2007: “The Start of a Ten-Year Run in a Security Industry”

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

I think that life runs in major cycles, think decades, from childhood memories, teenage acne and college, first real job responsibility and real money, middle age & kids, empty nesters, and finally retirement. When we look back on our business careers we all hope we devoted our life work to right about the industry, companies or businesses we established. Personally, I placed a late bet on the security industry. I spent the first 22 years of my career in high tech sales. I have no regrets; I was lucky to be rewarded in many ways. A few of years ago when I made my career change from IT into the security industry, I knew my timing was a little early for the convergence wave. I needed to establish a working knowledge of the security industry and align it with my IT experience. I also wanted to make the right contacts in preparation for a business cycle that I think will run from 2007 – 2017. When the cycle ends, the security industry will look nothing like it does today.

2006 was the wake up call the physical security industry needed. It was the year of Cisco Systems. Think a moment about the changes this industry witnessed from January to December of last year. IBM and EMC both made billion dollar plus acquisitions of security players. In 2007, let’s forget about the “five years until security convergence” nonsense I still hear. Granted in five years the numbers will roll up on the spreadsheets to declare convergence has arrived in full force. By that time the game will be long over and many of you will be history because you waited too long to invest in a convergence business strategy. Also, I don’t care if analog has 85% of the market today for video cameras, the correct question is what percentage of “Greenfield” (NEW) opportunities are digital over IP? Answer: over 85% and closer to 100%. The reality behind the numbers is that the companies selling analog video solutions to security directors in 2006 will have a tough time facing IT directors in 2008, that’s if they even get in the door. This is why IT salespeople are delighted to hear you talk about analog. What do you think that means for the security business over the next five years? Will IT be making more security buying decisions? Some of you better hope not, but don’t bet on it.

Digital video over IP is just the beginning. It precedes open systems with “web based” everything, XML development, storage over IP, wireless and integration with other “collaborative” applications. Why? Because the workforce is changing faster then analog to digital, and if that is not reflected in your hiring plans you are missing a BIG opportunity. It’s NOT a technology issue, it is a people using technology DIFFERENTLY issue that changes the security business.

The critical fact about the next ten-year cycle in security is that those pimple-faced teenagers have already arrived in the workforce. Look at Google and YouTube. They grew up fast. They are the managers of the next wave of web workers over the next three to five years. How many 20-something employees or managers with heavy IT knowledge are in your organization? Think about this for a moment because the impact on the security industry is HUGE. These are the same people that will be making mass security-buying decisions in the near future. This generation grew up on gaming technology. Collaboration is second nature to them. Visit the U.S. Army web site, it offers downloads of war strategy games based on Sony Playstation and Microsoft X Box technology. The U.S. Army knows their future workforce, and how to recruit them. Do you?

As the web generation hits the security market, there will be "ch…ch…changes,” as David Bowie once sang. Think about open systems moving voice, video and data in collaborative work groups, 24/7. They will impact corporate IT infrastructure, management practice and the competitive landscape. Are you planning on hiring them? I think the value proposition for a career in a converging security market is compelling, but you need to get them early and show them a career path. This industry also needs to create meaningful management and executive positions to recruit those IT sales and technical skill sets you need to compete against, or partner with, the best IT sales and technical organizations in the world. 2007 is the Year of the IT Hire. Build a foundation to grow the business and make an investment for the future. The fact is that the physical security industry has to make up some ground. You need two IT hires to your IT competitors one physical security hire. 2007 is critical – you won’t get this year back!

Good hiring!