A recent cover (Sept. 17, 2012) of InformationWeek highlighted the Top 500 Innovators and Rule Breakers. The article discussed new technologies like cloud computing, mobile devices and big data analytics as being critical to firms using IT to get closer to their customers. I was struck by the similarities to the future of security in general, and I wondered, “Who are the true innovators and rule breakers in our industry?”

Getting mobile apps into the hands of customers and leveraging business intelligence across employees looks like a good description of a state-of- the-art physical security information management (PSIM) deployment. A critical infrastructure site such as an airport or utilities facility, or smart city installation certainly utilizes a variety of technologies to integrate hardware, software and services in response to real-time situations.

Critical infrastructure or smart city deployments are large-scale and demand a high level of expertise — “system of systems” thinking if you will. 

A vision of current and future security and technology trends, along with the capabilities to manage the project, is essential. This cannot be accomplished without strategic partnerships. 

The key variable to success appears to be understanding and executing strategic partnering. I am not talking about a list of application providers for a specific solution, like the PSIM example above, but true strategic partnerships whereby the sales and support organizations of two or more separate organizations act in unison. This is rare. I believe the information technology companies do this better than the global physical security integrators. EMC Corporation underscores my point (it could also be Cisco, Dell, IBM, etc.).

EMC established a Global Security Business practice several years ago that is enjoying excellent growth and winning new business on an international scale. One leverage point is the fact that EMC has products (mostly storage) in 85 percent of the largest companies in the world.

They are also the No. 5 largest software company. However, where EMC excels is on the strategic partnering and integration front. EMC has a world-class integration facility with $4 billion (yes, billion) worth of hardware and software dating back decades. Working with their partners, EMC truly integrates solutions (cloud, mobile devices, big data storage, video surveillance, access control, etc.) prior to installation at customer sites. This Good Housekeeping seal of approval standardizes that specific “bundle” as a repeatable solution set.

The value of the EMC strategic partnership does not end there however. EMC is a product company wrapped around an outstanding sales organization. EMC focuses global account managers (GAMs) on their largest clients. For example, a firm spending upwards of $100 million annually has a GAM team. These teams of sales and support experts are constantly exploring new solutions to benefit their customers and drive revenues.

How many physical security integrators and solution providers are truly partnering with major IT firms at a strategic level, which involves your engineers, project managers, sales and business development team, and senior executives?

Innovators and rule breakers find new ways to drive revenue and win. It might be a unique application or a strategic partner offering an expanded channel for an exiting business line. Too often partnerships between firms are not strategic, they are one-off affairs. The relationship is left to a local sales person, or worse yet, a marketing initiative diluted across so many partners that it goes nowhere —out of sight, out of mind.

Technology is advancing rapidly and there is no shortage of devices (mobile), architectures (cloud) or information (big data) to integrate around solving security problems. What we are lacking as an industry are focused and truly strategic partnerships. You don’t have to be a huge company to partner with a huge company. You have to be innovative in your business thinking and a bit of a rule breaker.