Last word: Which road will you take?

December 2001 News & Events

As we move into the New Year I think it would be appropriate to stand back a little and take stock of 2001. It has been a tough year, coloured by the events of September 11th. Domestic sideshows (the Government's knee-jerk reaction to foreign ownership within the security industry, which has been resolved for now, and the report on the country's arms deal tabled before Parliament in early November) seem to have taken a backseat to the CCN-packaged 'War on Terror'.

As Jim Spencer, President of The Tartan Group in Boca Raton, Florida and writing in a recent issue of Security Technology & Design (ST&D) suggests, "The economic impact on our (the US's) already weakening economy is largely unknown. Clearly the travel related and insurance segments of the economy will take a hard hit. Clearly many companies located around the area of destruction will have suffered damage that in some cases will be irreparable. There will also be a ripple effect, both positive and negative, on the companies that supply the damaged ones. Even less clear will be the effect on consumer and international confidence. We were at a very critical crossroads between recession and recovery that has only been exacerbated. At the very least, hope for a strong fourth quarter recovery perished in the dust and debris."

Darren Smith, Managing Editor
Darren Smith, Managing Editor

Adds Spencer, "The only silver lining, if you want to call it that, is an increased awareness of security. There are already calls for increased airport security and such technologies as detectors, facial recognition, digital CCTV, access control and new means of utilising data will see increased demand that could well become a feeding frenzy. Unfortunately, this industry benefits from disaster."

What I find interesting is the relatively low profile our own security industry has taken in the wake of the terror attack in the US. Perhaps it is because a realisation is setting in that as an industry we need to look deep within ourselves and reevaluate our roles in the industries in which we operate and which we serve. For as Spencer so bluntly puts it, "... before we lick our ghoulish dinosaur chops, let us face reality, WE FAILED. Our chosen profession is security and security failed.

Spencer does not pull his punches at all. He hits some raw nerves as he rams home his message that September 11 was a watershed moment for all of us in this industry.

Says Spencer, "Stop the Bull S___! Our job is security and we did not do it well enough. They got through and if we do not do better they will again. The first step in being responsible is to take responsibility. We could have, should have done better. Face it, admit it, learn from it and figure out how to make it better. Then commit to doing it."


"Consultants, admit you failed. Stop with the canned specifications. One size does not fit all. Perform real risk assessments and security audits and present real requirements for each client. Do not specify what you liked yesterday or even what exists. Specify what is needed, even if it has yet to be developed or packaged correctly. Do not allow proprietary solutions, demand open, integratable solutions. Work to lower your client's total cost of ownership or service or go find a real job."

Developers and manufacturers

"Developers and manufacturers, admit you failed. Stop with the proprietary (stuff). Develop open systems software solutions to provide customers more for less total cost of ownership or service and in doing so better protect their long-term investment. Admit you are not the centre of the universe and that your products are only a small part of a much larger solution that is still evolving. Stop building barriers of self-protection, learn to compete successfully in an open world, or be gone."


"Integrators, admit you failed. Stop responding to bids where you have no knowledge of the client and his environment. Get off your butt and find out what clients really need and do not be afraid to say that the client and or his consultant are wrong. Tell them what they must do to meet both your needs and the needs of your clients (not necessarily in that order)."


"Customers, admit you failed. Stop settling for what is purported to being available. Do not be bullied into believing that you are the only one with a problem. Do not believe them when they say something cannot be done and do not believe them when they say they will do something, unless its part of a contract with penalties for nonperformance. Do not be afraid to throw the rascals out. There are some who really want and appreciate your businesses who are willing and able to justify a trade-in that will lower your total cost of ownership or service."


"Industry associations, admit you failed. Stop living in the past and being bought by funding from dinosaurs whose only interest is perpetuating the past and themselves. Get some guts and do something useful."

Insurance companies

"Insurance companies, admit you failed. You know that companies that invest in security have fewer claims. Yet you fail to motivate them to do so. Get real."

Harsh words indeed. If I am to be objective about Spencer's comments, I would throw in "Media, admit you failed. Say it like it should be, and do not let us simply regurgitate the marketing spin of companies who advertise through you."

Clearly, we all need to take a long, hard look at the current state of the industry, its opportunities and its threats. Echoing Spencer's sentiments, I would encourage security solutions customers, as "you identify your new requirements, select manufacturers which have a future, not a past. Do not get trapped into staying with your current suppliers if you do not feel they will meet your needs or are hopelessly behind the curve."

Hi-Tech Security Solutions has long highlighted the influence of IT on security technology, and lamented the industry's ability to fast-track its education and skill-set in a rapidly changing market. It is abundantly clear that suppliers, manufacturers and integrators all, are 'at a crossroads of change'. As Spencer describes it, "One road continues the past, with emphasis on proprietary hardware, low voltage, signal processing and labour intensity. The other is open, integratable software, data and productivity driven. Customers know which road they will take, but most of the industry still feels more comfortable on the old road. Which road will you take?"

Like Spencer, I would ask the question, "Which road will you take?"

Clearly, the winners of the future will not be "a collection of old companies, but a new entrant or mutant, not burdened with the baggage of the past, that will be structured to meet the challenges of the future."

Information courtesy of Security Technology and Design Magazine -

A restful, but hopefully thoughtful holiday period to you all.

Till next month.

Darren Smith

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