Catching up with ADT's new commercial group VP John Kenning

Kenning talks about IT training, where analytics fits into security, and why ROI is so important for his customers

But beyond the ROI push that has transformed commercial security system sales, Kenning comes into the industry during a time of technology transitions. There's the analog-to-IP transition that is affecting all systems integrators like ADT. Kenning's background at Nortel readies him for this, but he recognizes also that ADT, like many companies in the industry, needs to stay focused on training its associates to fully embrace this transition. He says he's focusing the internal training efforts on educating associates about networks and network technology. Kenning said that the company, while it doesn't want to become a company that installs business networks (there's no shortage of VARs already doing this and fighting for those projects), needs to have its people educated so that they can properly work on and implement security systems that maximize the use of the network. That means doing IT training with the hope that ADT's commercial systems unit employees are as ready as anyone to be an end user's "consultants" on large, complex, integrated transactions. It's a move, said Kenning, that takes the expertise brought in from the SST acquisition, and pushes that knowledge out to everyone in the company who would be involved in such projects.

But beyond the analog-to-IP transition, there is also new technology that has to be proven. One of those technologies is, of course, analytics. For groups like ADT's commercial division, it's a technology that can generate a lot of hope and promise. It could mean automated security responses or just faster responses, and someday even more accurate alarm and alert detection. That's the future, but the reality is that analytics was overpromised and under-delivered for so many years that it left a bad taste in many end-users mouths. So where does analytics fit in for a company like ADT (keeping in mind that their parent company Tyco has made some significant investments in this space)?

Here's what Kenning had to say: "ADT is trying to figure out what are the practical applications for video analytics. I think the 'easy' analytics are going to be the first to have payback. Everyone needs to get better because the ROI on analytics isn't as good as it needs to be for end users. Analytics is also going to be different in terms of training. You have to train them [the customers] on how to use the data properly to get that ROI. At ADT, we're also focused right now on training our engineering teams on analytics."

Beyond the nebulous world of analytics (which is, depending on who you talk to, either proven and reliable or still a difficult tool for integrators to add to their skill set), Kenning says ADT is pushing forward in its core business of monitoring. He said that ADT is seeing real opportunities in the banking and retail markets for handling the outsourcing of monitoring. When he speaks about monitoring, Kenning really seems to get the fact that the monitoring industry's future is about more than just burglar alarm signals coming in from the field. It's about video monitoring, doing remote surveillance tours, and remotely monitoring and managing access control systems for their clients.

With advanced monitoring options, a digital transition, and emerging technologies, Kenning has a lot on his plate (could that be the biggest understatement of this article?), but he seems eager to fully understand the security industry, and most of all, he seems eager to listen to his biggest customers to find out what are the problems that they need solved by their integrators, technology partners and monitoring providers. It bodes well for his leadership of ADT's commercial group.