The industry news is full of stories these days about companies engaging in consolidations, partnerships and acquisitions. At the same time, industry blogs and public forums have become replete with anxiety and nervous speculation about such events and their possible effects.

Rather than a time to be anxious, this is a time of tremendous opportunity. Communications are more critical than ever, and entities ranging from local municipalities to Fortune 500 companies understand the immense value of integrated wireless communications networks.

Given the importance of these networks, end-user customers no longer are interested in buying a console here and towers somewhere else and radios from yet a third supplier. They want to purchase an integrated system from a primary supplier.

The consolidations, acquisitions and partnerships are part of the strategy to better serve customers in their quest for a complete solution from a single source. And rather than endangering the role of the traditional two-way dealer, it greatly expands it. Dealers will continue to contribute an essential component to world-class communications solutions for world-class customers. From initial customer contact, through specification and all the way to installation and maintenance, dealers remain crucial.

That said, the rising role of the IT professional should be noted. Much of the influence and decision-making within a government agency or enterprise now resides with the IT professional, who comes to the job of specifying wireless communications with the preconception of completely integrated solutions because of the cultural methodology used in information technology. With IT now responsible for both information and communications technology, the “IT guys” are being called upon more than ever. Because they have a different way of doing business, the emerging role of the IT professional is completely changing the playing field for wireless equipment manufacturers — and their dealers.

For instance, communications systems of the past were simply “push-to-talk” and “release-to-listen” voice. Now, wireless users — and therefore, all of us — are dealing with all types of services moving through a wireless network, whether it's GPS, AVL, video or some other data.

Another significant change at the customer level is the employment of outside consultants. In at least 80% of business opportunities, there is a consultant involved. In the past, the operations department handled the research, specification and bid process. Now, the trend is to outsource that expertise. The IT professional is quite comfortable contracting for new proficiencies and quite often decides to work with an outside consultant with wireless expertise.

So where do two-way dealers fit in? Exactly where they always did … and doing so much more. Not only will the organic evolution of existing companies create demand for your wireless expertise, but newly formed entities will need your services as well. You now become a partner in a wealth of new opportunities for total systems solutions.

As a tangible example, many dealers are branching out into consulting to expand their business revenues. There is a market for application-specific expertise — say, wireless communications at correctional facilities — and dealers with such knowledge can consult on those kinds of projects in other regions, states or — if they're really good — nationally.

A few years ago, in a similar column in MRT, I talked about the idea of becoming “the radio guy.” Add consulting to your portfolio and you become “the guy.”

Consolidation, acquisitions and partnerships are all good. They serve the customer and, ultimately, all of us. With the customer's shift to requiring a total solution from a single responsible source, the rise of the IT professional with wireless responsibility and the increasing use of consultants, we're taking a new but still familiar direction in our business to meet those customer requirements. That new direction cannot be navigated without our two-way radio dealers.

This is not a time to be anxious. This is a time to seize new opportunities. The industry needs you to do just that.

Mark Jasin is senior vice president and general manager of Kenwood USA.