Everyone agrees it is here but no one agrees on what it means. This is the state of convergence in the systems integration business today. We can’t pick up an industry publication or have an industry discussion without convergence being a significant discussion point.

There is near universal agreement that the security space is converging or has converged with the information technology (IT) space. What most of us can’t agree upon, from a systems integration perspective, is if this is good or bad, an opportunity or a threat.

From my viewpoint, this is a huge opportunity for our industry and for end users.

In most environments, the security system resides on a corporation’s IT “ecosystem.” The implications of this are significant. Performance of a system is more acutely analyzed and measured. The operation and maintenance of the system is viewed by more internal stakeholders. This scenario not only makes the IT folks important in approving the security plan, but also allows the security system to enjoy the advantages of an enterprise system. These advantages include the ability to share data across the enterprise, powerful communication, standardization, cost efficiency, and the opportunity to impact the end user’s business drivers in a positive manner.

As a risk management tool, this enterprise security system is also experiencing a value migration from the physical to the informational world. End users now need to have a strong suite of tools to support their security goals, their compliance and regulatory requirements, and their organization’s business drivers. The security systems have become meshed into the business in a far more comprehensive fashion. For instance, a security system at a university provides for a safer educational environment; yet, the application of a smart card moves the application from a security function to a tool to manage a student’s business activity at the university. As a result, there is a need to integrate security, IT, and university business strategies together. The convergence of strategy is a reflection of the power of the tools and their applications.

Because these security tools are becoming more complex and dynamic, there is a significant need for after-market service on these systems. It isn’t enough to give end users a phone number to call if they have a problem.

Systems integrators need to define service strategies for end users which include service content that will maintain their systems at peak operating levels throughout the expected lifecycle. Moreover, the types of services will need to expand beyond failure response.

Business continuity will become a main driver of this new service strategy in a converged setting. The IT-based solution will allow systems integrators to provide these services remotely from help desks or service centers. Around-the-clock operations will not be limited to alarm management, but also will host enterprise system services.

With the necessary migration to managed services and IT-related services, systems integrators now will be able to charge for these newly developed and acquired skill sets. Instead of the low pricing of a break-and-fix model, systems integrators should be able to charge end users on a scale similar to IT service providers. Knowledge-based services command a much higher price, and concurrent margin, due to the value provided. Traditional-based services, such as break-and-fix, are often viewed as low-end and are subject to the price pressure of a commodity-viewed service. In order to prosper in this new paradigm, knowledge and its ability to support and solve customer problems will be paramount. By having this knowledge, integrators will command proper service fees instead of apologizing for hourly labor rates.

End users will need systems integrators that have changed their business model to adapt to this reality.

A colleague of mine shared an interesting perspective on being able to take on the future from Professor Irwin Cory. He said, “If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.” Solid advice for our industry.