I think it's a bad idea and I can speak from experience.
In a past position a former employer of mine brought in a guy from the lighting industry to oversee our department (I was inside sales at the time focusing on webinars). My primary purpose was to provide webinars for integrators interested in our cloud-based product, follow up on opportunites, and make sure our CRM (Salesforce) was constantly updated with the latest contact/opportunity info (# of doors, # of locations, est close date, etc)
I was being considered for a promotion at the time. Instead of watching one of my demos to see how I pitch to prospects he asked me to pick a topic and put together a powerpoint presentation just to test my presentation skills (I chose the history of the automobile 1920s-present). The only barometer of my performance he had were post-demo survey responses which I sent to every person I did a webinar for. Thankfully, the surveys of my performance were glowing.
I can safely say I learned nothing about the industry from this guy and I went from being a proud company advocate to being miserable working for someone I knew I could learn nothing from. I had three times the product knowledge of my supervisor and no mutual respect.
I can safely say reporting to someone who knows less about the industry than you is a recipe for disaster. Within three months of hiring this exec from outside the industry I took a new job back in my home state and was 10x happier after leaving.
I think it can easily go either way, but with Surveillance and Security trending towards much more of an IT focused industry means it does make more and more sense to bring in outsiders.
I have worked in IT as a System Engineer for 10+ years and recently(6 months ago) was brought onto a team supporting a nationwide installation of 10,000+ cameras, 150+ Servers, physical access, and a few other related systems.
The Surveillance industry as a whole has surprised me as the large companies making software seem to just now be figuring out what everyone else knew 15 years ago. These are areas where a combining of talent and knowledge from the IT side specifically can lead to a lot of positive results.
The industry feels similar to healthcare 7-8 years ago. Most records were stored in paper charts, interoperability was non-existent, and they were very resistant to change. When modern IT standards and executives were brought in and upgrades started to happen. Capabilities leapt 40 years forward and while it was a painful process, in the end we not have a much better system overall.
This all being said; the wrong person being brought in, from the current industry or otherwise, can lead to an awful environment and have negative impacts. Most people definitely have something to bring to the table if given a chance though and a new perspective is frequently helpful...
IPVMU Certified | 06/02/15 09:08pm
Is there anything about the security industry that makes it even more challenging than in other sectors? Say a security guy going telecom?
Also, though they are not transplants per se, what about the typical exec team at startups, like Dropcam or August lock, who are coming from more of a social media angle? Are they doomed to blunder as well, as they increasingly venture into the domain of traditional security?
My position as a senior engineer in new product development for a leading CCTV manufacturer gave me an up-close-and-personal experience with this issue when the company hired a new VP of Sales & Marketing from outside the industry... from way outside the industry... from Coca-Cola. The rationalization that the company offered at the time was "sales is sales... if he can sell Coke he can sell anything".
Not only was this outsider given control over the sales and marketing decisions, he was given the power to direct the course of new product development because his skill and 'research' would tell us which products would be the most desirable and most profitable in the marketplace.
There was a meeting with upper management and senior engineering where he was supposed to give his decisions on which product developments we would pursue for the next year. When the VP of Engineering asked him what he wanted, he said "Tell me what you can make and I'll pick the products I want.." Unfortunately, he wasn't joking. The entire room sat in stunned silence for a good minute or more before the VP of Engineering spoke up and tried to move the meeting forward.
That meeting was a turning point. Word spread like wildfire through the company. The best and brightest employees started leaving the company within weeks. The guy from Coca-Cola had an employment contract and stayed there for 3 years. The company is no longer an industry leader and is still struggling to recover.
Silva Consultants | 06/03/15 12:40am
Many senior executives that enter the security/surveillance space from other industries seem to have a hard time wrapping their head around just how fragmented our industry is in terms of who has market share.
I sure that John knows the numbers better than I do, but it seems like even the "dominant" companies in our industry today still only have a tiny fraction of the overall market. Big name marketing executives are sometimes brought in from consumer products companies claiming that they can make their new employer "a market leader" and, more often than not, fall flat on their face.
As I understand it, the reason that GE exited the mainstream security/surveillance business was because they couldn't dominate this industry like they did so many others.
I agree that overall it's a bad idea. The problem can be minimized if you have other top execs in the company with more experience to help guide and cross-check the non-industry execs.
