Dan Dunkel2009: Bad Economy Means Slowing Convergence? - Not So Fast...

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

Many pundits in the security industry, (primarily consultants and integrators), have stated that a slowing economy in 2009 means that businesses will postpone or cancel convergence plans. Granted some companies will ratchet back spending...on everything.

However, I beg to differ on the question of convergence for the following reasons.

First of all, our overused term of "convergence" essentially means integration. Ask yourself, "What is it we are integrating?" The answer is information. The future of the security industry is moving, managing and sharing information. You cannot do that adding "cheaper" proprietary silos of legacy equipment. You integrate to legacy systems as your replace them outright.

The one constant in buying security systems (or anything for that matter) in tough economic times is increased scrutiny at senior levels in the organization, with the CFO (chief financial officer) getting maximum visibility. Some believe that process means buying the cheapest solution with no thought whatsoever to the ongoing total costs of ownership (T.C.O). Wrong. If anything, the strategic necessity of the security solution and its deployment costs are examined even more deeply. "Does this make sense for the business?" "What is the cost of doing nothing?" "Is the solution repeatable?" "How will it save money?"

In tight economic times, salesmanship takes the lead role and orchestrates a consistent message to the executive suite by providing the strategic incentive to secure the funding. Sales professionals provide the CSO with information to sell the strategic need and benefits to the business. The CFO is supplied with the appropriate financial models to assure the executive staff and board that the purchase is sound. Finally, collaboration with the IT department has also been initiated to avoid complications downstream. In short, a strategic sales process is in place. If anything, tough economic times mean that the competition gets more intense, and the strategic rationale behind that purchase order becomes more important. This does not mean the CFO says, "What is the cheapest thing to do?" or "Let's buy the proprietary stuff today and forget the higher operating costs incurred tomorrow." In recessions, more than ever, executives have to be sold. They want to be sold. Executives are competing for internal funds within their organization. What has higher intrinsic value than protecting the assets of the business (people, physical and electronic) and the value of the brand? If anything, you can argue that the threat levels increase during a recessionary environment.

If security policy is presented correctly (strategically) to the executive staff, this economic environment presents the opportunity for a deeper inspection of the value the security group provides the business. Isn't this where you want to be as a security professional and practitioner? There is no better entry into the executive suite than to provide business value during tough times. It is the right time to stress collaboration between the IT and physical security departments to proactively define solutions and provide the CFO a united front. In 2009, the answer is not selling the short-term solution. The CSO/CISO (i.e. your customer) should be at the executive table with a strategic message for moving, managing and sharing "security information" to protect the business. If not, you (the integrator) are missing a golden opportunity.

The historical trend is that leadership positions change during recessions. Some companies get stronger, while others are weakened or eliminated. The Chinese write the word "crisis" with two bush strokes, one means danger and the other opportunity. Remember, 2009 is an opportunity - make the most of it!