Integrating intrusion protection, access control and video surveillance can bring powerful new capabilities to end users. But any system is only as good as the support behind it. As we begin 2008 it is time for some serious resolutions for a security industry in a state of transformation.

Transformation is occurring at all levels within the traditional physical security industry. It is impacting everything from R&D cycles, to sales channels, to how products and services are purchased. At the very moment when the physical security and IT industries are converging, very few IT executives have leadership roles anywhere in the physical security industry.

While a major factor impacting the new definition of corporate risk involves an annual $2 to $3 trillion illicit global economy and threats from global terrorism and pandemics, it is fair to say the job of the security executive is increasingly critical and visible. The only timely answer is to leverage global information technologies to alleviate these increasing threat levels. The security department is becoming a key customer of the IT organization.

Having spent 22 years involved with Information Technology executives, I have witnessed the career evolution of the CIO (chief information officer). That path is being repeated today by the CSO (chief security officer).

I sold proprietary “silos” of technology with limited or no interoperability to the vice president of data processing. Almost exclusively a male domain, he sat sequestered away in his “glass house” air-conditioned computer room. He had no business experience and little communication with the senior executives and board, except to ask for increasing amounts of money.

However, over the past two decades as technology became more open, interoperable, and distributed across the Internet, the glass house was shattered. Out popped an executive-level businessperson, whose education was the result of working with all of the company’s departments to understand how technology would assist his operations.

Understanding this dynamic is important for several reasons. First, the IT department is getting more involved in deploying enterprise physical security solutions, and second, the IT department has long-standing buying relationships with the IT manufacturing, distribution, and integrator communities. It makes sense to leverage these relationships during the current convergence cycle. The onus to hire senior IT professionals falls upon the security firms that want to increase market share in the future.

These two prior points would suggest that it is in the best interest of innovative physical security companies to hire IT executive leadership. Yet evidence of this strategy in the security industry is limited at best. While many firms hire IT technicians, they ignore the strategic advantage of leveraging IT executive experience and business relationships. In reviewing the senior teams of leading security companies, the IT executive is essentially non-existent.

As a security professional, your products are following the IT precedent of becoming open and interoperable across the Internet. The CSO career path is following the course set by the CIO and becoming a peer-level executive relationship. The selling process has increasingly more IT management involvement. Partnerships with IT manufacturers, distributors, and integrators are increasing. Executive- and board-level relationships, long a stronghold for IT firms, are at a premium. Yet, all things considered, the fact is that the majority of the major players in physical security have no interest in integrating IT executives into their leadership ranks. This is a missed opportunity, and one that will prove costly to many.

2008 is the year for change: Hire an executive with a different perspective to strengthen your go-to-market strategy and maximize this transformation cycle in security. If not, there will be one more chapter in the IT history book certain to be repeated for the security firms that operate in a business-as-usual mode. Remember the minicomputer industry — Digital Equipment, WANG, and Data General? — all multi-billion-dollar busts who ignored the trends because it meant changing their business models.