As IP solutions proliferate through the security world, it is increasingly critical for physical security integrators to interact effectively with the IT pros who work for their customers. However, while IT and physical security are converging at a rapid pace, interacting with IT is a whole new world for many integrators and effective communication doesn't always come easily. In addition to helping IT understand the purpose of your physical security implementation and easing their concerns around new traffic and threats to their network, an effective line of communication with IT will also allow you to drive the relationship and present your services as valuable and relevant. Here are some guidelines to make sure you master the conversation, better serve your IP-enabled client-base and keep two steps ahead of the convergence trend.
Understand your audience
IT professionals are tasked with maintaining the health, security and performance of networks that serve many mission critical functions. This means that disruptive or unfamiliar technologies that can negatively impact performance or compromise the security of the network are a potential nightmare for IT pros. Address these issues proactively in your communication with IT, be sure to ease concerns such as traffic load, storage issues and other threats to the network, and become conversant in IP technologies and standard configurations.
Choose IT savvy solutions from your preferred vendors and suppliers
Not all IP security solutions are created equal. When building your product portfolio, look for solutions that were architected from the ground up to work on a network. Check for the following when making your choice:
Bandwidth friendly: Choose systems that can intelligently determine what to send across the network and when.
Storage sensitive: Offer solutions with smart storage capabilities that allow for high resolution images to be stored for a time before being archived at lower resolution or even thumbnails.
Hybrid IP/analog functionality: Leverage IP technology without abandoning analog investment. Hybrid solutions offer your customers the ability to blend environments and stretch existing investments in a tough economy.
Open platform: Have a standard API set to enable integration with other security and business solutions. Look for open platform solutions that allow integrations with a host of transaction, access control and other systems.
Standard operating system: Choose solutions that built on an industry standard operating system.
Get IT involved early on
Once you have determined the right solution for your client, make sure you bring in the IT team right from the start. It's a symbiotic relationship and you can't do it without them and they can't do it without you. Be clear about what you need from them, the requirements of the system and be very specific and accurate about the solution's impact on a network. Create a comprehensive checklist that outlines everything you will need and give them plenty of time to react. (For example, don't wait until you're on site to ask for an IP address.) And be sure to present your solution as a business system and not simply equipment, box, camera or device.
Come prepared with suggestions
Anticipate IT concerns with your solution and come prepared with ways to resolve those issues. For example, bandwidth is often a concern for already constrained networks. Determine if video content will need to travel over the WAN or the LAN and have recommendations to help ease the burden of the traffic increase.
Speak in their language
The way you communicate about your solution and recommendations is key to making sure your needs are understood and keeping your services relevant. Familiarize yourself with IT terminology and basic network topology and present your solution using terms that IT will understand. Rather than saying you're going to install a 3.2 megapixel camera, tell them how much bandwidth you need so they can quantify the load to the network. And if there's something you don't know, don't fake it. Keep your credibility and professionalism high by working together with IT to figure it out instead.
Keith Deming is the director of IT at 3VR Security Inc. 3VR is s global leader in Intelligent Surveillance and Search, working together with physical security integrators to offer a faster, more reliable and less expensive way to fight crime, ensure people's safety and improve business efficiency. Learn more at 3VR.com.
Integrators Speak Out
Getting in touch with the right school contact makes it work
By Natalia Kosk
This month we went straight to the integrators to ask them the following questions:
Q: How should an integrator approach an installation for a school environment? Who is an integrator's primary contact and what is the relationship between the integrator and that source?
A: "There's not one stakeholder but instead multiple influencers; there's only a few decision makers within an institution. If you only target a specific segment within an institution, you're making a huge mistake. An IT professional might be the technical advisor but they are not going to be the sole decision maker. At the higher level you've got public safety, campus administration, various deans and a whole bunch of other sources you need to bring into it if you're trying to do campus-wide solutions at a higher education level. It's not quite as extensive at the K-12 level but still at the school district level, you better be able to speak their language and be able to communicate with the stakeholders. The school resource officer is the school public safety official and depending on the size the school will determine how school resource officers they need to have." - Tom Giannini, director of Security and Emergency Communications Marketing, SimplexGrinnell, Boca Raton, Fla.
A: "I see a number of different formats out there. Typically I see fire alarm in buildings and grounds of the maintenance department. It's kind of a service-oriented life safety device so it's kept over in that department. Security and cameras and access control, since they're becoming more network based, is migrating over to the IT department. But I've seen building and grounds handle it all and I've also seen IT handle it all and I've seen a combination of both so I don't see a cut and dry way of how that is handled. There are a lot of school districts-the larger ones of which are starting to realize that they have to have a security director and a security department. A lot of them are incorporating security forces where they respond to their own alarms and monitor their own video surveillance systems. Typically that is the extent of it. Fire alarms get over into UL and AHJ code requirements and most districts find that that they have a hard time meeting those requirements and most school districts find they have a difficult time meeting those standards so they typically outsource that maintenance and inspection." - Marty Graves, president of SAS Security Alarm Service, Plano, Texas.
A: "As an integrator, you can't just walk into a school and expect everything to be glorifed for you. You have to understand the school and their strengths and weaknesses also. From my position within ADT, I go in and talk to these stakeholders before any type of solution is even being recommended and offered to them and making sure that they understand what these resources can do for them and how we can protect their students and their faculty and staff. We have a number of schools that we constantly work with on a daily basis and we listen to their concerns and best practices. And when we go out to a new customer, we approach them from that perspective. We don't approach them as a salesman. We're more of a consultant for them." - Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor, ADT Security Services, Boca Raton, Fla.