My Turn: Let’s Get Real About Convergence
David Kraus is the director of security at Impax Laboratories, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Hayward, Calif. He has worked in security management for 20years, primarily in industrial security and healthcare security. Prior to his current position David served as the director of security for the Northeast Bay Area of Kaiser Permanente healthcare. Additionally, he was the manager of corporate security at Quaker Oats Company in Chicago, and worked as a site security manager for Abbott Laboratories in Dallas, Texas.
Security Magazine asked him about convergence.
Security: What’s missing in coverage on convergence?
Kraus: Perhaps it sounds a little old-fashioned, or technologically challenged to have concerns about the security industry’s recent focus on what is commonly called convergence. However, these concerns are not based on the direction of security systems development, or the impact of information technology on our world, but on the effect that convergence will have on the many security officers who make up the majority of our industry’s workforce.
My understanding of the subject of convergence is that it combines a recent and growing marriage between physical security and information technology. The largest part of this union comes from the influence of IT on the security industry. While I understand that this natural progression of technology improves the overall quality of security, I continue to have serious concerns about life after the honeymoon.
Security: What are the challenges of convergence as you see them?
Kraus: As a director of security I am concerned that while “convergence” has greatly enhanced security technologies employed by end-users, the skill sets required to operate this increasingly sophisticated security technology are leaving the average security officer-operator far behind. Although software may be written at an understanding level to simplify instructions for the average security officer-operator, the light-speed pace of IT-based security systems development continues to leap forward at a dizzying pace. Many of these changes, which often require specialized IT-based knowledge, may be moving faster than the IT-I.Q. of our security officers. The net result of rapid and complex convergence-related changes could leave many officer-operators ill prepared, confused or frustrated with the security systems they operate.
Many security managers and directors are well educated, well paid and have been recruited for their positions based on their ability to design and administer sophisticated IT-based security systems. However, a large percentage of the security officers working in the field at the basic service level have not been included in our convergence planning. Their ability to cope with the changes forecast by convergence is critical to the operational success of convergence-based security systems.
Security: Is it time to get back to the basics then?
Kraus: I am very apprehensive about not focusing enough planning around the cornerstone and foundation of the security industry, security officers. We sometimes appear to be blissfully ignorant or unaware that true convergence requires that all of our team members advance their IT skills significantly for us to assure its success.
Our industry is doing too little to assure that tomorrow’s security officers will have the technological understanding required to meet the IT-based security equipment operational requirements of the future. The contract security officer business, as well as many proprietary security departments, is driven too often by the need to maintain low labor costs to balance operating budgets. The need to keep security operating costs down is also reflected in our training and education budgets. Thus, the officers required to operate our new “convergence-era” security equipment and operations centers are frequently low paid, high school educated, and inexperienced personnel. Somehow, and with all due respect to our security officer team members, continuing this approach is the equivalent of supplying Ferraris to a high school driver’s education class. Unbridled speed may look good and sound great, but it can be dangerous if put into the hands of someone who does not know how to operate the equipment properly.
Maybe I am viewing things too pessimistically, but the recipe for convergence failure seems possible in a low skills-high responsibilities scenario. Unless the security industry begins to recruit, educate, develop and better pay security officers in the future, we will be looking at a recipe for the possibility of increasing operator errors and security network failures.
Challenges such as world terrorism, IT-crime and internal theft are not going away anytime soon.