Grab the Convergence Rope and Partner in 2007 - The RBS Mindset

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

We have all seen the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) commercials about eliminating procrastination and making timely business decisions. A wedding scene showing a groom at the altar going on a lengthy diatribe using mergers and acquisition lingo before the best man steps up and says, "I do." Another where one guy falls into quicksand and the group around him first makes sure "no one is panicking" and then decides to form an exploratory committee on quicksand. Finally someone throws the guy a rope and saves him. That commercial reminds me of some companies in the physical security industry and their attitudes about partnering with their IT peers. Their judgment is clouded, because when the question is, "Who in the organization has IT partnering experience?" few can step up and answer,  I do." As far as creating a meaningful strategy with IT partners for security convergence, many have not even organized the committee yet.

The issue is that if you do not realize you are sinking, you see no need for a rope. The good news is at least no one is panicking. The problem is they should be. In point of fact, we all should be. The reality is we are all unprepared for the future.

The larger issue we face today is a situation which Dr. James Canton, CEO & Chairman of The Institute for Global Futures, calls an "extreme risk" scenario. This is essentially a new state of security where organizations must prepare against the real possibility of a major terrorist attack against our country and economy (read supply chains) while simultaneously our traditional risks to people and assets (physical and digital), are rapidly increasing. Our security risk is compounding annually. It is against this backdrop that security convergence is critical. The problem is that the physical security and IT industries are not collaborating to bring the best security solutions to market as fast as possible. As large security initiatives move from big government projects (smart cards) to large commercial enterprises, leading edge vendors see convergence offering huge opportunities. This means partnering to combine skill sets. It also means IP takes center stage because the fastest way toward mass security solution deployments is over a common worldwide networking infrastructure.

While the large security manufacturers can partner to bring these convergence solutions to their channel, the field integrators need to merge physical security solutions with IP support and services. If not, or if we respond too slowly, I think we risk reliving the Y2K scenario. If another attack occurs, all of the largest corporations worldwide will rush to their largest IT vendors and BIG 3 consultants for their solutions. Accelerating enterprise security across the corporation (and supply chain) will be the priority as executives, customers, and shareholders demand rapid response. Many in the physical security industry will then be scrambling for too few partnering opportunities based on their lack of basic IP knowledge and selling skills.

I believe the solution is an alliance between the two industries. Called it the I.S.P.A. "The International Security Partner Alliance." Whatever the name, the common goal is to develop partnerships to accelerate security solutions worldwide. Imagine the wedding scene again with an equal number of attendees on both sides of the aisle representing the physical security and IT industries. Distributors, manufacturers, channel representatives, software developers, large customers and government agencies would all be attending. We have to imagine it because this venue does not exist today! Not everybody from each side of these respective industries is totally comfortable, but they are aligned for the greater good. In our case, answering the call to defend people, property, assets (digital and physical) and corporate reputations across the globe in the face of "extreme risk."

Both industries need to make partnering around security convergence a priority. We need to collaborate, not segregate. The industry events and associations on both sides are too industry-centric. The respective professional associations need to be more active in attending each other's events and recruiting partners to reflect mutual ideas and work toward innovation and standards. This partnering culture needs to start today with our industry leadership and extend down to field integrators working opportunities on the local level. Find a partner and expand your security business. We need to accelerate the process, not procrastinate. Take a page from RBS: "Make it Happen."