What role should consultants play in the security buying decision?
28 Feb 2019
The security industry is full of individuals who call themselves consultants. It’s a term that is thrown around rather loosely, and in some situations the term can be roughly translated as “between jobs.” But “real” consultants provide real value to their clients in a variety of subject matter specialties. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What role should consultants play in the security technology buying decision?
Twenty-five years ago when I was selling security systems, my boss equipped me with a business card showing "sales consultant," but I was hardly impartial because my advice might prioritise winning each sale so as to not get fired! Three years later, I became self-employed; fired for trying to prioritize honest advice rather than just sell. Since then, as a member of the Association of Security Consultants, I remain staunchly independent. There are certainly no “benefits” from suppliers who make a new sale following my advice to clients. Rule 1 for consultants is impartiality in pursuit of the client's interests. Rule 2 is competence. This includes knowledge, methods and commitment. Clients often only trust independent consultants for specialist knowledge, research, tests, fault finding, analysis, audits, reports, design, projects, management, training, etc. Sales-oriented advisers can do these, but clients often prefer an independent consultant's impartiality.
With the convergence of technology solutions, consultants are playing a growing role in the security technology buying decision. This decision now depends on several factors that surpass the boundaries of traditional security, creating a need for a trusted advisor with expertise beyond risk assessment. Today’s consultants begin by tying threats and vulnerabilities to business processes. They also must identify compliance requirements and determine how these will be addressed. Finally, a consultant must have considerable knowledge of the various manufacturers’ offerings in order to best engineer the solution and ensure that proper integration can take place; for example, with security entrances there are solutions to detect, deter or eliminate tailgating. For each entry, the consultant can give full consideration to needs, risk and liability in order to make the optimal recommendation for safety, security and throughput. Once the decision is made, the consultant can also fully map the integration itself.
As security solutions are evolving to be more operationally focused, the role of consultants in the buying process is becoming increasingly important. Consultants’ understanding of risk assessments, policies, procedures, and workflows has proven to be a valuable asset to enterprise customers, and is the key reason why their input is needed when making a purchasing decision. Anyone can place a camera or a reader on a drawing (plots and dots), but understanding why these security devices are needed, and the impact they can have on overall operations is an expertise that only someone who truly understands your business can bring. Consultants take the time to collaborate with the various departments needed in the buying process. This not only ensures that our customers get the solutions they need, but also helps assure the various departmental stakeholders that they're making the right purchasing decision.
Consultants have a big role to play in the security industry! With technology evolving at an impressive pace, the choices on offer can be truly daunting and confusing for some end users. A security consultant is invaluable in overcoming this. A good security consultant will help an end user choose the best solution for their needs, rather than simply a “that will do” system. They will look at all the factors, from systems suitability to budget and installation requirements, to find the best fit. Few small projects need the expertise of a dedicated consultant. However, for many medium to large security projects, this expert assistance will pay for itself in terms of value. When involved at the beginning of the process, a consultant can design the project around the architecture/geography of the site, ensuring built and natural features enhance security and reduce the need for additional security infrastructure.
Consultants provide a (hopefully) independent voice in the process of designing, specifying and installing security systems. The expertise of consultants can help end users make sense of product claims, cut through marketing hype and translate product specifications into solutions they need. Consultants require a specialised skillset and a broad knowledge of technologies and systems. Their time may be expensive, but it is also invaluable. In short, the right consultant can make-or-break the success of a security system. Long may their independent voices be heard!
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