Safety and security concerns are perennial, but 2020 brought unique threats. Recovering from our collective slide down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will take a long time. In this context, we asked more than 340 enterprise security professionals and vendors about their priorities, challenges, and plans going into 2021. See if yours match up.

The bottom line: The pandemic and other issues have put security weaknesses and new requirements into sharp relief. Travel limitations and other obstacles are hampering efforts to address these. To adapt and reopen, security managers have heightened expectations of their integrators to be more informed, transparent, and digitally advanced.


Priorities and challenges for physical security leaders

Not surprisingly, the top priority is keeping teams healthy while maintaining operations (nearly 60%). Enterprise professionals are also reviewing their security postures across all locations to determine what retrofits and upgrades are needed. This includes technology for new pandemic-driven workplace safety and security requirements.

The most sought-after new technologies are thermal or fever detection cameras, touchless access control, and people counting/social distancing detection. The top solutions remain video surveillance, access control, and intrusion detection. From an operations standpoint, another priority is to identify and implement technology to collaborate with their team, partners, and vendors (without travel).

Retrofits and upgrades are also the top challenge, however, along with disparate systems and technology across locations (e.g., having four different access control systems). This makes it difficult to not only monitor and manage security consistently but also make changes (lack of centralized visibility and control is another obstacle). Other major challenges include:

  • Lack of staffing
  • Lack of accurate information about systems installed at each location
  • Working with business stakeholders on planning, budgeting, and justification

Unfortunately, only 29% of survey respondents are getting extra budget to address their priorities and challenges. Even so, about 40 percent said their organizations are fast tracking security projects.


System integrator shortcomings to meet real demands

System integrators should be providing guidance here, yet the accelerated need is highlighting some problems. Asked how system integrators and other solution providers can improve their service, the respondents specified knowledge, transparency, and digital collaboration issues.

The top two are to “stay up to date on the latest products and technologies” (49%) and “better understand my needs to offer customized solutions” (44%). Enterprise security leaders also suggest that system integrators:

  • Provide a portal with up-to-date service records, system records and system layouts
  • Ensure all system records and drawings are always up to date        
  • Be more transparent with proposal and project information

Most system integrators have been slow to embrace the digital solutions that would improve their business operations and customer service. For example, 82 percent still use paper and pen to gather system requirements at customer sites. Consequently, their top three system design and proposal challenges: 1) gathering accurate site details, 2) inability to visit customer sites, and 3) customers requesting multiple proposal revisions.

This may explain why less than 10% of enterprise professionals are willing to trust integrators with complete system design. About 70 percent want to either own or actively participate in the process, further explaining their desire for openness and collaboration.


Bridging the digital chasm

The good news is that system integrators are prioritizing digital systems. Top technologies on their wish lists include system design software/tools, customer-facing software/tools for visualizing and co-designing systems, and remote communication and collaboration technologies.

In the end, these are the measures that will improve efficiency and effectiveness for everyone. As their customer, communicate your expectations for transparency and collaboration. Or, consider these three recommendations in order to take more control.

  1. Maintain your own digital system layouts and device detail records for technology planning and maintenance. 
  2. Look for vendors who want to build a long-term relationship and can collaborate on your future needs.
  3. Dig deep to understand a system integrator’s seamless operational capabilities from sales to implementation to service to ensure the best long-term experience.

Conducted by H2 Strategic Communications and commissioned by System Surveyor, the Physical Security Industry Benchmark is based on a survey of 344 total participants: 42% system integrators/dealers, 34% enterprise security and technology managers, and 24% manufacturers, consultants, and A&Es, or other. The enterprise security respondents represent a range of industries (e.g., education, healthcare, retail, tech, government, energy). The median company size was 2,500 employees.


This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.