Critical infrastructure security leaders: 'bridging the gap' with integrators

Panelists reflect on how to forge sound and lasting partnerships with integrators and manufacturers
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Friday, February 7, 2014

DELRAY BEACH, Fla.—Securing critical infrastructure is always a tall order, but add in the constraints of a tight budget and it becomes an even more daunting challenge.

To get the most out of a security solution under such demands, end users often have to become more than just security directors—they have to become salesman.

“You have to sell it as something that’s of value to the community,” Thomas Komola, manager of the security and emergency management office, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said during an educational session at TechSec Solutions, held here in January. “That all takes time, money and justification.”

Komola spoke on a “Securing America’s most critical assets,” panel discussion on Jan. 29. He was joined by two other critical infrastructure security directors—Scott Starkey, security superintendent, Birmingham Water Works Board; and Bhavesh Patel, senior director, security services and technology, Genzyme—to discuss the evolving nature of situational awareness, and methods for forming durable, mutually beneficial partnerships with integrators.

The session was moderated by Rob Hile, director of strategic accounts for SureView Systems.

Patel believes a reasonable first step for developing these kinds of relationships with integrators is to have both parties conceive of the partnership as long-term—something whose tenure extends far beyond just the installation.

“You have to treat this like a business plan, and say this is what we’re going to have—a three- to five-year plan,” he said. “[End users] have to look beyond integration to the manufacturer’s perspective.”

He also advised end users to build a trust factor with both integrators and manufacturers, and to form partnerships founded on the idea of “symbiotic growth.” Patel urged the audience to consider all that’s encompassed by an end user partnership with manufacturers and integrators.

“If you treat it as a reputational risk it will make a big difference,” he said. “I’m putting my name along with your brand and integrator. If I lose that reputation, I’m going to have a real hard time getting funds, which means integrators aren’t getting anything.”

Starkey echoed that idea. “If you make the wrong decision based on what an integrator tells you, you’ll be looking for a job elsewhere,” he said, adding: “Once you install it, be there to help me support it and help me sell it. Help me feel confident about what I’m using.”