The weakest link

Tuesday, January 1, 2002

On Sept. 11, 2001, the United States suffered immeasurably at
the hands of terrorists, leaving people all over the world in a state of shock and disbelief.

Our businesses and the routine parts of our everyday lives suddenly seemed completely unimportant. Yet, in the light of those tragic events, security has taken on a new meaning. Make no mistake, the security industry has become more than a business but a vital link in the life safety and security of our country.

With the difference between life and death often at stake, what should come forth from this tragedy is a resolve and determination to provide the most effective, responsible and professional security to our fellow Americans.

While I began writing this column before the terrorist attack, those events only stressed the need for the bar to be raised and for the industry to step up to the plate.

Corporate security expectations will undoubtedly become more focused and more demanding. The need to resolve existing security problems and prevent future security violations will become paramount within corporate America.

Security systems consultants and integrators will play a critically important and leading role in protecting our country. No one knows the strengths and weaknesses of electronic security products better than we do. It is our obligation as electronic security specialists to assure that our industry works together to design, install and maintain the best possible electronic security solutions.

Are we asking too much if we expect end users to understand all of the latest technology? What role do security software or hardware manufacturers have in developing these new products? What do we require of the systems integrators who are in charge of the installation and service of these systems? Where do security consultants who write the specs fit in?

The awesome responsibility rests on all of us together. I suggest that ASIS work with SIA to develop a set of standards to assist in providing improved electronic security to our country while providing direction to end users, consultants, integrators and manufacturers.

I also suggest that the bar be raised on various levels and types of training. All security professionals involved in the electronic security segment of our industry need to have a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the products we propose. Technical training of installation crews, programmers, service technicians and security consultants would greatly improve our industry. We also need to understand the demands and constraints of contracting and project management.

In the meantime, integrators can get product-specific training from manufacturers. They should also go for training on the latest networks, software and project management skills. Every company should have a project manager on board who can assure that projects are installed in a timely fashion, especially on national and regional accounts.

With or without standards, every systems integrator should know his or her limitations. Not every integrator should attempt to install a nationwide, enterprise level security system. They should either turn down the job or form an alliance with an integrator that has the necessary expertise. Working together, the industry can tackle almost any project out there.

It won't be easy getting everyone in agreement on a set of standards but something must be done. When the newly installed, extremely sophisticated and very expensive system doesn't meet a customer's expectations, the problem hurts the entire industry not to mention the vulnerability of government and commercial buildings worldwide.

Our goal is to do the best job of professionally protecting America with the latest electronic security technology.

With the tragic events that occurred, it doesn't seem as important who is to blame. The weakest link is our lack of standards. Our main focus now should be to fix the problem.

Bill Bozeman is president and chief executive officer of PSA Security Network, the largest electronic security cooperative in the world. Bozeman has two decades of experience as a security systems integration entrepreneur and leading security industry corporation executive with expertise in business development, strategic planning, financial management, vendor relations, due diligence and restructuring.