SMB Partnering: Making Sense Out of Security Silos

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

The IT industry has a huge network of channel partners. When the VARBusiness 500 ( ) lists the revenues of the industry participants, it is easy to understand how some smaller physical security integrators can be intimidated. After all, you have to search down the list to number 101 just to get below the $400 million mark in annual revenue. However, what many physical security integrators miss is the opportunity to partner with the SMB (Small and Medium Business) market of IT integrators for profits stemming from security convergence. In the process they discount their value as a partner.

The fact is that major IT vendors like Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and EMC are on record promoting the opportunities around the convergence of physical security applications across the IT infrastructure. Certainly, video surveillance has been a hot topic. A forward thinking physical security integrator will “google” the subject matter (John Chambers Cisco speeches security convergence) or hit the web ( ) to download the related video clips. The messaging to the channel partners is all there.

Combine your knowledge of video and access control implementations with an IT integrators infrastructure knowledge and differentiate both of your businesses around a “converged” knowledge pool. Understanding the sales messaging the IT vendors send to their channel partners is the first step toward tailoring your own value proposition around mutual partnering. It’s all about education and differentiation.

For example, understand that while there are many more IT integrators in any given territory then physical security integrators, this makes “you” more valuable. There is intense competition between these IT folks to differentiate their offerings. These integrators may be carrying multiple products, but it is not unusual for several firms to be competing for the same business. Many times, multiple IT integrators are proposing the same product (Cisco routers, IBM storage, etc). What is critical for the IT integrator is to differentiate themselves from the competition. This is where an intelligent physical security partner with a convergence strategy comes into play and adds real value.

Every good salesperson understands the value that educating a prospect plays in building credibility. In fact, the best sales people look for trends which underscore changing market conditions so they can be early to leverage these opportunities to their advantage.

The formula is simple: Change (convergence) equals confusion; Confusion requires education; Education promotes credibility; Credibility creates trust; Trust wins deals and provides a competitive advantage.

Now take those multiple IT integrators all vying to win an IP network and/or storage sale or infrastructure upgrade deal. They are all competing aggressively until someone cuts the price to win the business; then margins erode for everybody in town. Now imagine an innovative physical security integrator that educates one IT integrator to the advantages of partnering around a security convergence strategy in that account. Together they change the sales campaign by expanding it to leverage their combined skill sets, playing to their strengths. They save money by showing an R.O.I. advantage compared to silo deployments of proprietary solutions. They open up the dialog to include an integrated video surveillance and access control strategy across the company. Together they can involve other departments that can use video surveillance solutions in new ways, such as training or marketing applications. This also enlarges the opportunity and increases the budget.

The key is together they can educate the prospect about security convergence issues at a higher level and display innovative thinking beyond the silo or single product mentality of other competitors. They talk about security policy across the IT architecture, compliance issues and trusted supply chains. Even if the deal comes back around to the original “smaller” opportunity, together they have expanded a security dialog and showed an understanding of how security policy can work across the company. This higher-level view involves a subject matter your competitors are still grasping to understand. All things being equal, why not buy from the guys who you trust have a better handle on the future? After all, they opened your eyes and gave you an education during the sales cycle.

Remember, at the end of the day it is your prospect that you want to be looked at as the “innovator” within his/her company. They promote the holistic approach to security policy across the IT infrastructure within their organization. They are promoting a future with open systems, interoperability, collaboration and spending the company’s money effectively. A good sales person provides the ideas to educate their customers, hopefully all the way up to the VP level. That’s a win/win sales model.

Create a partner strategy around the technology skills required in the new security convergence model. You can position your firm early for a trend that is repeating itself within the physical security market: Create a holistic view of security as a policy within the IT infrastructure and across the company. Security policy adds value to the business.

It’s time to be innovative and THINK DIFFERENTLY.

“The days of silo security implementations are over because stand-alone system security is a bottleneck. Therefore, security solutions must take a holistic approach.”  -- John Chambers, CEO, Cisco Systems