by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates
Published in Today's Systems Integrator
The Cambridge Dictionaries Online define "Converge" as the process of ideas and opinions gradually becoming similar, a convergence of interests/opinions/ideas. What I found most interesting however, was the note, "compares to 'diverge,'" which was defined as "to follow a different direction, or to be or become different." It occurred to me that the term "divergence" is more synonymous with success in the physical security industry today.
As I have mentioned in many presentations and articles, I expect to see a major shake out in the physical security vendor base over the next five years. This ability to change, diverge, follow a different path, (whatever you want to call it), is fundamental to business success. It matters little what size business you have. When major manufacturers stumble and fail, upended by fundamental industry change, their sales channel partners follow suit.
While this concept of change is second nature in high tech circles, the ability to embrace it quickly is the difference between success and failure. Conservative industries, like physical security, need to understand business history and leverage change to their advantage. They must accept business reality and focus their efforts toward a new converged security model and dedicate new resources to execute relentlessly. If not, the IT industry will partner with a very few selected security vendors, write or buy open system software, and kill off the remaining 80 percent of the security market. In the process they will even change traditional, time honored security roles like guard services. The R.O.I. of technology integration and manpower is simply too compelling to ignore.
Obviously the challenge of market convergence, divergence - or "change" to simplify it - is not new.
I sat in my home office recently scanning a wall-sized bookcase packed with hardcover titles. Reading the bindings, I started to pull books into a pile in the middle of the floor. I was specifically looking for examples of chief executives who overcame challenges and created or re-established great companies. These "executive change agents" ran the gauntlet from CEOs like Alfred Sloan in the early days of General Motors to modern day entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson.
I had a book about Intel, who abandoned a growing memory business in the face of Japanese pricing pressure to embrace a new technology called "semiconductors." I pulled another called Lessons from Dr. Ann Wang, founder of a multi-billion dollar minicomputer firm bearing his name. The company was later buried by an inability to respond quickly to market demands for product interoperability. WANG pioneered word processing and had a large global reseller channel. But they could not embrace the change (standards) that was clearly evident years earlier; they thought they had a five- to 10-year window. Think again.
When reviewing the books there appeared to be common success characteristics: leading change, focusing quickly on the opportunities change presents, and funding an execution plan. I believe the largest (and most innovative) of the physical security industry are in the best position to partner with the major IT vendors.
Easier said then done.
This is where the execution comes in and the joint press releases and trade show marketing is meaningless.
I have been very fortunate to have my sales career to align with the IT industry over the last 20-plus years. I've seen and learned a lot. One piece of advice I have for the largest of the physical security vendors is to embrace the lessons that IBM and Apple provide you. Their visionary CEOs, Lou Gerstner at IBM and Steve Jobs at Apple, managed innovative change successfully.
But people forget that both of these large companies went through a full decade of hard times during the '90s. They were slow to respond to market changes. IBM was down to 90 days cash flow when Gerstner came on board in 1993. He leveraged a declining market for mainframe hardware by creating the Global Services business unit. He retired a legend.
Steve Jobs founded Apple as the first PC company, got kicked out by the board, came back, and transformed the PC into a thriving laptop business. He also created the iPod and stole 40 percent of Sony's handheld music market in 18 months. He is now downloading IP video. If he can configure WMD sensors on an iPod for installation in shipping containers he would do it. He is a current legend.
I'll leave you with this thought; years ago Apple had a successful advertising campaign called "Think Different." It highlighted famous innovators like Einstein, Muhammad Ali, and Gandhi. The physical security industry needs to lead change, not avoid it. The world needs interoperable security solutions deployed across WANS...yesterday! And always keep in mind the wisdom of those who've come before: "Think different" and "execute," or end up having to "think again."