The increasingly significant role of IT in the security space, in the ongoing evolution from analog to IP-based security solutions, has had profound effects on the different stakeholder groups. It has affected manufacturers in the range of solutions that the market demands, installers in the technical, business and sales competencies to sell, deploy and support security systems, and end users who are grappling with more powerful but, in some cases, more complicated technology.
Yet as the industry's ecosystem has seen its modus operandi shaken up by IP, it has equally taken significant steps toward embracing it. Manufacturers are offering more free training courses to installers to provide insight into the features, functionality and benefits of IP, and installers, hungry to better incorporate IP-based solutions into their own businesses, are readily taking up such offers. Equally enthusiastic about understanding and evangelizing the benefits of IP are security consultants.
For many years, independent security consultants have provided a highly sought-after service to customers looking to invest in solutions to protect their organizations. Unlike manufacturers, or installers who are typically loyal to one, security consultants are vendor agnostic, focused on providing a set of impartial recommendations based on a client's specific needs. Traditionally, security consultants support risk managers in drawing up a tender list and procuring the right solution at the most competitive price.
However, as with other areas of the security industry, the growing prevalence of IP has reshaped the role of the security consultant. In contrast to a decade ago, as more security systems run over IP networks, the traditional audience of a consultant — the security or facilities manager — is increasingly joined by a tech-savvy, IT manager. This is a radical shift in thinking and approach for consultants who have built a business around site managers reliant on their understanding of the technology.
IT managers understand the technology quickly and easily. An IP network is bread and butter to an IT technician, and implementing and managing the software associated with the process is just another addition to their ongoing application lifecycle portfolio. This shift has prompted consultants to evolve by immersing themselves in IT terminology and honing their technical expertise to be able to advise an IT-focused audience just as effectively as with facilities managers. In addition, as IP solutions are evolving at a much quicker rate than traditional analog products, the need to keep abreast of technology advances and developments is a challenge that consultants have had to cope with.
Consultant programs have proven to be an effective way for specifiers and consulting engineers to keep on top of the trends and gain an insight into how IP can deliver effective, integrated, easy-to-manage and future-proof security solutions to a wider range of deployment scenarios. In some cases, training results in tangible qualifications for participants. Another key driver behind attendance at these sessions is the desire among consultants to understand rapidly evolving legal requirements, such as EN regulations, governing the installation, specification and operation of intrusion detectors and alarms. This is a particular area of focus for consultants, with further standards for video surveillance and access control expected from the BSIA and CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) in the coming years.
The intertwining of IT and security is also influencing the recruitment strategies implemented by security consultants; they are increasingly hiring staff with advanced qualifications in IT, and encouraging IT skills development among their employee base to ensure these essential competencies are embedded at the very heart of their business.
Another more subtle impact of technological advances in changing the role of the security consultant is the way in which some specifiers have started to refocus their core business on addressing the higher end of the market. For larger organizations, a new or upgraded security system can represent millions of dollars of investment; a bad decision can prove costly. Again, as security increasingly becomes the purview of both facilities and IT managers in tandem, both with a respective skills gap, the need for an independent, third party to provide the necessary advice and assurance to both sides of the house is growing.
As the industry at large has responded to the tectonic shifts brought about by the onset of IP, independent organizations have worked hard to do the same. Boosted by an insatiable appetite for information and education, a determination to stay relevant in the coming decades, and a willingness to adapt, the future has never been brighter for security consultants and specifiers.