What role do / should consultants play in the security technology buying decision?
There's no doubt that the security technology buying decision is a complex one. There are several factors to consider, and no one application will have the same exact needs as another.
This is generally where security consultants come in - to help out with the security buying process and help the end-user decide on the best technology to suit their specific needs. But more specifically, what is their exact role in the security technology buying decision? Let's take a look at what our Expert Panel think.
Security consultation can be very important when implementing a vehicle access control system. Because of the relationship of velocity to the total kinetic energy possessed by the vehicle, every effort must be made to force a vehicle to slow down before it reaches the barricade. The most frequently used technique is to require a sharp turn immediately in front of the barrier. When vehicle speed is reduced by 50 percent, the "hitting power" is reduced by four times. If the speed is reduced by 2/3rds, the force of impact will be reduced by nine times.
Upon designing a way to slow down vehicle approach, precautions should also be taken that the attacking car cannot make a "corner cutting shot" at a barricade. Often, only a light post defines a turning point and a speeding car can take it out and not even hesitate. Knolls and other impediments should be considered.
Consultants should play a very active role in the buying decision, as there are several sector specific requirements customers may not be immediately aware of.
We work with systems integrators, supplying surveillance quality hard drives. They need to understand what is ‘the right drive for the right application’. For example, over half of ‘big data’ produced in 2012 came from surveillance according to IDC. Big data analytics requires systems capable of enterprise level performance, which is usually higher than a traditional surveillance workload. The number of drives in a system also has a significant impact, and organisations need to consider the time data should be stored for, and resolution of stored footage. Security footage is not much use if it is not high enough quality to be effectively analysed.
System integrators may not fully understand these requirements and it is up to consultants to assist here.
Writing my “How to be a CCTV Consultant” course ten years ago I taught that our clients hire us for myriad reasons. Quite simply everything works out better when their pride accepts that they ‘don’t know what they don’t know’. Even if they’re good with security technology they might need extra pairs of capable hands as project managers, impartial advisers or, let’s be frank, potential scapegoats brought in for ‘poisoned chalice’ projects. Everyone needs to be wary of such hard realities. More commonly consultants bring their client a deeper/wider expertise. If clients have a blank sheet of paper we design to the right standards. If they have designs already we oversee implementation. If they have an installation already we’re called in to solve problems and enforce quality. Being a techie I bring specialist equipment. Things the installers should have, but don’t. Consultants police the "money spent = quality delivered" equation.
Consultants often play a pivotal role in the security technology buying decision. When the end-user relies on consultants to specify the technology, this often dictates the subset of products and even the manufacturer that must be used to meet the specifications. The down-side of this is that the end-user can end up being boxed into a single supplier without the ability to explore new product options, features and pricing from alternate suppliers.
It is critical that consultants understand the end-user’s requirements and thoroughly evaluate all available options to meet those requirements. Balancing the end-user’s needs with this essential product research allows consultants to write specifications that satisfy project requirements while ensuring that the end-user is afforded the opportunity to assess equipment from a variety of sources, not merely the products that match default specification language.
From the responses given by our Expert Panellist it is clear that the specifics of what a security consultant does varies from case to case. This means consultants really have to be highly knowledgeable and have a broad understanding of different security challenges in order to give the best advice for the project at hand. Each contributor to this discussion has made a very interesting point. It is up to security consultants to fill in the gaps in understanding in order to provide the end-user with the best system and technology for their needs. But getting the insight of a consultant adds another interesting perspective to the discussion. Having the technical knowledge may be one of the first things that springs to mind, but how many people actually think of them as project managers?
Though security consultants may not necessarily be hired with that specific role in mind, it is a role, like policing quality, which they sometimes end up undertaking, secondary though it may be. Therefore, the question of what role security consultants should play and what role they do play are entirely different matters and perhaps consultants should be given more credit for what they contribute to the project as a whole.