I’m eager to recommend that you read SDM’s September issue cover story, “More than Buzzwords: Winning Business in the IT World,” written by senior editor, Heather Klotz. The author writes that “early in the convergence of information technology (IT) and physical security, a common piece of advice for success was to ‘speak IT’s language’ when it was necessary to get the IT director involved. It was essentially a courtesy nod — similar to learning ‘hello’ and ‘good-bye’ when visiting a foreign country. With disparate backgrounds…the two industries were similar to two foreign countries with two different languages before convergence began.


“That is not the case today,” Klotz writes, “as convergence between IT and physical security keeps accelerating and the boundaries continue to shrink. Today, to be successful, speaking the language of IT isn’t just about including a few buzzwords — it’s also about incorporating the discipline’s best practices and requirements into documented methodologies, skill sets and strategic visions. Anything less might fail to translate…into business.”


Klotz likens this trend to a scenario in which interaction between physical security and IT must take place as “peers” rather than as “visitors.” Her story brings to readers ideas from some of the best minds working in this space, including Paul Thomas, president of Northland Control Systems; Dave Tyson, CISO at Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E); John Nemerofsky, vice president of sales and marketing for Niscayah Inc.; Jason Oakley, CEO of North American Video (NAV); John Kostelac, sales and engineering manager at Northwestern Ohio Security Systems; Mike Kobelin, vice president, sales of Aronson Security Group (ASG); and many others.


The article quotes Nemerofsky explaining how crucial it is for security integrators to go beyond the first layer of knowledge, because they will be tested. “Of course speaking IT’s language is important,” Nemerofsky remarks. “However, speaking the language is just superficial and will only get you in the door. Good IT directors will test your knowledge when you are introduced as a security integrator to determine if you are technologically savvy or just a ‘device hanger.’”


NAV’s Oakley points out a contrast between these two worlds: “IT personnel are less likely than security leaders to be tolerant of ‘practical experience’ as a substitute for formal certifications — more and more we are seeing certification requirements as a prerequisite to be a service provider,” he observes.


In the article, PG&E’s Tyson describes what it looks like from the client’s perspective: “If an integrator can say all the usual standard things (‘We’ve been doing it 20 years, we employ the best people,’ etc.), but also say, ‘We are going to help you understand how to integrate this into your environment securely and make you fully aware of the risks and let you factor that into your IT processes to make sure you are not at risk’ — just that statement alone in my mind, as a buyer, is a differentiator for me and would get my attention.”


The boundaries continue to shrink, as Klotz writes. At an increased rate, physical security systems are residing on IT networks, and systems integrators are being thrust more frequently and more vigorously into their world. They’d better know more than how to say “hello” and “good-bye.”


“More than Buzzwords: Winning Business in the IT World,” appears on pages 48-58 of the September 2010 issue of SDM, and will be posted here soon.