Convergence Q&A

Oct. 27, 2008
Benchmarking Convergence

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the “Convergence Q&A” column. During that time, many organizations have begun convergence initiatives, and a new kind of question has popped up in reader e-mail and security conference discussions.

At first, the questions were along the line of “Have any companies tried…” or “Has anyone been involved in…” when it came to convergence topics. This column was born out of those questions, with the purpose of sharing information about what security practitioners have been doing, what they have found successful and what lessons they have learned.

During this column’s existence, many companies have executed convergence initiatives of one type or another. Surveys at security conferences and workshops reveal that more than half of the security practitioner attendees have engaged in earnest dialog with IT departments about one aspect or another of electronic security systems deployment. Thus, it should be no surprise that a growing percentage of questions begin with a new phrase: “How many companies are...?”

On the whole, security practitioners want to know “where they stand” in relation to what their peers are doing with convergence initiatives.

In response, Security Technology & Design and will launch a new online convergence benchmarking feature starting in July. Each month, we will provide two or three questions on a convergence topic of interest that can be answered online in just a minute or two. We’ll publish the results in this column.

When you have a question about where your peers stand on a particular convergence issue, you will be able to submit your question and see the responses! We’ll also be able to present related information in the column, to further explore the topic. Please consult the July edition of this column for the specific Web page to visit to participate in the benchmarking study.

Note: Our upcoming benchmarking initiative has the potential to provide previously unavailable insights into convergence progress and activities. Would you be interested in receiving the benchmarking results by e-mail, in advance of print publication? Let us know. We’re considering providing early feedback to readers who participate in our initiatives.

Some Convergence Trends
Based on feedback from e-mail and in-person discussions with attendees at security events, there are a few trends relating to convergence that are definitely worth mentioning:

• Strategic collaborations: In prior years, most collaboration between physical security and IT departments was project-based. Now, we are starting to see strategic collaborations on a number of topics, including network planning, security technology lifecycle planning, IT standards adoption, physical security for IT infrastructure, project planning and compliance with IT standards. One of the interesting strategies is to have IT serve as the project manager for physical security system deployments. Not all IT departments excel at project management, so some security practitioners are naturally reluctant even to consider the idea. However, where this is a strength for IT (such as in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, whose IT department has been successfully overseeing such projects for more than a decade), this approach allows the security manager to continue to focus on operations issues — a tremendous benefit.

• Dark Fiber: In the old days, we used to call it “spare cable.” The cost of fiber optic cable per-foot generally is much less than the cost to install it. That means it is often a small incremental cost to run additional fiber cable in any networking project, in the expectation that the fiber will find productive use as the organization’s deployment of technology advances. This is certainly a fiscally responsible approach for most organizations. We have learned of projects where physical security has piggy-backed spare fiber on IT initiatives, and vice versa. Given the advancements in network video and communications technologies, this is a strategy that is more than likely to provide a high Return on Investment in terms of both dollars and security benefits.

• Executive Cross-Pollination: I’m sure there is a better term for it, but regardless of what you call it, in the past year we have seen IT managers assume physical/corporate security positions and physical security practitioners assume IT security roles. There are two major benefits that can come from such a move. First, the position will benefit significantly from the new experience that becomes part of that domain. Second, the organization will be in an excellent position to engage in physical security and IT collaboration. When weighing the pros and cons of such a transfer or new hire, these values should be given serious consideration.

New Question:

Q: How do you “compare notes” with other security practitioners on convergence topics?

If you have experience that relates to this question, or have other convergence experience you want to share, e-mail your answer to me at [email protected] or call me at 949-831-6788. If you have a question you would like answered, I’d like to see it. We don’t need to reveal your name or company name in the column. I look forward to hearing from you!

Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. Mr. Bernard has also provided pivotal strategic and technical advice in the security and building automation industries for more than 18 years. He is founder and publisher of The Security Minute 60-second newsletter ( For more information about Ray Bernard and RBCS go to or call 949-831-6788.