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Another exec on the move

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I thought this bit of people news was interesting: Ray Palomaa has left IQinVision to join Iveda Solutions as sales director. Iveda is a young company and this seems like a good play to grab someone with a lot of IP and security experience. Looks like Iveda is going to start trying to make some noise in the market: Established in 2005, this emerging-growth company is launching a major marketing campaign. The company is gearing up for this launch by beefing up its infrastructure and personnel. Ray’s mandate is to grow and manage the company’s direct sales and reseller distribution channel.

Bringing Olympic security back home

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Monday, August 11, 2008
A great story in the Chicago Tribune today about how Olympic organizers in that city, hoping to bring the 2016 Summer Games to the States, are taking notes on what's going on in Beijing. Notably, it's alarming any number of people that with all the security present, it was still impossible to prevent the stabbing of the Bachmans, who have close ties to U.S. Olympic volleyball. First, note that I linked to an Australian take on the stabbing tragedy and read that closely. For people who haven't traveled abroad much, this is the reality: The attack on Saturday prompted Australian Olympic boss John Coates to order Australian athletes to wear their team uniform whenever they leave the Olympic Green so they are not mistaken for Americans. "Australians are very popular in China," Mr Coates said. "I don't know if the US are felt about the same way." English-speaking people the world over are at pains to make it known they are not Americans. Whatever your political views, that can't be a great thing. Anyway, the Chicago article makes the obvious point that all the security in the world can't hope to prevent one rogue crazy person from performing one rogue crazy act. It can simply minimize the chances of such a thing happening and quickly catch that crazy person and restore public confidence. I think it behooves the security industry in general to agree with this point. No security system is going to prevent every possible violent act, and if you go promising that it will, you're going to have egg on your face at some point. Of particular note in the Chicago article, too, is this paragraph: And a Chicago plan would include several layers of intelligence activities, with officers looking for so called “DLRs,” or folks who “don’t look right,” such as a person wearing an overcoat in the summer time. Does that remind anyone of many of the lessons I learned over in Israel? That Americans have come up with a term, DLR, for what is essentially profiling is an indication of our PC society, but it's no matter. What's important is that U.S. security is beginning to be more discriminating (in a good way) in the way it performs its work.

