IT Security Dominates PSA State of the Industry Panel

With topics like building RMR, managed services, standardization, continuing education, finding financial support, growing a business and competing on a national scale, there was plenty to talk about at PSA Security Network’s annual state of the industry/state of the integrator panel today at PSA-TEC in Westminster, Co.; however, one topic seemed to rise above the others to create the most lively discussion.  

Perhaps it was the resignation of Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel amid rumors that the massive data breach cost him his job; but more likely it was the poignant comments of panelist Rob Simopoulos that shifted the tide of the conversation to the challenges that integrators are experience in dealing with IT security — both from a customer’s and an internal perspective.

“The trend I see happening is a change in the decision maker,” said Simopoulos, who is the President of Advance Technology of Scarborough, Me. “When I started we seemed to be dealing with the security director, but now the trend is that IT is making the decisions. More often, our sales team is sitting in front of a 26 year-old IT person who is reviewing the technology and picking the solutions.

“We have to accommodate that change in customers,” he told a standing-room only crowd. “The key is, if we are selling to a different type of decision maker, we better walk the walk and talk to talk. If your customers are talking IP addresses and VLANs, they want your sales team to be talking at that high level.”

Will Schmidt, managing director of Capital Source’s security lending group, actually kicked off the panel by talking about the major impact IT is having on the security marketplace. “You can draw corollaries from the impact in the IT world to the integration space,” he explained. “(Customers) have gone from a purchase mentality to one of a total cost of ownership, which in the IT world, has been a very common practice. We are seeing IT more involved and the continued migration to solutions rather than products.”

Safeguard Security’s President and GM Mike Bradley, agreed that IT is having a major impact on even the most established security integrators. “We have to adopt IT technology,” he said. “Our techs have to use the technologies our customers are using."

Simopoulos went on to point out how this change in customer needs to be reflected with similar changes to the security integrator’s sales strategy and infrastructure. He talked about studying the IT services community, and the need to put the security industry on the radars of current students who are specializing in networking. “We need to start investing in our sales folks,” he said. “IT administrators understand RMR and software service agreements and proactive monitoring.

“I am going to colleges and universities to meet and recruit network students for internships, and they have no idea that the security industry is a path that is open to them,” he concluded. “Unfortunately, we can’t live in the security silo anymore. I challenge all of you to go out and make this industry better by embracing IT and educating those young students about the security industry.”

Simopoulos’s comments sparked a wide discussion of what the security integrator community can and should do on most of these fronts. “It’s a great opportunity, but we have to educate ourselves before anyone else,” one integrator in attendance commented.

Of course, there was a lot more to the state of the industry panel. In addition to Simopoulos, Bradley and Schmidt, the other participants were:

  • Don Erickson, Security Industry Association;
  • Stuart Rawling, ONVIF;
  • Dave Bunzel, PSIA;
  • Carey Boethel, Securadyne Systems; and
  • Bill Bozeman, PSA Security Network.

With the many topics discussed, here’s a brief look at the trend or issue that each one highlighted.

Bozeman highlighted PSA’s budding National Deployment Program, which aims to help PSA integrators cover a huge portion of the country with security services. “We need something that will service our large, mid-size and small companies to help all of them get more business and reduce hassle,” he said. “We can provide better coverage than anybody, and this can be a very powerful tool to bring our companies business we couldn’t otherwise get.”

Boethel outlined the one change he made in his business to grow profits, which was the establishment of a Program Management Office: “With growth like ours comes a certain amount of chaos,” he said. “We are investing in ways to bring order to what’s happeneing at Securadyne.” The Program Management Office was formed to primarily service Securadyne’s enterprise class customers. “It is really important to create an organization that could ensure consistency across our entire footprint,” he explained. "This ensures a consistent customer experience, and when you are able to fulfill at a consistent basis, it is a real differentiator in this business.”

Erickson focused on SIA’s efforts to educate the industry, with a focus on market-specific regulatory requirements, such as growing efforts in the K-12 and energy markets, as well as the need for more project management training. “As an organization, we are investing more in security project management,” he said.

Standards and specifications were also a hot topic with SIA, ONVIF and PSIA all represented on the panel. “My prediction is that the ease of interoperability will come as each body works together more — that’s going to be the game changer,” Rawling predicted, adding that ONVIF has now created an observer-level membership which will enable integrators to have a say in the specification-creation process.

Bunzel said that PSIA is helping integrators to create custom solutions for customers. “Customers are asking for standards-based solutions right now — that sells and it resonates,” he said. “End-users want interoperability so they can control costs now and in the future.”

Schmidt represented the investment angle for integrators and talked in depth about the financial opportunities available to integrators who are looking to grow. “Capital is available to grow,” he said.

Echoing on the tone of the entire panel discussion, Bradley closed with remarks that easily summed up the day: “We all need to continue to reinvent our businesses,” Bradley said. “What’s stopping us from reinventing? Why are we stuck in the last decade or earlier? That’s the challenge — to be brave and bold.” 

Loading