ISC West: Is Security Convergence a Crisis or an Opportunity?

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

ISC West is fast approaching. I rank it as the best security show in the industry. My rationale is the focus on security convergence solutions. You also see an increasing presence of IT vendors if you look carefully. This is because the traditional security industry is changing faster than most people realize.

One person who understands this change of pace is John Nemerofsky, president of Total Search Solutions (TSS), ( ), where he recruits top talent within the security industry. He also draws on his prior success as co-founder and president of Security Systems and Technologies (SST), a security systems integration company with global revenue of approximately $200 million. His professional experience places him in a unique position. John has been in the security integrators’ shoes, and today he is directly involved in recruiting executive and management talent into security companies in the midst of a rapidly changing business environment. I asked John about the impact of security convergence and what advice he has for ISC West attendees this year. His answers offer guidance to security manufacturers, integrators, executives and industry practitioners alike.

John mentioned three factors resulting from the impact of “Convergence”:

1. The “New Security Executive" is evolving. The CSO/CISO must deploy standards-based systems and infrastructure platforms while coping with new external sources driving their decisions. FIPS 201 and Sarbanes-Oxley are just the tip of the iceberg.

2. The role of the manufacturer is changing. The existing model has manufacturers providing proprietary systems, which most security directors have found acceptable to date. Today, convergence forces the manufacturer to offer standards; open protocols, faster product development cycles and brand compatibility.

3. The systems integrator must adopt new thinking. The critical piece of the convergence puzzle is the privately held systems integrator. Integrators continue to deliver analog technology solutions. This is due in part to their short-term road maps and existing expertise. In most cases these road maps were developed with the manufacturers’ strategic input at dealer councils. 

I found John’s input very interesting indeed. If you envision the traditional physical security industry as a three-legged stool, all three of the support structures are undergoing fundamental change independent of one another, and yet they all integrate together. In this current situation, does security convergence place the traditional physical security industry in crisis or opportunity mode?

“The Chinese write the word crisis with two brush stokes, one for danger and the other for opportunity. In a crisis, beware of the danger but always be alert for the opportunity.”  – Former President Richard Nixon

I believe ISC West 2007 is the “line in the sand” for the traditional physical security industry. If you are not aggressively pursuing a security convergence strategy this year, YOU JUST DON’T GET IT. You need to integrate a convergence strategy similar to an end-user transitioning from legacy systems to new solutions. If you are not partnering with firms to round out your security solutions in areas like IP networking and storage, integration skills or signing reseller agreements with innovative security solution providers, you are not only missing a major opportunity at ISC West, you don’t see the future.

Business as usual will sustain you for about 18 more months. If you are currently 65 congratulations…your timing was perfect. If you are 45 and think security convergence is nonsense and proprietary systems are the future, you will be unemployable. I knew a lot of minicomputer people (and their channel partners) – with this mindset; it turned out ugly for them.

However, if you recognize convergence as an opportunity (regardless of your age) - hold on to your hat. The security industry is entering the golden age. IT history is all the guide you need, combined with other societal trends. For example, in 2000 the cost of securing the Olympic games in Barcelona was $187 million. In 2004, the cost of Olympic security for the Athens games was $1.4 billion. (NY Times) Global risk has evolved – securing business operations is the future.

This transition will not be easy. Change is always a problem. John Nemerofsky offers some advice: “The integrator as a delivery system of existing technology is standing still, just waiting for a sign, any sign, for direction into the future. The new model integrator will be forced to invest capital and time for additional training to provide new certifications for their people. The willingness to invest and find the right partners to deliver true integrated systems will be the signs of the new breed.” 

The new breed recognizes the difference between crisis and opportunitiy. The late Peter Drucker was the preeminent management thinker of our generation and offered these words: “Problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produces results. Above all, effective executives treat change as an opportunity rather than a threat. They systematically look at changes, inside and outside the corporation, and ask, ‘How can we exploit this change as an opportunity for our enterprise?’”

Are you New Breed or Old School?