by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates
Published in Today's Systems Integrator
Last week I attended the Securing New Ground Conference in New York City. Hosted by the industry consultant, Sandy Jones and Wall Street security guru Jeff Kessler, senior VP of Lehman Brothers, it is the premiere forum for executives in the security industry. The highlight of the conference for me was the fact that "Security Convergence" seemed to come of age at this 2006 event. Last year the topic was discussed, but I would have given it honorable mention status. This year, however, it was the topic of every presentation and social networking discussion. Jeff delivered the key message in his opening remarks; "Convergence is real."
Perhaps the one panel discussion that said the most about the changing competitive landscape vis-à-vis convergence was the video surveillance session. When Pelco, the Gorilla of the analog camera market, uses its inaugural presentation at SNG to outline its IP convergence strategy, you know the market is transitioning. The race is on. One theme was very clear to all attendees, "A convergence strategy is required to compete successfully." Lehman's own Mike Engle, VP of information security, gave an excellent profile of how the Lehman Brothers' organization deals with the convergence issue through a tight collaboration of physical security and IT. Message to the security integrator: speak IT standards and understand the infrastructure, get networking- and storage-literate and improve direct communications between manufacturers and your customer to accelerate problem resolution. This means the development of new skill sets and business processes.
This industry is changing fast and 2007 is the year for leadership and speed to the security convergence market. I was encouraged while speaking with PSA Security Network, the industry's largest electronic cooperative, comprised of over 200 security integrators and generating over $1.4 billion in annual security revenues. Bill Bozeman is the CEO and a man who realizes that his organization needs to embrace change and collaborate with IT partners. Bozeman believes,"PSA is aggressively recruiting IT integrators into our membership to jointly pursue convergence opportunities in the huge SMB market." By playing to one of the PSA's core strengths of education and training, Bozeman understands he holds the key to accelerating convergence opportunities for both IT and physical security integrators. His memberships physical security knowledge is a competitive advantage for an IT integrator trying to differentiate service offerings and a draw to PSA membership.
Simultaneously, PSA will leverage networking and storage knowledge from IT integrators to complement existing training programs for their traditional membership. The strategy is to create "convergence integrators" who are well positioned to win new security opportunities. This business model aligns tightly with the industry trends the SNG event highlighted and will drive higher margin revenue opportunities for all PSA members. PSA is combining physical security and IT integrator expertise to create the security integrator of the future. (They can be reached at www.psasecuritynet.com) This strategy is an example of leadership and innovation, which needs to be mirrored by larger physical security manufacturers and their channel organizations.
Let's review the "unshakeable facts" of 2006 and ask yourself if it really makes good business sense to take a "go slow" approach: (1) The major IT vendors and their sales channels are moving aggressively into the physical security market, (2) The largest video surveillance vendor in the physical security market is embracing a convergence strategy incorporating IP networking, and (3) Wall Street's best security analyst is telling you in no uncertain terms that "Convergence is real."
My advice is to make a security convergence business plan your 2007 New Year's Resolution. Don't wait. The reason is simple; it's your people. The mistake most organizations make is underestimating the time it takes to implement an organizational change. Getting people to move in a new direction takes twice as long as you think. This is why 2008 is a year too late.
I'm not trying to be cute here so let me be blunt; "The writing is on the wall. The new security competition is world class." The major IT manufacturers entering the physical security market have the best direct sales and technical support teams in the world. Period. They are managed very aggressively to exceed sales numbers, are very IT knowledgeable, and are highly paid and motivated. These organizations move in high tech time, which, like their product cycles, is three times faster then the traditional physical security market moves. The winner of this race will not be the tortoise, but the hare. Convergence is real...are you going to engage aggressive competition, develop a partner strategy, or take a go-slow approach? Hint: the second option is the best one; the third is a big mistake.