Changing Security Roles (For Everybody)

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

My last column discussed the changing definition of risk and the fact that it is now global, extreme, and acts as a threat multiplier in many ways. While grasping how something this fundamental can impact your business, consider the fact that it is occurring during a time of rapid technology transition for the security industry. Thinking the issue through leads one to the realization that “Everything” in the security business is in the process of changing.

Fundamentally, business commerce has gone global and communications technology (the Internet) is the enabler. Simultaneously, both legitimate businesses and criminal syndicates and terrorists have leveraged this global network to their advantage. Global supply chains are at the heart of their respective deployment strategies. While Wal-Mart delivers goods and IBM provides software and services, criminals move illegal drugs, stolen property, and steal data to hijack identities. Advanced technologies are at the core of both legal and illegal enterprises.

The criminal problem is huge, growing, “network based,” and causing the CSOs of large companies to secure internal and external global, national, and local supply chains. Why? Two major trends: (1) The criminals are outpacing the security industry by embracing technology more quickly, and (2) The global supply chain now connects businesses of all shapes and sizes everywhere in the world. The bottom line for the CSO is to protect the company brand and/or reputation. This latter point is also increasingly an issue for corporate executives and their boards, which are ultimately responsible to shareholders. Both of the above facts impact security budgets, decision cycles, and vendor selection criteria. The “trickle down” effect is alive and well when considering vendors of security solutions and services tasked with protecting their customers best interests. It is the mantra of the 21st Century Security Practitioner to “Accelerate” the deployment of innovative (and OPEN) security solutions across the global IP network. With CSOs becoming more business conscious (as in “How does the security group add value to the business units?) they work more closely with the IT Group. Who, by the way, have been asking and answering that same question for the last 30 plus years. Smart security professionals recognize they are both customers and partners with the IT department and not adversaries. The work relationship between security and IT is changing. There is no time for politics and internal nonsense. The CSO will find vendors who can assist in creating and deploying a security policy globally, or he/she will be gone and new vendors will be selected. This is a good thing. Nothing less then the future of global commerce is at stake. From an integrator perspective the opportunity is either embraced or lost. Your business (or sales channel) succeeds or fails based on how well and fast you position security solutions across the IP network. That is also a good thing.

I believe a physical security industry split is upon us. In short, it is time for installers to stop thinking they are integrators and for true integrators to accelerate partnerships to get the skills they need to address the new challenges of the CSO. The traditional physical security sales chanel is changing. If you can’t beat them, buy them. If you can’t buy them, partner with them. If you refuse to do either, then go the local installer route and bet the future on praying that the combination of technology and competitive (cut-throat) pricing will overlook your business. Or better yet, find new security solutions for those local (residential) markets. Hint: The solutions will be wireless. Industry transition cycles are not easy, but in the end I am optimistic about the future of the security industry. As security gains importance globally the opportunities for smart integrators and manufacturers to position solutions to protect global commerce are absolutely huge. The key is to recognize these major trends and position the business accordingly.

“For the first time in history you have a global market of One Billion plus people. All connected over an interactive network. The opportunities are bigger then ever before.” 
                                                             -Mark Andreessen, Founder, Netscape

When it comes to the security industry the risks and the opportunities are increasing simultaneously. The products, vendor relationships, and executive responsibilities are all changing to reflect this fact. The winners in our industry will innovate around these changing security relationships.