More on that J.M. Allain interview

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Friday, August 8, 2008
So, I've got a little bit of guilt creeping in about my post below about that J.M. Allain email interview (go ahead and read it if you haven't already (find it here if you're reading via a feed that doesn't show my whole blog)). My intent wasn't to slam J.M. in any way, and in my mind I don't come across critical of him, per se, but am rather expounding on how journalism actually gets done nowadays. The email interview is something that I think does a real disservice to the readers, and this was an opportunity to talk about that on my blog. Plain and simple. All of the lead up at the beginning is not meant to be about this email exchange in particular, but rather about email interviews in general. I am not accusing J.M. of engaging in gobbeldy-gook. Well, maybe a little. But I'm not faulting him for that. It's the way things are done. Messaging and marketing are important to success in any industry, and I'm not trying to criticize anyone for using whatever language and terminology they think is important for their own success. I'm just saying, as a reader and as a journalist, that it's not any fun. And who needs fun, right? Well, everyone does. If you're a reader at all - of the Wall Street Journal or Discover or ESPN the Magazine or whatever - you know that you want a little sizzle with your steak, right? Because, like with anything, business and sports and science are about people above all else and we want to feel like we know them a little bit after reading about them. It's why Manny Ramirez can be so equally loved and hated. Why Warren Buffett isn't just a rich guy. Why people the world over love Einstein even though they can't understand a dang thing he discovered. We've come to know them as more than just athletes and businessmen and scientists. Why shouldn't we feel like we know security professionals a little bit? That's why you've seen me champion on more than one occasion Cris Carter's presence in the industry. Because he has presence! Do you want the security industry to always be a largely overlooked, in-the-shadows marketplace where the top executives are never on CNN and the media only talks about it when something goes wrong? Or do you want the security industry to be seen as a place where things are happening, where people are getting excited, where new technology is making things possible that previously only appeared in episodes of the Jetsons? I like the latter, personally. The major point I was trying to get across in the blog post about the Allain interview is that it could have been so much better. That was my fault as much as anyone's and I thought I made that clear. Why didn't I follow up with further questions? Because I had a deadline to hit (maybe it was artificially imposed - really that interview could have run next week, I suppose) and the answers had just come in and I didn't feel like there was time, and anyway I felt like the extra effort on both of our parts would have only made the piece negligibly better, since it was an email interview anyway. To further my point, read these interviews, also done via email: Here's one with Peter Botelho, executive VP at Speco. Here's another with Uri Englehard, CEO at Mate. Both I think are stilted and relatively uninspiring, largely because of the medium. Now read these interviews that were done in person or over the phone (and I'm sort of just grabbing them at random): Here's one with Dieter Kondek, then being interviewed as new CEO of Aspectus, an analytics maker now known as Agent VI. See how we get lines like "several new algorithm guys" and "We don't want to have an overly large partner network. We're looking for the top players in the verticals"? Right out of the gate, you know Kondek is comfortable with his R&D team (they're his "algorithm guys") and he's a straight-shooter ("we're looking for the top players"). This sort of directness generally only happens in inter-personal conversation. Here's one with Dean Seavers, head honcho at GE Security, done right after he took over. This is great quote: "I start with the end user and I quickly go to our channel partners, emphasizing installability and functionality in the design of products that are easy to service and easy on our partners. But I start at the end and then work my way back." Would anybody ever use "installability" in a written communication? No. Because it would come up on spell check and they'd think it wasn't a good word. But it's a great word. It says all you need to know about Seavers' integrator background. What does he worry about with a product? What's it's installability? That makes sense on a very basic and gut level and is the type of thing that could only come through an interview. And what about this interview with David McDonald, former CEO of Pelco? This was one of my first interviews in the market and I didn't really know what I was talking about, to tell the honest truth. I was just asking your basic interviewing 101 questions: What's your vision for the company? What do you feel you do really well? What not so well? Etc. And Mr. McDonald (that's what everyone called him there at Pelco) was clearly pretty bored with me. But then I asked him about customer service and it was like a light went on: That's why you listen in rapt attention to the story of Vickie Garcia, the first EWS manager, who found herself one day, after a couple of power outages and faulty computer messages, with a package in her hands that hadn't been shipped by its allotted day, and all the shipping carriers gone. So she called up the customer and, despite his insistence that he really didn't need the part that badly, drove his multiplexer through the night to meet him at his place of business in Sacramento, just before the clock struck midnight. "We had to create a carrier in our computer system," McDonald chuckles, "for Vickie. That's the only way management knew what she had done." This didn't come up until 20 minutes into the interview, long after he would have been done with answering any emailed questions (actually, I doubt McDonald could be bothered with an email interview, but that's another thing entirely). And it didn't say as much about Pelco as it did about McDonald. I could tell he loved that story because he really loved his people. And I think that came across in the story. He was a guy you really wanted to work for and it made a lot of the rest of the Pelco story make sense. So, for people who might have thought I was picking on J.M., I hope you see where I'm coming from here. This blog is a way to pull back the curtain for readers and show them how this whole news-generating thing works and I thought I'd give them a peek. I wish nothing but good things for Allain and Panasonic, and I'm serious when I think they made a good choice in bringing in someone with so much IT and integration background. If they can get closer to the customer and the channel, that's nothing but a good thing. Just as I try to always get closer to the reader, my customer.

