Interview: Borislava Nikolaeva Kenarova, Milestone Systems

Dear Ms. Nikolaeva Kenarova, tell us a bit about yourself, your position at Milestone, what are you in charge with, for how long, and something about your professional background?

I am Regional Sales Manager for Central Eastern Europe and I am responsible for the Go-To-Market strategy development and execution across 14 countries. I have been working for Milestone Systems for 2 and a half years

now and CEE region was recognized among the fastest growing regions for Milestone Systems in 2017. My goal is to lead the team to continue delivering great value to our customers and partners with a focus of further development of the local Milestone community.

Milestone position is stronger than ever. For the 10th year in a row, Milestone Systems is the number 1 global video management software (VMS) provider by company revenue, according to market research from business intelligence provider IHS Markit. In 2017, Milestone Systems had a global VMS market share of 10.2%, which is an increase from 9.1% in 2016. What is the reason behind this success?

Milestone Systems not only retained the number one position globally but in EMEA our market share increased to 17.1% from 14.8% in 2016. Our revenue growth in 2017 was 21% so it was triple to the overall market growth and the main reason for the positive development and for keeping the number one position for 10th consecutive year is for sure our partnership business model and our open approach. Milestone has always been very committed to bringing innovations to the community with its open platform Video Management System and to deliver great value to our partners.

Your company stated that it sustained growth by sustaining quality, having three release cycles, embracing partners even more by with strong lineup of software and partnerships, and maturing of its hardware line. Tell us more about this, what specific accomplishments within each of this points did you achieve?

The open platform gives the ability to take advantage of an entire industry’s innovation, increasing the value of the surveillance system. We are working in close collaboration with our community partners and as a result the end customers can have the freedom to add new technologies as they are developed. A recent example of our open approach and embracing partners even more is Milestone System Builder Program which we have recently launched. It will allow hardware manufacturers to design, build and ship hardware optimized for having XProtect VMS pre-loaded. In this way the System Builder program will enable hardware manufacturers to explore new business opportunities with new products in their existing channel and expand their market reach through Milestone’s worldwide channel network.

Milestone Systems will increase innovation capacity by 45 % by 2019 year-end and deliver on its promise to develop unique innovations that will meet future market demands in six key long-term innovation areas. I pressume this is a strategic way to gain pace in security industry. What are the objectives of this investment and what six areas are we talking about?

Nowadays the demands for smart solutions and machine learning technologies are growing and customers are more and more interested in scenarios beyond pure security. That is why we have made the decision to increase our innovation capacity. The objectives of this investment are to increase the development capacity of disruptive innovations within deep driver integration, advanced rendering, IoT and metadata sources, online services, advanced data management and Milestone Systems’ platform software development kit (SDK). As a result, we expect acceleration of Milestone System’s leading position in enabling the processing of video and data from solution partners who use neural networks, deep learning and AI technologies.

“There is no doubt that our open platform community and partnership business model is the reason for the positive development, and we are proud to be a trusted and reliable partner in the community. We will keep investing in our partner community, focusing on new technologies within cameras, access control and video analytics. We believe in a future where video will play an even more significant role in understanding data sources from the increasing numbers of devices that connect people and assets”, said Lars Thinggaard, President and CEO of Milestone Systems. Can you comment on this?

Milestone Systems wants to be part of every video installation in the world, so we need to be able to offer our customers the most innovative Video Technology Platform. We want to push our technology beyond traditional security in many different areas such as smart cities, retail, transportation etc. We are working in a direction to enable our partners to address the challenges that our end-customers are facing and in this regard our video technology is playing a vital role.

A couple of years ago, the entire industry was shaken when Milestone became a part of Canon. Yet, even today it is not quite clear what changes took place since you entered into a partnership with Canon. What did happen since 2014, what exact benefits did you gain by entering the group, and how it reflects on your business today.

Milestone Systems became part of the Canon family in 2014 and since then we operate as a standalone company. Maybe the most important thing after the acquisition was that we were still able to work with our own brand and to cooperate with multiple camera manufacturers. Since 2014 until now our turnover has doubled and the number of camera manufacturers that we support has increased from 130 to 150. We have proved that we can be successful as an independent company within a huge conglomerate.

