Kratos Gears Up for More Security Conquests
Despite its national presence in providing integrated solutions in numerous vertical markets, the credo at Kratos Public Safety & Security is never stray from the true needs of the customer. In an exclusive interview with EVP Jim Henry, find out how the firm leverages its parent company and how a core belief system is helping propel it to new heights.
Kratos, in Greek mythology, represents the embodiment of strength and power. In the realm of electronic security, such qualities are required to effectively perform in the face of aggressive competition as well as the myriad challenges and vagaries that comprise such a dynamic, fast-evolving landscape.
What constitutes strength and power can vary from company to company. One firm’s expertise is another’s shortfall. For Kratos Public Safety & Security (PSS), the systems integration division of San Diego-based Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, its forte lies in the skills and breadth in designing and deploying solutions for critical infrastructure and other large facilities few companies succeed at with equal significance on a national level.
Until recently, Kratos was only known to those familiar with government and military sector defense contracting. That all dramatically changed when the firm purchased one of the best-known and long-established commercial security integrators, Henry Bros. Electronics, in 2010. Then, in early 2012 Kratos acquired Ingersoll Rand’s systems integration business unit to serve further notice it is a well-focused public safety commercial security force to be reckoned with.
In an exclusive and in-depth interview, Jim Henry, Kratos PSS executive vice president, discusses business and market challenges, and offers answers for success in today’s competitive landscape.
How are resources leveraged among Kratos’ business units to produce advantages for your division?
Jim Henry: We’ve had a lot to absorb within the Public Safety & Security division given all the acquisitions we have done. Most of the focus so far in the last two years, after acquiring a competitor (Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, according to SSI sources) and Henry Brothers, has been putting all the systems together from those legacy business units to operate as one holistic operation.
Yes, we recognize we have a unique wealth of expertise, technology, product, systems, customers in the other four divisions of Kratos that are mostly military/DoD-centric. But the positioning of those businesses, the kinds of product sets they are engaged in from network monitoring systems to cyber security, consulting, this is the future. This is what we all talk about with convergence. We’re incredibly fortunate to have within our overall company many of those products, technologies and users everybody is talking about that needs to converge with physical security.
It certainly is a lot more comforting to know we have the opportunity and luxury of being able to do [convergence] within our own business units. We don’t have to reach out and partner with a third-party company we don’t know that has a [cyber security] practice. Do we look at having to make an investment of acquiring a company in a space that may not be as second nature to us as our own physical-electronics security? That comes to the art of the types of companies, the synergy of the companies that Eric DeMarco, our CEO, has identified and brought into the Kratos family of companies.
The focus since I’ve been here the last two years, mission No. 1, is to get all the systems together, the absorption of all of the physical security, operating divisions, and identify all of those areas of synergy within the sister Kratos divisions. There is opportunity for us to pull [the other divisions] into our customers, and there’s opportunity for them to be able to pull the products and services we provide into theirs’ as well.
Roughly how many and what categories of employees comprise the PSS division?
Henry: It’s a moving number. Overall we have around 600 employees within [PSS]. The breakdown, in addition to it being fluid, is also subjective because in our business you might classify somebody as a project manager or technician. You may carry a definition, but every one of us is a salesperson. Every one of us is responsible for customer service.
That was the challenge back in the early days of the family-owned business; everybody did whatever they needed to do. To a degree it’s chaos, but it’s exciting. It’s responsive. You’re agile. As you grow you have to get more institutionalized. Project managers have to lean on the technologists; technologists aren’t going to go out there doing physical installations, so you start to build those barriers. But you always have an awareness of what each one of those groups is doing, and some crossover at times, which is healthy.
I think it keeps all of us on our toes. We understand how to mature the business going forward. We understand what that breakdown might look like today, as the business becomes more IT-centric. There is less focus on the hardware element of the business than there is on the software element of the business.
When I got out of school in the late 1970s, a service contract meant you were out there changing limit switches and pan and tilts, and changing tubes in cameras. It was very hardware intensive. It was much more of a blue-collar business. Now, your technicians, your project managers, they’re all out there armed with their laptops. They’re managing the business. It’s more of a white-collar role we have now, not only on the construction side, but even on the service side. Of course, the remote service and monitoring and those professional services are via the network. It’s not just about loading people into trucks with toolboxes and what have you, the way it was years ago. That again will change going forward, as we converge with more technologies in the future.
What are your recruitment practices at Kratos? How are you finding qualified technicians and holding on to them?
Henry: Word-of-mouth and relationships is always the best way. Hiring bright people who have a proven ability to learn, an inquisitive mind and like challenges with a technical degree has become more and more the successful mode going forward. This doesn’t go for everybody. You can find some people in the industry who have moved from company to company. They may have a tremendous track record of performance, but they need to have the skillset, the knowledge base you need going forward and the different way that business is done now. It takes a good mix of the bright, energetic, IT-literate talent who understand the toolsets we use going forward, but you have to understand the security business. It’s not who is the sharpest knife in the drawer and can go out there and throw an IP address into a camera and profile it, but why do you put a camera here? You need that the security sense.
How does Kratos teach ‘security sense’?
Henry: It’s mentoring. You’re going to mix in some of the legacy talent and project management team with the new people. And people teach each other. I think when this industry started in the 1950s and ’60s there was no college that you went to to be a physical security integrator, an alarm dealer. It was all the school of hard knocks.
Clearly, training and certification programs by manufacturers for their product-specific platforms is important. General IT knowledge, whether it’s Cisco certifications or Microsoft or whatever is another element to it. Then again just being out there and exposed to the end-user environment is the best way to bring all of those elements together.
There is a need for individuals who can appreciate the wisdom in others. There is a need for individuals who value the IT geniuses even if they don’t have the security background. There’s a need for all of those per
spectives, and the companies that are most successful are the ones that can bring those diverse talents together and deliver in a homogenous solution.
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