The Global CSO and Understanding 'New' Alliances

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

Last week I had the pleasure to attending “The GSO 2010 Conference: Global Security Operations” in San Jose, Calif. My good friend Ray Bernard and his wife & partner Pamela Peat, hosted a stellar event at Adobe’s downtown headquarters that included leading security practitioners and over 70 CSOs and senior management security personnel. The agenda was fast paced and interesting. One look at the agenda points to an industry in transition. The topics included:

1. Managing the Costs & Benefits of Security
2. The Role of ROSI (Return on Security Investment)
3. The Security Manager as a Strategic Partner
4. Business Drivers and Your Security Program
5. Physical Security and IT Collaboration
6. The Role of Technology in 21st Century Security

When you take a close look at these topics again you realize just how much the traditional physical security executive is changing into a more strategic “operational” executive. Security policy is aligning with the IT infrastructure to add value to business operations on a GLOBAL scale. Security is an industry (and profession) in a major transitional phase. Will you leverage this opportunity to your advantage? Or will you wait too long to lead?

As with most regional seminars (and trade shows) many of the best business conversations occur between sessions and socializing. I found a recurring theme among the many impressed attendees: “There really isn’t another [regional] venue that addresses physical security issues in business terms like R.O.I. and strategic partnerships with IT.”

Others told me that they learned more in one day then they thought possible. This was very interesting to me. These attendees were not new to the security industry, but the topics and the case studies (Cisco Systems) represented new thinking about how to improve the “operational efficiencies” of their profession. The messaging was about collaborating with internal departments to align security practices with operations to create business value. Forming and executing alliances with vendors and agencies outside of their corporations to “share” information and improve upon industry best practices. It was about being as far removed from a proprietary “silo mentality” as possible.

The new security executive understands the industry (and their job) is changing, and to be successful they need to be open minded and flexible. The smart people are recognizing how this transition will benefit their careers, as well as their organization’s security policies.

Equally important for security sales people and integrators alike is an understanding that when the industry undergoes a transition, so do buying requirements. New buying decisions open up the competitive marketplace. Established vendors can no longer rest on their laurels and be comfortable with market share. Thinking the old way of doing business (think: analog) is the road to future success is suicide. Actually, it’s more about missing the market transition. Out of kindness the market will refer to you as a “mature and declining company.” I will also be kind and call you deaf, dumb and blind. History is your guide; ignore it at your own peril.

This perspective was illustrated by my friend, James Condron, VP of sales for CNL (a start up physical security middleware vendor), when he relayed a story of how a large established company in a dominant market position misread changing market dynamics. James recalled how the leading Xerox company in the market employed about 3,000 people in a business park close to his home in Woking (U.K) selling and servicing the photocopier market. The following story is true:

The company had a strong financial model that supported leasing arrangements with its customers. It had good relationships with the office managers who were responsible for purchasing and contracts. It had a great sales force who knew how to sell copier products and service contracts. It had very strong brand equity with the influencers in its market space. In short, the company had a strong sales and support message and knew who to sell to.

Then the market changed quickly as someone came up with the idea of installing a network interface in a photocopier. This idea was actually embraced by the copier companies. However, since the machines were going on the network, the IT department became more involved in the purchase decision and the contract process.

As a result of a changing environment, the company no longer had a  financial model that supported aggressive capital purchases (IT typically did not lease this type of product). Relationships with the right people were lost. The sales force no longer knew the decision maker nor were they trained to sell to their new audience. They no longer had strong brand equity with the new influencers. In short, the sales messaging was different and so were the people they needed to market and sell to.

Finally, they no longer have an office near Woking!

James went on to summarize, “I trust you can see how analogous this story is to where we are now in the convergence of the security and IT industry and I hope in some way it may be useful in working with physical security integrators and helping them understand they have to form alliances with the right people to move forward." (James, thank you – I could not have written a better story.)

The message in the GSO 2010 conference and the copier example can be summed up in the following timeless quote:

"Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” 
- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1532)

The physical security market is experiencing rapid transformation, are you?