ISC West: "Simplify the Best"

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

This year’s ISC West security show was great! One highlight was the Cisco keynote by Guido Jouret, CTO of the Emerging Technologies Group. Check out my friend Steve Hunt’s blog ( for more details and general industry buzz.

One interesting sidebar regards an SIA ( ) industry committee meeting I attended. We discussed changing the name of the committee to include the word “convergence” — talk about a trend. We also reviewed issues specific to the physical security integrator channel and vendors regarding how convergence is impacting their organizations. The membership of the Security Industry Association is as multi-dimensional as the industry itself. For example, the Chairman of the committee works for a Fortune 500 physical security integrator while one member, PSA Security, represents an association of 200 plus physical security firms with an average size of approximately 5 million. While convergence is front and center for both organizations, and partnering represents a key strategy, the execution is very different and yet the issue of education for channels, members and customers remains the same.

In the case of the Fortune 500 integrator, they have more money to devote to hiring new resources and/or cross training existing employees then a smaller integrator does. They also have enterprise accounts with large IT departments. These physical security integrators would be smart to provide value by integrating disparate physical security applications across the organization and take a major pain point off of the IT departments plate. (Several companies provide software to integrate these solutions.) This leverages physical security expertise, gains credibility and inserts you into the IT purchasing cycle. The partner provides the software glue and you provide the ongoing integration and consulting services. It is also a repeatable process. When your BIG enterprise customer buys another company with different physical security solutions for video surveillance & access control systems, go back to step one and repeat.

The flip side exists for the small integrator who can not afford to hire additional staff or certify existing personnel for fear of losing a valuable resource to a better paying job. I refer to this as the “Certify then Fly” syndrome. The first question these firms need to answer is: integrator or installer? If you decide on integration you must leverage your unique physical security skills and partner with an IT integrator to utilize the resources you do not have. (Preferably the Cisco or IBM channel because they are being driven into convergence by the senior managements of these major vendors. Read their Web sites for interviews to understand the sales and market strategies.) If you do this correctly, you will be brought into the IT buying cycle as a value added resource. You can also make introductions into the physical security group where appropriate. I understand the position that this is like bringing a fox into the hen house. Let me ask you this “What are your options?” Stay the course and the market will make your decision for you: installer. And you think margins are bad now! My friend Len Johnson is a security convergence “evangelist” at IBM. At the TechSec show (another great venue) last year he responded to a Northrop Grumman gentleman stating that he recently lost one deal to IBM, even though they partner on another contract. Len said, “Our goal is to partner on multiple contracts. On day one we can partner with you on a project. On day two we compete on a different program. And on day three we will bring you in on one of our existing contracts.” Welcome to the new era of sales collaboration.

The good news is that security convergence is an opportunity and not an obstacle. The fact is that the practice of physical security is entering a “Golden Age of Influence” at the highest levels of the largest organizations on earth, as a direct result of the “convergence” some of you in the industry continue to resist. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth! Remember this: Convergence has been happening since the first computer was designed and has morphed from air-conditioned glass rooms into your cell phone. It’s done. Physical security is simply the last guy invited to the dance. Yet some in this industry are the equivalent of the engineer sitting at a drafting table with a pencil and ruler steadfastly opposing computers as a passing fad? It is time to move aggressively away from analog markets, take the money and run, but migrate your customers.

Regardless of the size of your organization, you should “understand the issues” from the highest levels and prepare your company (and your career path) for the ultimate opportunity that “security policy deployed across the IT enterprise” will represent for decades to come. Cisco and IBM are not at the show to sell video cameras. The convergence of physical security and the integration of those solutions over IP networks and IT infrastructure will be absolutely huge. They see it and want to get in before HP or EMC or Nortel Networks does. But make no mistake those other huge companies are watching. I met with a few at the show. It’s the Burger King strategy. Let McDonald’s spend the marketing dollars figuring out the franchise location and then open up across the street. Security convergence is full speed ahead and if you did not make it downstairs at the show, its momentum is global.

Memo to Industry: 17 months and counting! – If you’re confused give me a call.

Good luck!