What is a Security Integrator?by Fred F. Farkel, Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Rueben Orr, CPP
“What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Shakespeare
I continue to be amused when I meet new people in the security industry who refer to themselves as Security Integrators. I don’t know why people feel the need to give themselves fancy sounding titles. For example, trash collectors are now called Waste Disposal Technicians or Sanitation Specialists. Maintenance personnel are commonly referred to as Building Engineers. Secretaries no longer exist for some reason, but have been replaced with Administrative Assistants. Mechanics are now automotive technicians, and salespeople everywhere are now consultants or account executives.
I noticed this trend 18 years ago when I first broke into the security industry. I thought I had just been hired as an alarm installer, but you can imagine my surprise when I got my first paycheck and it showed my title as Installation Technician. When I saw the title I asked one of my co-workers what their title was to see if their title was different since they had been with the company for about 6 months longer than me. To my surprise and amusement within the installation department we had 8 technicians with 6 different titles and in our service department we had 4 technicians, each with a different title. The amusing part to me was that there was actually very little, if any difference in what the 12 of us actually did on a day to day basis. When I moved into sales it was no different. I thought I was going to be a salesman, but instead I became a “Security Sales Consultant”. Within 6 months I had done so well that I was “promoted” to Security Account Executive. My job did not change, and my pay only changed when I sold more, but I kept getting new, better sounding titles. I guess some people felt awkward saying they were a salesperson, but I figured I just had not sold enough to qualify for such a prestigious title. J
The security industry has taken buzzword bingo to a whole new level though. If it wasn’t bad enough that many security salespeople are still calling themselves “security consultants” (my apologies to Security and Risk Managers everywhere) when most don’t know what a real risk assessment is, today’s most prevalent misnomer in the security industry is the term Security Integrator. Not all electronic security equipment installation and service companies are equal. Some are good at residential alarm installations, while others specialize in commercial, industrial or institutional systems including electronic access control, intrusion detection systems, networked video solutions and voice communication systems. While no two electronic security installation and service companies are the same, and their capabilities widely vary, they all now seem to call themselves security integrators. This begs the question, what does integration mean?
Residential alarm installation and service companies might argue that they “integrate” the alarm system with the house. But does this mean that the alarm systems are integrated by form, or by function? Likewise, most commercial electronic security providers would say that they are integrators because they have the ability to integrate certain access control systems with certain video systems. One example that is often used is when a card is presented to a card reader, the access control system is able to display associated video from the video system. In this example though, the ability of the access control system to display the associated video is dependent upon what drivers the access control manufacturer has written in their application. The “Integrator” is simply selecting the function from a predefined list of supported video manufacturers. In this scenario, wouldn’t the manufacturer be considered the integrator and the installation firm the… well… installation firm? Don’t be fooled by the titles.
Opinions vary, but a common definition of integration is “to bring together or incorporate parts into a whole”. For real security, this means ALL parts of a security program, not just some of the electronic tools that are used to control and monitor various areas within a facility or campus. This requires a true integrator to have a thorough understanding of an organizations security program. A real security integrator should be able to evaluate an organization’s emergency practices, personnel security, physical security and information security and then provide solutions that unite the various parts into a single collaborative program. This includes the ability to converge disparate systems, processes and procedures so that they work together to reduce risk, automate process and improve efficiency, with the ultimate goal of protecting lives, protecting property and maintaining continuity of the organization. One common example is the integration of personnel identity management systems. Many organizations are replicating personnel data across multiple systems due to the fact that these systems don’t intuitively communicate with each other. A new employee may have their first name and last name entered in to an HR/Payroll database, then again into an IT directory for logical access on a network, and yet a third time for an electronic access control system. When these three disparate systems are truly integrated, it not only saves time/cost by eliminating two thirds of the entry required, but it can also provide added security for the organization by automating the removal of access to critical areas and systems upon employment termination.
There are many other examples of what integration can do for an organization. The differentiator between real integrators should not be that of capabilities but rather the ability of the integrator to understand their customers systems and processes, and then use their imagination and innovation to make all the different parts work together to form a system that offers sustainable value for all stakeholders of the organization. Of course I could be wrong. After all, I’m just a security guy.
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