I often get asked to write or speak on emerging technology, security and business trends both inside and outside the security industry. Having an average intelligence, above average work ethic and being way above average in the creativity department, I usually try and take an innovative yet practical approach to my work … the Yin and Yang of creativity.
I was reading through SSI’s 2013 Gold Book edition and was fascinated by the research statistics presented. What did they mean from a Zen perspective? I warned you about that creativity thing. In that vein, I decided to provide my practical perspective on those recent statistics and what they might mean. So here are three survey questions that we’ll explore and expand upon.
Question #1: In which of the following areas do you believe your company could most stand to most improve? Survey says …
The three highlighted responses are all actually linked together pretty tightly, which means … wait for the Zen moment … “one stone = three birds.” Effective internal and external (marketing and sales) communication skills will address 74% of the desired improvements for companies surveyed. As a business consultant and business coach, I can state with certainty that this is true. It starts by improving the company’s ability to communicate clearly within the four walls of their business. Not easy but definitely doable with the right management commitment, skill building tools and workshops. Once the team improves this critical business skill, you can use it with effect to close more sales with new customers, sell more services to existing customers, and work better as a team to accomplish those goals.
Want a golden nugget? There is also a significant competitive business advantage with effective communication — something that will differentiate you from your competition. That is a culture of listening first before trying to solve problems. Listening is critical to good communication and requires people to slow down. Think of it as the speed zone around a school zone. You are careful with your children so why not your customers? It shows respect and helps you gather the information needed to close more sales to existing customers!
Let me take you back to your childhood for a minute. Do you remember lying on your back in the grass on a warm summer day with your best friend and looking up at the clouds? Close your eyes for just 15 seconds and picture that moment. OK wake up, your Zen moment is over … get back to work! The point is that when two different people stare up at clouds they see different things.
Question #2: What does “the cloud” mean to me and/or my company? Survey says …
Alrighty then … looks like we see different shapes in those clouds. Remember how quickly those clouds from your childhood days would change right in front of your eyes? They would morph into new shapes based on your imagination. Pretty similar to the technology cloud wouldn’t you say? I believe we have crossed the technology chasm from early adopters to a growth phase regarding the cloud. Those with imagination and foresight of our changing technology world will make some mistakes but will grow their business offerings with cloud services. Those that choose not to change will have to play catch-up in the future.
Any technology and business strategy takes time to plan, commit to and implement. Those that begin now will be ready to reap significant increases in 2014 and beyond. For those that choose not to see the cloud as a game-changer are certainly entitled to their opinion and business philosophy. However, there is only one set of clear facts to base your business decisions upon:
Fact 1 — Network communication technologies have evolved and improved dramatically compared to hardwire dial-up or sunsetting 2G communication protocols. Simply look at where communication infrastructure dollars have been spent in the past 10 years.
Fact 2 — Costs have dramatically decreased for higher end data communication with 4G and wireless communication protocols. The trend is clear lower costs, wider availability and more bandwidth.
Fact 3 — Mobile devices have exploded in use, functionality and application support, while costs continue to decrease. BYOD is not a fad; it is an economically driven trend.
Fact 4 — The cloud excels at “many-to-many” communication applications where as conventional solutions, not so much. We want data when and wherever we may roam … no pun intended.
The cloud is not a panacea and there are challenges to overcome, but believe me, if there is money to be made those problems will be solved! So what holds us back from aggressively attacking this market?
Question #3: What Is the Most Significant Obstacle to Aggressively Selling IT Solutions?
Survey says (see chart below)…
Out of the six responses offered in this survey question, from my perspective these two combined responses are the most appropriate for the majority of pure security integrators. I think they reflect the Zen question for the past 10 years of which comes first, the chicken or a really expensive network-savvy technician? This has and is an ongoing dilemma to aggressively attack this market opportunity.
Two of the questions my clients pose most often include: “Should I invest in training my technicians, only to lose them to a higher paying rival?” and “Should I invest in hiring network-certified technicians at a significantly higher labor rate?”
For years, the convergence challenge has been centered on these concerns. Purveyors of technology solutions suggest or demand systems integrators take on these business risks and costs as the price of admission to the game. Much easier said than done. I would argue that a healthy skepticism of the unknown for any intelligent business person is a good initial survival instinct. If it paralyzes you and you don’t migrate with the food source, you may end up starving the business. There are some alternatives that I have successfully used in my own business and when consulting with my systems integrator clients.
Initially outsource with a qualified subcontract partnership. Identify, engage and work with high quality, structured infrastructure/IT service companies in your region. This approach allows you to mitigate risk, engage in the growth opportunities and gradually learn the nuances of implementing these technologies. When your team convinces you that “we can do this work,” then it could be time to invest in your existing technicians or hire a new level of technicians.
When you build or hire a new level of technical resources, money alone is not the reason you will lose them to higher paying competitors. Your company culture and leadership are just as important retention factors as hourly rates. Make sure you invest in developing your team’s leadership, coaching, selling and technical skill sets. It is natural to pull back from these investments in a tough economy. It’s the wrong strategy. Want an example?
In peace time, the Marine Corps trains at extreme levels even when “budget” or “demand” for their services is relatively low. That philosophy pays enormous dividends when the opportunity arises for its services. That organization is always “mission ready” by sweating the training details before it is called upon to use them. Be mission ready. Semper Fi!
Paul Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is principal of Canfield, Ohio-based Matterhorn Consulting (www.matterhornconsulting.com). He has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.