When approaching room 502 of the Sands Convention Center for ISC West’s State of the Industry presentation, there was a noticeable sprinkling of yellow scarf- or tie-attired ISC West personnel throughout the registration level calling out directions one could follow to the State of the Market. Once inside room 502, not only did the yellow scarves add to the festive atmosphere in the standing-room only room, but to me they also bought to mind the lyrics from The Wizard of Oz to “follow the yellow brick road.”

Every year the State of the Industry attempts to look at where the security industry is at and this year the task fell to moderator Sandy Jones, Sandra Jones & Co., and panelists Mike Howard, general manager/chief security officer, Microsoft; Carey Boethel, vice president, Siemens Building Technologies Inc., Security Solutions Business Unit; Jamie Rosand Haenggi, chief marketing and customer experience officer, Protection 1; and Bill Taylor, president, Panasonic System Networks Co. of America (PSNA).

Jones offered the first caution of the presentation before she asked the panelist the first question, admonishing attendees in her introduction that, “This is not a technology business. At the end of the day it is about serving customers and their needs.”

While that is true, the technology is hard to ignore, and in fact, it was a frequently visited area of the presentation, with the cloud, broadband, apps, digitization of information and plenty of other technologies staying top of mind for the panelists — but so was a consistent caution to avoid letting technology get in the way of strategic business decisions that are right for you and your customers — or to let it diminish your customers’ experience in any way.

“You have to stay in front of the rapid pace of the technology development,” said Boethel. “However, you have to maintain equal efficiency and progressiveness.”

Howard also discussed harnessing technology correctly. While he pointed to the cloud as a “huge” opportunity not to be missed, he also pointed to a strategic approach.

“I’m not a huge technology guy, but when I look to the future, I see the migration to the cloud as something that is going to be huge. We’re all in when it comes to the cloud, so the real question is how do you migrate there successfully and what does it really mean for your business? That’s the challenge. There is so much out there that you have to carefully find what fits for your company and have a strategic mindset when it comes to technology,” said Howard.

Service and an end-user focus did have a notable place in the participants’ advice, with Taylor advising to “provide flexible security solutions that grow with your customers’ changing security needs,” while Haenggi emphasized the ease of experience for customers and maintaining an emphasis on a security platform that engaged customers.

“In the past we’ve been afraid to engage customers, almost as if we’re afraid it will remind them they’re paying us RMR, but customers do see value in relationships with companies they buy things from,” said Haenggi.

The final question asked participants to share one piece of advice for companies to be more successful.

Boethel suggested to focus more on partnerships that can be created; Howard emphasized getting people to see the “value add” your business can offer, which opens up a “seat at the table” with the customer; Taylor shared an emphasis on bringing multiple technologies together to create flexible solutions and also embracing the dynamic changes in the industry; and Haenggi shared a passion for the home and the life safety aspect of security.

“Be passionate. I love this industry. I look at the alarms we take on a daily basis. It keeps me focused on life safety, it keeps it real, and it keeps me passionate. Every day we go into work and we get to make a difference and have the chance to save a life,” said Haenggi.

That’s a great reason to keep up the journey through the ever-changing technology and financial landscape, and keep traversing the security “yellow brick road” we’re all on.