA: What’s the process of becoming a Gallagher channel partner – is it difficult and what are the benefits?
SJ: Gallagher learned over 20 years ago when we brought native ethernet controllers and more powerful software to market, that not everyone in the industry understood the technology and the increasing importance of it. Additionally, back then not everybody subscribed to the same guiding principles that we lived by. We knew that we couldn’t control every element of each implementation, but we could influence it, and that’s where the Gallagher Channel Partner concept came from.
The value in becoming a Gallagher Certified Channel Partner has grown exponentially since that time as the combination of best technology and best of breed integrators became a demand. Current and future customers know that the Gallagher platform is robust, and they take comfort in knowing that the partner they choose to work with has the appropriate licencing, training, and experience needed.
The process of becoming a partner is simple, but hard to pass. It starts with a call, you follow up with sending some supporting information, we meet to see your business in action, we focus on how we can benefit each other and how you can materially benefit our customers, and if it all adds up, we do our due diligence and offer partnership.
JA: Gallagher is constantly upgrading its solutions through development and integration with key technology partners – what are some of the latest developments and is there anything in the mid-term pipeline you can hint at?
SJ: Our investment in research and development is continual and supremely important. We have some neat integrations happening that will positively impact many customers, and our product development has a roadmap that will evolve and expand the access management space yet again. It is an incredibly exciting time to be with Gallagher and to be a part of the security industry as a whole.
JA: What are the challenges of sales in the modern electronic security industry and what are the advantages of selling into a market that values trusted partnerships so highly?
SJ: Trusted partnerships start internally where we have an average tenure of well over 10 years. The majority of our channel partners have been with us for over a decade and so too have thousands of customers who continue to choose Gallagher’s security platform for the protection of their people and assets.
Trust starts and ends with culture, an example of this is Gallagher’s long held commitment to open standards in encryption and being appointed as an authorised CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) Numbering Authority (CNA). Security through obscurity is no security at all, and hiding inconvenient truths only multiplies that risk. If you’re going to hold trust in this industry, you need to be brave, use best practices, and have an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing. Only the right culture can deliver on those promises and Australia’s mature security market expects nothing less.
The security industry itself is getting bigger and the problems it can solve are becoming more complex by the day. The benefits of convergence with other technologies exposes many ways to create more value and certainly challenges us and our partners to keep moving in pursuit of continual education and improvement. To this end, we stopped simply being experts in security and networks a long time ago, we moved to understand the business objectives of our customer and how other technology works to advance them. Being a responsible part of a converged ecosystem allows us to solve problems the industry only dreamed of just years ago.
JA: Gallagher is a highly successful business with an excellent reputation – what does the success of the business depend on, in your opinion?
SJ: I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of that success and I know our teams around the world are too. Aside from the obvious benefit of being owned and entirely manufactured right here in our own corner of the world, there are 2 distinct areas that underpin our success – people and product.
Firstly, at the people end, culture, trust, and long-term partnerships are at the heart of what we do. On the product end, our relentless pursuit of innovation, security, and quality, continues to position us as a leader in market. We have been successful in the past by nurturing both sides of this equation and there is not a person in our organisation unclear on how critical they are to our future success.
By keeping these values at the forefront of everything we do, we are seeing, and will continue to see, Gallagher solutions being deployed to the largest, most secure, and extraordinary organisations around the world.
JA: If you were joining the electronic security industry as a young person – integrator or supplier in 2021 – what areas would you focus on, given what you know now – where does the future of electronic security lie?
SJ: I fell into residential and small commercial installs just after school in the mid 90’s. With no qualifications or experience I found an industry full of people that were ready to give me a shot and that still holds true for young people entering today. I would impress the importance of T-shaped skills and approach above all else. I’ve mentioned the convergence occurring in our industry and people with skills and knowledge outside their core will hold the keys to our industry as it grows. From a technical standpoint, a focus on understanding networks and the ‘security of security’ will add tremendous acceleration to any young person beginning their career in our exciting and ever-changing industry.