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SCADA Vendors: How Should They Earn Your Business?

By Andrew Erickson

December 3, 2019


When you buy from a SCADA company that has a long-term focus, your budget dollars go farther.

Always look for a company that understands just how important it is to for you to maximize your network visibility.

Your Vendor Must be Able to Support You for Years to Come

Sometimes it's easy to forget that, in terms of network alarm monitoring (SCADA), your manufacturer's financial stability is a key point of value that you either get or don't get with your purchase. Financial stability means a lot in the technology sector. After all, you'll want this company to continue supporting you for many years ahead.

It's always better to be safe than sorry, so it's important to know that the organization working on your alarm visibility has a strong history of maintaining long-term support. Good indicators of this aspect are the age of the company, its size, how many clients they serve, and how much they've grown. These are topics that you can't forget to ask about.

Referrals Can be a Great Clue

A question that I hear a lot is "Who uses your products?". It's expected and justifiable that you're curious about which other clients your possible vendor has and what kind of feedback those clients are giving about the vendor.

A company's reputation can make or break it. When manufacturers are unwilling to provide you with testimonial letters or a list of references, it shows what kind of company they are.

You should always check the references and even reach out to independent third parties to hear about the experience they had.

Free Pre-Sale Design Help: Your Vendor Shouldn't Leave You Guessing About Your Solution

The #1 factor that can distinguish one company from all the others is when they don't push you to buy a unit that is not going to work for you. Look for a vendor that actually takes time to work with you to figure out what your best option is. After all, how can you have good visibility if you're buying a product that doesn't have the capacity or the features you need?

The best companies put your interests first, and for them it doesn't really matter if your proposed solution means a smaller sales volume as long as you get the right plan for you.

That being said, go with manufacturers that start the process with a consultation - to determine your real needs, both for the present and the future. Then, they must come up with a proposal that will include a full letter explaining what they heard you say you need, along with an application drawing showing clearly what they're proposing. The main objective of that is to help you understand all the aspects of what they think is the best perfect-fit solution for you.

The app drawing must be provided for free and be designed to clearly communicate what you're trying to accomplish with your alarm monitoring, and how you'll do that.

If you're doing business with a full-service manufacturer, they should be able to modify their SCADA hardware and software so they can fit your needs exactly. However, most of the time, one of their existing products will match your requirements pretty well.

If you need a fully customized solution for your system, take advantage of companies that can visit you on a field trial. During the week of the visit, they should listen to your requirements and evaluate your network while testing if what was initially proposed is going to be the best customized solution for your unique needs.

Talk to Real People & Real Experts

You probably know how annoying it is when you have to deal with a machine instead of a real person. It's just not efficient to go through a recorded phone menu until you hear the number you should press.

You'll Work with Real People On Site
Go with vendors that put their best foot forward by hiring a real person to deal with you.

The best full-service SCADA companies are the ones that believe that real people should be serving you. When you call in, their receptionist will be the first live voice you'll get. Your call will be quickly transferred to the appropriate technician or sales rep so you can get the answers you need.

Demand Top Quality & Free Tech Support

Nowadays, it's really hard to get great tech support, let alone great tech support that's also free. The reality is that many companies outsource this service, while others think that automated messages "will be OK". Taking those easy paths may save them time and money in the short term but - let's face it - you'll always get frustrated if you have to deal with that.

Always work with companies that recognize the big investment you already made when you trusted them with your SCADA system. Look for manufactures that offer you free lifetime technical support, when you buy any of their products - yes, that's possible to find.

Keep in mind that, just because they're giving you a free support, it doesn't mean that it will be low-quality. As a matter of fact, full-service vendors offering this kind of service tend to put in effort to make it the best support available.

As a result, you won't be trapped inside voice mail "hell". When you call them, you'll be connected to a live, competent human being who understands your equipment and can solve your problems. In some companies, your tech rep will actually be a real engineer that has extensive experience developing and working with your monitoring system.

An additional point to be certain of is that your tech support is not being supplied from overseas. Just imagine the headache of trying to deal with tech reps that are in another country, with a totally different time zone and language. Madness!

Free SCADA Training: The Class that will Make your Job Easier

Look for vendors that offer tuition-free factory training for all clients. If you're able to travel to their headquarters, you'll most likely get a big benefit from an in-depth course. This class should cover everything you need to know about your RTUs and master stations.

Here's how the best training classes can make the difference for you:

  • Small classes:
    They should purposely hold classes for just a few students (typically 10-12). The intent is to have your instructor focusing on you. If you have questions, the instructor or an assistant must be able to give you more attention and individually help you.
  • Learn from engineers:
    Your instructor and assistant must be engineers that have experience working with your equipment. When they're not teaching the classes, they should be developing monitoring systems and implementing them.
  • Hands-on with the equipment:
    You shouldn't be getting only theoretical training. Look for companies that offer classes where you can work on real configurations with real equipment. There's nothing better than learning a process by actually doing it yourself.
  • Get to know your vendor:
    During your training, you must have the opportunity to take a tour through your manufacturer's facilities. That's a special occasion where you should see for yourself how they make the products you may be investing in.
  • Friendly environment:
    They should always welcome you into their family. Some companies even host lunches during factory training so you can take a break with your classmates and get to meet your vendor's teams on a more personal basis. By sharing experiences, you'll build relationships with people who have common interests, and you may gain insight on how other companies use the vendor's RTUs or master stations that may be applicable to your own.

The chance to attend a free training is one of the most important things any SCADA vendor can deliver for your money.

Annual Week-Long Tune-Up Visit: Get your System to Work at Maximum Capacity while Training your Entire Team

If you have a large team that needs to be qualified on remote monitoring, it might be hard or even impossible for your company to send everybody out for a factory training. Tune-up assistance might be the best idea for you to train your entire team and have an informed and knowledgeable staff.

Programs like these are the best and fastest way to tune up your system. The company should annually send an experienced technician to visit you in order to review your system's current setup. Also, they should show your team how to get the best use of your equipment, while covering your RTU configurations.

At the end of the visit, you must end up with a system that runs great and with the knowledge on how to maintain it.

We are Always Proactively Reaching out to You to Provide Support

We, from DPS, are not your typical sales department. We thrive on providing you the best value you can expect for your SCADA money.

Besides offering you all the services that I described before, we also make sure to keep supporting you after we provided you with the exact solution you needed.

Every now and then, you'll notice a new email from us in your inbox. In these emails, we're usually letting you know that new firmware is available to download and update your device with if you so choose. This means you get updated, optimized software with new features you might have not even thought of - for free!

We'll also call you periodically to check if your SCADA system is still working as expected, ask if you happen to have any questions or concerns, let you know about upcoming factory training classes, and to get overall feedback from you.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...