Partnerships allows businesses to mutually recognise strengths and weaknesses and help each other improve. It can lead to valuable knowledge sharing, allow innovation, access to new markets, and increased customer loyalty. The security ecosystem has always come together to create something greater. One of the examples is a tripartite relationship between Promise Technology, Milestone and Axis to monitor a production line for the mixture of general synthetic fiber in a petroleum company in Singapore. What was the result of this collaboration in Singapore, what benefits did you customer gain? And be free to present some other examples.

This is a very good example of how the ecosystem benefitted everyone by providing the customer with a smooth-running solution and at the same time all three companies working in a better, more connected way by collaborating with each other. We have many interesting success stories and we see that more and more the end customers start using the video surveillance systems for scenarios beyond pure security where we collaborate well with our community partners. In our region we are recently focused on the following verticals: Smart and Safe City, Retail, Transportation and Logistics and you can find more examples on our dedicated portal for Customer stories.

One of the major specifics of Milestone is its Learning & Performance Program. It has evolved over recent years to include a vital eLearning component, sessions are now available in easy modules, online or in-person, self-paced or scheduled, a new design has been added, partner expertise dashboards were developed, etc. If you were talking about them to your new partner, what would you point out, how would you explain Program’s most important benefits. What are the results of this program: how many certifications in how many countries?

Yes indeed, Milestone Learning and Performance program has evolved a lot. We have introduced free eLearinings which are being updated regularly and are a great tool to start with and are very popular among our partners – there are more than 1500 enrolments each month only in EMEA. For more in-depth knowledge we have our instructor led classes which are focused on on-hands experience with our products and one of the important benefits of our program is that we can adapt our trainings and consult customers based on their business challenges.

“The world market for VMS is estimated to have grown by 8% in 2017. Supply to this market is gradually becoming more concentrated. The top largest vendors are estimated to have accounted for 48% of global revenues in 2015. In comparison, this figure was 57% in 2017”, stated Jon Cropley, a senior principal analyst for video surveillance at IHS Markit. Can you comment on this from a Milestone perspective? What is the primary reason of this market segment becoming more concentrated?

The reason is very simple – it is not an easy task to keep up with innovation and only the companies that invest in the future continue to grow and win market share. That is why the supply to the VMS market becomes more concentered.

How do you tackle cyber security risks?

Cybersecurity issues are a core focus area at Milestone and continue to be a big investment area for us in 2018 and 2019. As the technology progress, cyber threats become more intricate, requiring defense mechanisms that react quickly so in this regard Milestone is committed to providing the most secure tools for operational excellence, and to making sure its products are delivered with the maximum network security available, guaranteeing end-to-end evidence integrity and authenticity.

Milestone’s Chief Sales and Marketing Manager Kenneth Petersen said that “the biggest trend on the market is definitely that the end users are now demanding a solution and we must help them create it”. Would you agree on this and how would you help your customers to have a complete solution? 

Yes, it is important to see the full picture and offer not simply a product but a full solution. We usually start by analyzing the customer needs and business challenges and offering them a complete solution which may also require 3rd party integration or even Custom development so the end customer can have a personalized experience. We follow this approach also when we organize our regional community events – we focus on a specific vertical and show the industry demands, the challenges and the respective solutions together with our community partners.

At MIPS 2018, Milestone Systems highlighted artificial Intelligence as next market disruption for video technology. What is your company doing in that area and what can we expect from Milestone in the years ahead?

As mentioned earlier, we started by increasing the development capacity. We believe in a future where video will play an even more significant role to understand the data sources from the increasing numbers of devices that connect people and assets. We are constantly looking to find more efficient ways to translate this data into intelligence for taking faster decisions both for making the world a safer place, and for moving beyond security into many improvements for video business systems.

In the end, Milestone is doing quite good in Adriatic region. Do you have any data on increasing your market share in this region? You receintly opened up a new office in Belgrade, can you tell something about that? Are you looking for new partners?

We cover Central Eastern Europe from our office in Sofia which is the second biggest office after the HQ in Copenhagen. In Sofia we have professionals covering all major roles including sales, marketing, pre-sales and post-sales support and we are all in daily contact with our partners in the region. We are always open to establish new partnerships so don’t hesitate to contact us.

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