That J.M. Allain interview

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Thursday, August 7, 2008
So, I have to admit that the J.M. Allain (you know, the new head cheese at Panasonic security) interview is not my best work. Go ahead and read it here before we go forward. What's that you say? It's pretty dang boring? Well, yeah. I'm not totally at fault, though. Panasonic just doesn't do over-the-phone interviews (or in-person interviews either, really). So you've got to submit questions and then hope you get something useful back. Sometimes, the responses are fairly interesting. Sometimes not so much. But let me tell you: It's pretty hard to make an email interview - where you don't even go back and forth, just submit questions and get responses - at all interesting. For one thing, no one's personality shines through particularly well through the written word unless they're actually a professional writer, or someone who enjoys writing. If you're just someone who writes for business purposes, your written copy is likely to be pretty bland and straight to the point, even if you're a fairly entertaining person normally. Secondly, you know the person is going to be hyper-attentive to making sure the answers mesh with whatever "messaging" the PR office deems important, so you're going to get a bunch of gobbeldy-gook that no one cares about. Third, I'm actually pretty good at interviewing someone, and I think anybody who's done it often knows that they can get people to think about things they wouldn't normally have thought about and actually get someone to come to conclusions they've never come to before. A good interview is a win-win-win: The interviewer gets good copy. The reader learns something. The interviewee learns something about himself, and is able to broadcast his/her intelligence and personality out to the readership at large. Let's just say that didn't really happen with the Q&A with Allain. Should I go through it? I think I should: SSN: How has your most recent position at Duos, or other work in the industry, prepared you for running a much larger operation with Panasonic? Do you feel your integration background, also including your time at NetVersant and Adesta, will give you a unique perspective for a manufacturer? See how my first question is overly wordy? I had to kind of show him that I'd done some research and knew where he'd been. Nothing but Duos was in the release about his hire. Also, it's kind of suck-uppy, I think. J.M. Allain: It is not coincidental that Panasonic Corporation of North America sought integration industry expertise when evaluating candidates for the new President of Panasonic System Solutions Company (of America) - PSSA. And right off the bat, we get a bunch of ridiculousness that doesn't sound like anyone would talk. Sure, this is accurate and all, but who wants to read that? I'm bored after the first sentence. Panasonic has a broad and deep product portfolio that spans many different applications for business products. PSSA's ability to tie them together is a considerable advantage we offer across numerous business categories that allows us to be more competitive in the overall marketplace. In addition to traditional video surveillance system solutions, PSSA is in a unique position to provide customer-driven business solutions and services that add value above and beyond what traditional security industry-centric manufacturers have to offer. My personal experience with systems integrators in the security industry as well as the IT and telecom industries, provides the basis for an enhanced business model for PSSA. My vision is to capitalize on Panasonic's proven reputation for technology innovation as a manufacturer by offering enhanced integrated solutions and services that cross-cultivate our core areas of expertise. By working more closely with current and new channel partners and end-users alike, we plan to further expand our presence in the market. So, nothing about that "much-larger" part? Alrighty. SSN: What do you feel an integrator wants most from a manufacturing partner and how do you hope to help Panasonic deliver that? Allain: As technologies continue to converge and the demand for truly integrated systems increases, PSSA's goal is to provide top tier integrators with solutions that meet end user requirements while delivering improved ROI and lower total cost of ownership. Consistent and open communications with integrators is one of the most important criterion to reach this goal. We must continuously listen to them and end-users to determine their collective needs. And since communications is a two-way street, systems integrators need to understand that it is beneficial for them to work closely with us to ensure that PSSA's product and technology roadmap will help them build their businesses. PSSA has the ability to offer more than best-in-breed systems products--we can offer comprehensive solutions. So, integrators want "solutions that meet end user requirements while delivering improved ROI and lower total cost of ownership"? What about training, technical support, input into the product roadmap, etc.? That's what I would have followed up with if we had actually been talking. I guess it's true that I could have followed up with that via email and gotten another response back, but I'm a journalist, and, you know, kind of lazy. SSN: At Duos you worked with a number of IT-focused partners, from Microsoft to Cisco, and you have a background in the IT industry with Alcatel. Panasonic has recently invested heavily in IP-based products. What impact will IT and IP continue to have on the security marketplace and how will Panasonic work to take advantage of that? Allain: This is really my second involvement with an IP evolution. During the mid-'90s the data and telecom industries converged on a network platform resulting in integrated IP voice, video and data services. Given the inherent benefits that digital networks provide versus legacy analog systems, these integrated systems quickly became a business infrastructure mainstay. The same analog-to-network migration path will continue to transform the security industry for all the same reasons. Networked systems have proven to reduce overall costs while improving functionality. One of the attributes that attracted me to PSSA is the company's clear commitment to IP-based solutions, which is evident in our leading lines of i-Pro network video surveillance products, point of sale solutions and digital signage solutions - all of which deliver the best in performance whether deployed as standalone systems or when integrated on the enterprise level. However, we cannot overlook the billions of dollars invested in existing analog-based systems and infrastructure--specifically in the security industry. Panasonic Security Systems continues to service legacy system customers with new products and technologies that improve the performance of their existing systems yet provide a migration path to a networked platform. These technologies will co-exist for many years, and PSSA is well-positioned to fulfill the needs of customers on both IP and analog technology platforms, and any hybrid configuration they elect to build upon. This is a good answer, but I think you'd be more likely to get to the end of it if he was actually talking because he would have been much more to the point. SSN: How should Panasonic partners expect your personality or business philosophy to manifest itself on the company over the coming years? Allain: The new business philosophy of providing solutions versus products will drive Panasonic System Solutions Company forward. Our management team has brought together our internal business groups with the common goal of being more than simply a manufacturer, but rather a provider of customer-driven integrated solutions. From a personal perspective, I believe the success of PSSA's enhanced business model requires a great deal of cooperation and communications involving our entire staff, reseller partners and end-users. It is a collaborative team effort that all involved parties will benefit from. I plan to personally spend a great amount of time with our reseller partners and our customers to help further secure these relationships. The first paragraph of the answer is pretty clearly totally irrelevant to the question. Could I have just cut it? I guess so. But that seems like a dick move. I think the message here is that Allain is going to be more personally involved and hands-on than the industry has come to expect from Panasonic. That's a good message to get out there. An anecdote here would follow that up nicely, and he probably would have told one in person. At this point, I've belabored this whole post and it's gotten a little out of hand and long, but I think you get my point. CEOs and presidents are more than just business managers. They're the faces of their organizations, and their personalities. Customers and the rest of the channel look to them for a clue as to where a company is going. Dynamic leaders are people that gain followers just through their charisma and talent, not because of their well articulated business plans. I wish more companies would let those leaders shine through, whether through our paper or elsewhere. Frank DeFina used to have a blog. It's now been taken down. Maybe Allain and other company heads will start more often communicating directly with the outside world in such a way. I can't see how it would hurt.