At higher levels in almost any industry half of your value comes from networking. The issue is not just that an outsider needs to learn new trends and terms, they also effectively know nobody. There is an old saying, "You spend the first half of your career building your network, and the second half monetizing it."
Frank DeFina's "Supper Club" thing is a good example. He can go to various security companies and spoon-feed the same herd of security industry "editors" (I use that term loosely) whatever content he wants. But drop Frank into a role at Oracle and nobody would show up for his dinner invite.
It's not just that the people are different, the expectations are different as well. A free dinner might be very enticing to one editor, but to an editor in a different industry that has a stack of free iPads, Laptops, and business-class travel vouchers laying around their office a nice dinner carries no sway.
I've seen outsiders come in to security companies in sales and marketing roles that have an approach like they can take a process, pitch, or methodology from someplace else and just apply that template here and expect good results. I have not seen or heard of many cases where this worked unless that person was also willing to stop and analyze things and figure out what translates and what doesn't.
Maybe not a high level exec but a RSM is no newbie, right?
Look at the current Job opening at Axis for a Midwest RSM.
What You’ll Need…
- Bachelor’s degree or equiv. electronic trade training
- 3-5 years’ in sales driven position
- Strong technical background
Valued, But Not Required…
- Work with cameras and computer networks
- Design application capabilities
- Retail experience a plus
- Integration experience
- Axis Certified Professional
For comic relief look at this odd paragraph
We encourage our employees to work hard, and play harder; whether it is a game of darts or ping pong on your break, a pickup game of basketball during lunch, or socializing at the summer outing, Axis employees are always outgoing and lively.
We allow and promote independent thinking; we seek to act as one, to be always open, and to think big!
Uncredited copy, but my guess is G. Orwell.
I regularly deal with new guys coming in from outside the business - often from consulting backgrounds. I've seen enough of them come through now; & can put my standard greeting on an index card:
Welcome to an industry which is creaky, cantankerous, often irrational, highly personality-driven, and yet profitable. I've been at this for 16 years and I have only barely begun to figure it out. You're probably smarter than me, but you won't get it in a week or two, trust me."
John - I voted Neutral because this could be a good idea, but it's rarely executed wisely. Capturing creative ideas from outside of security can be very beneficial, but everyone has to be aware of the four bullets you state above - leadership, direct reports, and the "outsider".
I've seen this idea fail when leaders don't consider the challenges or appreciate their magnitude, or when leaders make this decision because "our industry is full of a bunch of ..." If Michael Jordan is available but you need a center, then play him at center. If a superstar from another industry comes along - grab him/her. However, appreciate the risks you're taking and put a plan in place to mitigate those risks.
Ask anyone who knows anything about the history of Mosler . . . Copiers (Pitney-Bowes) to bank security. Hmmmmm . . .
Panasonic did this ... and may still. The end-user facing sales teams (or ASMs) were led by execs who had been successful selling outside the security domain -- ruggedized PCs, cell phones, telecom, etc. These execs would be responsible for multiple products that may or may not complement each other -- CCTV, AV, Ruggedized Computers, Media Grade Cameras, Scanners.... blah blah. I never really thought these execs brought anything to the table other than a rigid accounting of the opportunity pipeline and over-used quotes from popular business books ("Dare to be Great!"). The execs did not really understand the system architecture I was selling into, and they had zero connection to the domain itself. I never invited them to consultative, end-user meetings since they served no purpose in the discussion. My favorites were very "hands-off" meaning they took my pipeline reports and consolidated the report into a larger report and handed it off to the big boss... that was the extent of their interaction with their security offerings.
see how well it worked when GE started buying companies from the electronic security industry
It would be interesting to compile a list of non-industry execs at various security companies and chart that person's performance and the companies' overall performance.
The security industry is dominated by white men. Perhaps hiring from outside will allow a greater chance for women and minorities to get involved in the security industry. As we all know, the security industry is growing very quickly and serves a very diverse set of markets. Couldn't hurt to have a diverse workforce to meet those changing needs.
IPVMU Certified | 10/26/15 10:23pm
I've known plenty of ethnic or women who are in high positions of leadership within the integration industry, less that are in the manufacturing side (though there are a few).
IPVMU Certified | 10/28/15 09:21pm
This goes along alot of what I was saying earlier. In my experience - the ones that really move ahead in the security industry are those who are very technical as well as being people persons. The non-technical people are often passed off as idiots (and the mistakes alot of them make often prove this) and the technical people that aren't people-people are often regarded as arrogant pricks.