Bringing harmony to the relationship between IT and physical security

IT and physical security historically have made an unlikely couple. Coming from two completely different worlds, these two often don’t see eye-to-eye and find that working as a team can be a real challenge.

To IT, physical security seems like the frivolous, spendthrift one, justifying spending on "needs" and consuming an ever-increasing amount of IT resources and time. To physical security, IT is the matter-of-fact naysayer who continually raises the flag and seems to get pleasure by finding technical reasons to derail projects. IT is often perceived as unwilling to put anything into the relationship. This can make for a rocky partnership, as each side can blame the other when things aren’t working out. IT is left feeling overburdened, undereducated and excluded from decisions being made. Physical security feels underappreciated, unsupported and intimidated by their lack of technical knowledge and continued reliance on IT.

Yet the convergence of IT and physical security continues to place pressure on these two groups to work together. The technical aspects are frequently debated, but the political aspects are rarely evaluated. So what ails this relationship and what are the keys to a strong, sustainable meeting of the minds of the two?

You bought what? – Discuss purchases in advance

Physical security is focused on doing what it takes to create a secure environment, mitigate risk, and encourage safety and security. Thanks to technology advancements, they have a wide range of solutions from which to choose when it comes to video, physical security software, access control, and risk management. Physical security is focused on selecting technologies that will be most effective for their team, will work with the organization’s culture and that fall within budgetary constraints. Sometimes, however, they fail to understand the impact of these new technologies on the IT infrastructure and team. Because solutions are increasingly IP-based and run off of the network, they do impact the IT group significantly. IT will be involved in maintaining and troubleshooting these systems.

Equipment can impact the network’s performance and the system’s performance often depends on network considerations. If the physical security team makes a decision to purchase a particular software, IP access control, or IP video solution without involving someone from IT from the beginning, IT can quickly become incensed upon learning about the planned implementation. Particularly where video is concerned, the capabilities of the solution depend on how they are implemented on the network. Megapixel, CSI-style video may be a misplaced dream given limitations in budget dollars as well as bandwidth on the network.

The most effective way to resolve this issue is to discuss purchases with both parties in advance. Both parties should have an opportunity to submit a list of requirements for the solution in advance of purchasing it.

I thought you were taking care of that! – Talk about logistics

Logistics is the long road between initial product purchase and how it actually works once implemented on site. Sometimes companies expect plug-and-play results, not realizing that technology alone can’t create safer, more secure environments. Logistics determine how the technology is maintained and used. For example, with a new video system, it is imperative to decide how long video will be archived as well as who will check to verify on a regular basis that cameras are properly functioning. Who will have access to view live cameras and how will they be using video day-to-day? For the access control system, who will enter and remove visitors from the database? Who will set the vacation schedules? These issues can impact the network as well as product performance. Logistics go best when the team discusses responsibilities and manages expectation

You’re doing this on purpose! – Assume the best

In any relationship, giving someone the benefit of the doubt and assuming the best creates an environment that fosters communication. It is helpful to keep in mind that physical security and IT simply operate in different worlds, with different goals, priorities and ways of doing things. This is true for any and every department and individual within an organization. IT should keep in mind that physical security is not deliberately avoiding them or trying to make life hard. In most cases, it is simply a lack of understanding of technical issues and the network. Likewise, IT is not trying to destroy every plan physical security has – they are simply trying to organize the best outcome that will have minimal negative impact and also manage expectations. By assuming that each party is acting for a reason and not attempting to purposefully go against the other, it is much easier to open the lines of communication.

By working together and communicating openly, physical security and IT can have a good partnership in which both parties get what they need. Managing expectations and working with each other in good faith is really the key. The result is not only an improved working relationship, but also optimal implementations, a safer environment and one that is technically sound.

About the author: Andrew Wren is President of Wren, a provider of physical security solutions for more than 25 years. Wren can be reached at To learn more about Wren’s solutions, visit