How to ride out a (maybe) recession

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I thought this blog entry on Paxton Access's site was interesting for a few reasons. First, it's written from a UK perspective, yet just about exactly reflects the situation we're experiencing here in the U.S. Second, it's got all kinds of great British slang (I'm a sucker for UK slang). Third, I think there's actually some decent advice to be had here (I stripped out a lot of the self-serving stuff, which you can imagine for yourself): There are however some ways in which a downturn could be played to the advantage of both security installers and some security manufacturers. These include: Diversify – When business is booming installers are often reluctant to invest in anything other than their core business. The core business for a security installer is not usually access control but more often CCTV or intruder alarm systems. If an installer’s core business slows in a recession then this brings an opportunity to diversify and ‘sell up’. The same customers that require CCTV and intruder alarm systems may also require an access control system. By offering a broader range of products and services to each customer the maximum is made from the relationship. Even once things get back to normal diversification is something that will strengthen an installer’s business. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I think people tend to bunker down in tough times, but that's just counterproductive. Bad times are when you've got to be creative and increase your possible revenue streams. I'm not endorsing Paxton's product line (though I think they make nice stuff and they have a great GUI). I'm just saying they're right about diversification and the rest of their advice isn't bad either. For more on their activities in the U.S., go here. Also, if you can use the term "queuing" in everyday parlance, do so. The world needs more quadphthongs (four vowels in a row).

Ready for the double black diamond?

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Have you security industry travelers tried out the new Black Diamond Self Select lines at airports that allow seasoned travelers (black diamond) to take the fast lane and people who need more time to self-select the slower (green circle) lane? If you’re not an expert traveler, but don’t need extra time, there’s even a special line (blue square) for you. This story from today’s (Kentucky) Courtier-Journal raves about the new line program implemented at Louisville International Airport. My experience with this system is limited. I went through the expert line in Oakland, Calif. in May with my colleague and fellow expert traveler Rhianna Daniels. We sailed through, but it wasn’t much of a test drive since all of the lines were remarkably short. Click here for a map of the 32 airports that currently have black diamond self select program. The map says these lines are at JFK and LaGuardia. Somehow I’ve missed them, or managed to get in the wrong line anyway. What’s your experience in these lines? They appear to be emulating ski areas with the green circle, blue square, black diamond rating system. Do you think they'll eventually have Double Black Diamond lines, where you not only have to be an expert traveler, but fast with your belts and shoes as well?

