ASG: Success at the Leading Edge

Like many of today’s security integrators, Seattle-based Aronson Security Group (ASG) started out in locks and door hardware. Conrad Aronson opened the business as the C. Connie Aronson Company in the early 1960s and grew it successfully for nearly 30 years before selling it to his sons.

This January, CEO Phil Aronson announced that the company, renamed Aronson Security Group (ASG) in 1999, had purchased Oregon-based Selectron, making it the largest independent security integrator in the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, ASG formally launched its Converged Security Services Division to assist clients in developing converged enterprise security architecture—a concept that’s as far from selling mechanical locks as e-mail is from the Pony Express.

The last eight years have been a major transformation for ASG. Phil Aronson attributes his company’s success to the people he works with and the way those people have invested themselves in the vision of ASG. The forward-thinking nature of that vision has allowed the company to adapt throughout the years to address business and technology trends as they emerge and to provide their customers with state-of-the-art solutions and services.

Changing the face of security
One of the more recent and revolutionary aspects of ASG’s vision is its emphasis on increasing the influence of security directors within their own companies. “When we really started growing in 2002, we wanted to raise the level of security to the boardroom,” Aronson said, “so the clients we’re working with are talking about security in the advancement of the company’s goals and mission—how it adds strategic value to the company.”

Traditionally, security directors haven’t had a consistently strong influence in the upper echelons of their corporations, with the board of directors and with the executives in the C suite. Executives and the board often view security as simply a cost of doing business, and security directors often present security projects in terms of cost alone.

ASG works to show customers and non-customer security directors how to speak “the new language of security”— the language of the C level, which focuses on the brand and shareholder value. The company has used its annual ASG Security Summits to advance that theme.

Getting security into the boardroom will be good for security practitioners and the industry as a whole, and it would specifically benefit integrators like ASG as well by opening up the door to more funding for security projects. “It’s harder to get money when you’re a cost of doing business with an intangible ROI,” said Aronson. “But if you can show value to a CFO or CEO, you’re more likely to get funding and budget. I’ve seen that working with customers and clients we have.”

ASG has been talking about adding value through security for many years but it’s only now beginning to resonate with many security practitioners and the industry. Aronson recognizes this evolution as a reflection of the growth of another sector: information technology. He worked as a computer analyst in the 1980s and likens the security industry today to information technology (IT) back then, when CIOs moved to the boardroom and began talking about networking and information technology as an integral way to add value to the company.

Taking convergence a step further
Aronson also saw the push toward security systems convergence as reminiscent of early changes in IT. “Security had been a slow-moving industry with all proprietary systems, and now you’re talking about commercial off-the-shelf products, networking and convergence. There are a lot of similarities with IT there.”

Again, ASG has been moving toward convergence for six years, and now that the industry is firmly on its way in that direction, the company has launched a Converged Security Systems Division to leverage the growth of convergence spending, which could reach $22 billion by 2010, according to Hunt Business Intelligence.

“Convergence involves a security architecture that includes both physical and logical security,” Aronson explained. “Looking at that single security architecture is the key to convergence, so you need people who understand both sides of the business.” The Converged Security Systems Division will offer services that go beyond the traditional. ASG integrators have long acted as pseudo mediators between client IT and physical security representatives, reassuring both sides that converged security systems would work for both sides.

Now, Aronson said, the new division will provide some services traditionally performed by the IT department or IT integrators, including network assessments that evaluate traffic capacity and network security. “Sometimes the IT departments are slammed with projects, so who’s going to do (these assessments)? Security wants to put some cameras on the network or launch VOIP emergency call services, and somebody has to make sure they work. So instead of having a separate IT integrator come in, we thought it made sense for us to provide those services.”

Anticipating trends in technology and security practice has been a recipe for success at ASG. Aronson continues to look forward to the next great evolution so he can get his company and its customers on board.

Marleah Blades is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous industry magazines. She previously served as managing editor of Security Technology & Design magazine.

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