I sat in Prime Grill in New York City, looking over the menu.

What to order, what to order? Everything looked so good. I turned to the waiter and said, “I’m in the mood for steak. What do you recommend?” He described the special Delmonico as being particularly well that evening. I decided that his assessment was convincing enough, so I ordered it. The waiter influenced me to order a steak I may not have otherwise chosen.

Influencers are everywhere. I am sure I would have been perfectly happy with the Rib eye, but an “outside party” influenced me. I think all of us need influencers sometimes, in our personal life as well as our business life. We especially may need influencers when we are about to select an expensive technology to solve a security problem.

A client recently relayed this series of events:

She was nearing the end of her fiscal year, meaning that her objective to replace the visitor management system must be met in order for her to earn credit on her quarterly performance evaluation, and secondly, her budget had to get used up. She called a consultant she knew and trusted and described all of the features she wanted as well as the environment in which the system would be deployed.



Simple Recommendations

The consultant knew three products that could work for her, and recommended the one with the best product support. That simple recommendation saved her loads of time and grief and arguably saved her money. But the most important benefit she received was confidence. She had a trusted outside party validate her goals and product choice. When standing before the risk management council later that month, she had confidence in her voice.
    However, influence can yield silly confidence, too. I myself am a sucker for prime time television advertisements. A well-crafted advertisement grabs my imagination – and often my wallet. I don’t know. Something about the cleverness or the entertainment value of a good ad makes me sympathetic toward the product. That may be why I watch a Sony plasma TV, I drive a Dodge, I brush with Crest (because of all those dentists surveyed). And I’m starting to think about Viagra.

    What do I get from all this influence?
    What confidence do I feel?
    Deep down, it all comes back to happiness.

I believe, foolishly, that I will be a better person if I vote for this politician; I will feel younger if I wear those jeans; I will be more productive with that new laptop. But then my brain kicks in and I realize that happiness, or genuine value, comes from my own feeling of confidence. I am only truly happy, truly confident with my decisions and my purchases when the influencer echoes what I already know.

My client, mentioned above, makes many good decisions because first she thinks for herself, then she turns to influencers, then she thinks for herself again. That is the real value of the influencer. Influencers are not meant to be a surrogate brain, but to supplement and complement your research and clear thinking.




SIDEBAR: Dreams Turn to Reality

Security Magazine columnist Steve Hunt now has his own independent blog on the Web. It covers a diversity of topics. For example, a recent article, titled Cisco’s Physical Security Strategy – Déjà VoIP All Over Again, related his experience at a Cisco industry analyst event called C-Scape in San Jose, Calif. The blog reported:

Cisco looks at the physical security industry the way they looked at telephony a few years ago. Back then, every large corporation had a networking department and a telecom department. The two reported up through different managers and VPs and often were found feuding over who last messed with the wiring closets. Sounds a lot like the physical security and IT departments today. As a security director hangs an IP camera, or connects a DVR to the network, the IT folks get a bit perturbed by the introduction of new bandwidth consumption or virus threats.

Cisco hit the networking and telecom teams hard with VoIP, voice over IP, which is practically standard in large organizations around the world now. Cisco will approach physical security, especially video surveillance, and maybe access control, the same way.

Cisco can have a multi-pronged strategy regarding physical security.