Credit where it's due

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I often rip on the mainstream media for shanking security industry stories, but this little paper in Canada, the Beacon, did a nice job framing the false-alarm issue, at least on the fire alarm side of things. Not only do they give the issue its due - a solid 1,000 words - but they interview all the major players and never turn it into a hatchet job on the security companies. Sure, false alarms suck for the firemen (especially volunteers) who have to respond to them, but it's hard to pinpoint fault and the article makes that clear. It doesn't start out particularly strongly, though, so bear with it for a while. The first paragraph is brutally cliche, and then we get this winner a couple paragraphs down: The false alarm problem is not limited to the Gander area. At a recent Firefighting convention in Nova Scotia Chief Brett heard similar complaints from departments across the country. Nice transition there! You mean there are false alarm problems outside of the Gander area?!? I totally thought the Gander area was plagued with particularly crappy alarm companies, wonky alarm systems, and dumb alarm system owners! And this paragraph that starts section two isn't all that great either (why was I praising this article again?): Both Chief Brett and Mr. Murphy pointed to monitored security systems as being particularly troublesome. These systems call the local fire department automatically when an alarm goes off. The problem is that the alarms can be triggered by more than just fire. Weak batteries can also set them off. How could false alarms be generated by security/fire systems that aren't monitored? Could the ones we mount at the top of our stairwells just be so loud they can hear them down at the fire station? Also, at this point I'm really hoping they called a security company to ask them a couple questions. Luckily, they did (okay so it was three or four paragraphs later, but they still did it): Kendall Isnor is president of the Atlantic chapter of the Canadian Security Association, an organization which represents security companies. According to Mr. Isnor, batteries shouldn't be the source of false alarms. "If you take the batteries out, it sends a different reporting code than it would if it was a fire," he said. "It would send a trouble signal without dispatch to the fire department, and it would say 'smoke detector, upstairs hallway, not communicating.'" Hah! Take that Brett and Murphy. Ooooh, but Murphy comes back swinging: When monitored alarm systems are used correctly, false alarms can often be avoided. But Mr. Murphy said the alarm companies are more concerned with making money than educating customers. "It's almost like they're going around selling vacumn cleaners ," he said. "At the end of the day they're making a pile of money and it's left to the poor volunteer fire departments then to look after it, and that's wrong." Nice. Always a good idea to play the victim card. I'm actually shedding a tear right now for those volunteer fire guys. Or maybe that's the Golden Rod - the dang flowers get my allergies going every year. I'm thinking it's time for a rejoinder from Ann Lindstrom, ADT PR gal: ADT Systems Inc is one of the largest residential alarm companies in Canada. Ann Lindstrom, director of corporate communications with ADT, said her company educates its customers on the proper use of their alarms systems in several ways. They include pamphlets and an introductory "grace period" that allows users to try out the system without risk of accidentally calling for emergency assistance. Hmmm. Pamphlets. A grace period. I'm not feeling the power of the comeback here. She was probably misquoted. Murphy isn't buying it: People can only be educated when they are willing to learn, and Mr. Murphy said people aren't paying enough attention. Then there's a bunch of stuff about whether we should fine those not-paying-attention people, etc. Like I said, not bad for a mainstream article - the industry gets to make points and the vitriol from the fire department isn't given too much extra play. Also, here's a bonus sidebar of great tips for preventing false alarms: Three ways to prevent false alarms Don't place smoke detectors near the kitchen, bathroom, or anywhere else where steam or dust is likely to accumulate in the detector's chamber. Replace smoke detectors after 10 years of use or earlier. Clean smoke detectors with a vacuum cleaner periodically to get rid of built up dust. So, don't put the smoke detector near the kitchen, where like half of all fire start? Hmm, that seems counterproductive to me. Also, does steam set of smoke detectors? Really? I'm kind of doubting that. Number 2 seems logical. I might even spring for a new detector more often than that. My toaster breaks more often than that. Isn't the third one really the same as number one - i.e. don't let the detector get dusty? How about tips like: Call your alarm company if you set off the smoke detector inadvertently. Have your monitored detector inspected annually. Ask your alarm company if they communicate over IP or radio so that your phone line doesn't get tied up. Those seem like better tips to me. Okay, I take it back. This article basically whiffs. Nice try, though.

