In September I wrote about how new media will transform your business in 2008, stating that we understand today’s business professional is “overwhelmed with information and bombarded with options” and that SDM’s customer-focused approach as a media company is to help you strategically manage how and when you receive information.

Informational options include not only printed and electronic publications and forums, but conferences and trade shows, too. Conferences can be difficult to fit into your schedule and budget, but are vital because the connections you make at a conference can feed into both personal development and company growth.

It’s a challenge to both manage one area of the business — whether it’s operations, finance, or sales — let alone handle multiple tasks. But the most daunting responsibility is your responsibility to guide your customers. The most respected people in the security industry understand that this responsibility extends well beyond the traditional aspects of keeping costs reasonable, providing timely service, not missing an alarm signal, and other such factors.

What differentiates competitors in security is when they take on the responsibility for making decisions in their customers’ best interests — almost the way a parent would for a child. For example, one important idea that I recognized at the ISC East and ASIS International events this fall was the introduction of products and systems that were developed for solving very specific customer needs, such as features designed for specific types of customers in specific industries. Video analytics products, in particular, may have been born horizontal, but have grown up to become vertically correct. Today you can find analytics software designed for industries such as ports, borders, transportation centers, industrial plants, stadiums, hospitals, and retail establishments. Many products are no longer “one size fits all.”

The theme among many manufacturers seems to be: Let’s drill down our feature set to connect with the most specific user in the most specific industry. This is not bad if the resultant cost is not exorbitant, but it does place a burden on you, the security professional, to dedicate significant resources to technology intelligence. Imagine your customer discovering that a very good security system exists for accomplishing exactly what they need to accomplish — and also discovering that you, their security professional, weren’t even aware of it! Not only would that become a competitive issue, but it also would suggest that, at your core, your business is ineffectual.

This issue’s profile of the 2007 Systems Integrator of the Year, Convergint Technologies, and our Integrator of the Year honorees, System•Development Integration and Adesta, seem to have woven that responsibility of technology intelligence into the fabric of their business strategies.

These integrators are regularly seen attending trade shows, participating in panel discussions, chairing committees, serving on manufacturer advisory councils and generally involved in the communication of technology-related information.

Convergint, in particular, calls its branch offices “Technology Centers,” and hosts “Technology Days” that bring together manufacturers and customers in an exchange of ideas. “It is our customers who are helping to define who we are and the services we provide,” says Convergint’s Tony Varco in the article, which begins on p. 42 in this issue.

Make it your business to pursue technology intelligence. In these days of security industry expansion, it’s a harder job than ever to keep up with the latest solutions, but after all, why are you in business?