Gotta know local laws

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Monday, August 4, 2008
Here's another article highlighting the dangers of non-response policies. In this case, police did not respond to an alarm because the user had not registered the system or paid the $10 fee. The owner ended up responding himself, discovering the thief still inside the building and foolishly locking himself and the thief inside the building until police arrived after he managed to call 911. The owner was a little banged up, but lucky for him, the intruder didn't have a weapon and he was able to out-muscle him. The whole situation is just ridiculous, but brings up an important point for security owners. It's vital that security companies know about local registration policies and inform their customers about them (or heck, even provide the forms to avoid liability). If I was this guy, I would be pretty annoyed at my security company (which the article doesn't mention by name, by the way, which seems like an important fact for the article, but mainstream media prefers the generic term "security company"). After all, the registration policy directly effects the systems that security companies are selling and, frankly, with my end-user hat on, I expect them to know about it. I realize it's probably a huge task to be up-to-date on all these policies, especially for a truly national company, but, honestly, I don't have a lot sympathy, it's just part of doing business in this industry. In today's competitive market there are plenty of other security companies that would gladly take on your disgruntled customers.

Wireless flavors

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Monday, August 4, 2008
So, in my recently posted article about Smartvue, an interesting wireless camera manufacturer that's doing very cool things with peer-to-peer networking, I sort of glossed over exactly what kind of wireless standard Smartvue uses. Martin Renkis, head cheese at Smartvue, sent me the following note: Calling Smartvue wireless is like calling a Porsche GT a car or the Hubble a telescope (maybe not that far) - but 802.11N wireless makes the replacement of wires (both analog AND Ethernet) a reality. The rest of the note was very nice. He wasn't being as much of a dink as that sounds, I'm pretty sure. Anyway, I'll admit that I've never really thought much about the difference between, say, 802.11b and 802.11n. To me, wireless means you don't need wires. I know that there are different throughput rates for different standards, but no integrator has ever expressed to me that one mode of wireless communication was far superior to another when it came to video. So, the article that Martin sent along was pretty interesting. Prepared by Paul DeBeasi at the Burton Group (you can email him yourself at pdebeasi@burtongroup.com), a research firm in Utah, it came to this conclusion: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11n draft standard, although unfinished, is the beginning of the end for wired Ethernet as the dominant local area network (LAN) access technology in the enterprise. Over the next few years, refinements in system silicon, radio design, network control, wireless security, and power management will significantly improve 802.11n and its successor products to the point where they will begin to erode the switched Ethernet market. That sounds pretty definitive. Somewhere, someone is drawing a cartoon with all of us depicted as Pinocchio-style puppets having our strings/wires cut by the great technology gods in the sky.

More executive moves

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Friday, August 1, 2008
Yesterday, we had news of a Mace CEO coming. Today it's news of a Dedicated Micros CEO going. That's right, Alan Calegari is moving from president and CEO to "non-executive chairman." I don't have a link, but here's the succinct release: DEDICATED MICROS INC. ANNOUNCES CHANGE OF ROLE FOR PRESIDENT AND CEO What's with all the headline yelling lately? Simply capitalizing the first letter of each words isn't enough for people anymore? Chantilly, Va., August 1, 2008 - Dedicated Micros Inc. - part of AD Group - announces that, as of July 1, 2008, its President and CEO, Dr. Alan E. Calegari, has transitioned to a new role as Non-Executive Chairman, providing strategic support to the Executive Team. They really rushed that news out, huh? “We are very grateful to Dr. Calegari for his significant contribution to Dedicated Micros,” said Nigel Petrie, AD Group Chairman. “In this new role he will continue to provide strategic support to the Dedicated Micros Executive Team in the Americas.” I guess they did get two years out of the guy. That's more than Siemens got. Mark Provinsal assumes the role of Executive VP and leader of the DM Inc.’s Executive Team in addition to his role as VP Strategic Marketing and Product Strategy. Provinsal provides the leadership and point of contact for all executive matters until such time as a new President and CEO is appointed. That seems like a lot of jobs for Mark. I guessing he won't be spending much time with the family in the near term. It will be interesting to see who ends up with the top job. I'm thinking they just promote Mark in the end, but maybe not. Hard to say.

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