Workforce management software comes in different forms, but all of them claim they will help your security services company run more effectively. Which solution are you going to believe in? Mark Folmer outlines seven key questions you should ask to find the right software for your operations.
You’ve ‘kicked the tires’ on a number of software platforms in security workforce management. You can recite by heart the claims they’re making about being the best solution since no-lick envelopes, but now it’s shortlist time. You want to identify the software that lives up to its claims. You want to determine which solutions will truly contribute to the efficiency and profitability of your security services company. You need to eliminate the vendors making “noise” from the ones that signal a path towards efficiency and growth.
To help save you time and money, we’re going to focus on seven areas that will help you zero-in on the workforce management platform that will truly contribute to the efficiency and profitability of your security services company.
Before we examine these seven areas, make sure your firm is carrying out its software search in a sound and systematic way. There are five recommended steps in the software-selection process.
First, plan and budget for the software. You need senior management buy-in and a project team. Second, analyse your requirements. Focus on what’s most important to you and document it. Third, search for vendors. Shorten your long list of vendors to approximately three solutions.
Next, test the software in demos. Keep your Demo Script consistent for all the vendors so you can compare apples to apples. Be sure they live up to their industry claims. Last, but not least, decide on the best software fit for your company. Include implementation and training in your evaluation of the best solution.
It’s at step three that we recommend you ask the following seven key questions about the workforce management software you’re considering…
(1) Does the platform provide a solution that takes into account your entire business?
No sane individual hires a personal trainer to build their biceps only. Similarly, when you want to attain maximum success in your business — when you want to strengthen and make more efficient and profitable your entire business — you want to make sure the platform you adopt can empower you to automate your business from end-to-end.
After all, to derive all of the benefits inherent to a security workforce management system, you have to take the blinkers off and strive for optimisation of your entire operation. You have to look at security workforce management as a mission-critical system connected to other critical functions, such as your accounting and payroll systems.
Vendors who don’t have an end-to-end solution can easily be detected. Their questions will be focused on one or two particular functions in your business, or they’ll address your pain points in a site-by-site manner and not assess the business as a whole. That’s because they’re simply not equipped to handle the bigger picture.
(2) Does the platform require the purchase or use of “their hardware”?
Before the widespread use of smart phones, workforce management platforms required all kinds of extra equipment to collect and download guard tour information.
Today, some platforms still require this costly, inconvenient and service-requiring equipment. Yet a contemporary smart phone has all the necessary features to carry out an efficient and data-rich guard tour — assuming, of course, that the platform can take advantage of current technology.
Do you want to be constrained by the costs and hassles of managing and maintaining “their hardware”?
(3) Is the platform designed to be mobile?
Anytime and anywhere access to the Internet has become a ‘given’ in our day-to-day lives. Why should our operations platform offer us less convenience and flexibility than that?
However, some security workforce management platforms still rely on on-site hardware for data exchange. As a result, data collection may be limited by location and time of day. This lack of flexibility constrains what your staff and management can do, and that translates into reduced productivity.
Cloud-based platforms, on the other hand, offer 24/7 access, dependable data security nd the convenience of automatic software maintenance.
(4) Does every modification of the software require custom in-house programming?
Perhaps one of the function leaders in your company believes that their software needs are unique. If so, make sure they have a business case to prove it because with software customisation you must carefully consider the cost benefits involved.
More customisation means a longer time to write and test the code, a longer time to yield a return on investment and more system and staff instability as you work through the transition period to the new implementation. Furthermore, when upgrades are necessary, the custom code will need the ‘white glove’ treatment. Is your company comfortable making these costly concessions?
If not, then the significant stability and cost savings of a turnkey platform, and especially one focused on the security industry, must be seriously considered even if a little flexibility must be traded off.
(5) Does the platform have a roadmap for future development?
Before you sign a multi-year contract, you want to be sure that the software platform you commit to today will be evolving with you tomorrow. Since the security environment, technology and your business are in constant evolution, your security workforce platform must evolve and adapt as well.
A vendor with an “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset will leave you with a set-in-concrete platform that will limit your options for adapting to new business conditions.
Ask your potential vendors questions like these: ‘What kind of roadmap for development do you foresee?’ ‘What input determines how the platform will develop?’ ‘What will be the frequency of upgrades?’
(6) Does the platform seem to be designed with customer input?
Anybody who has worked in the security industry knows that its operational concerns and challenges are distinctive. If, during the demo stage, you notice platform features that seem unrelated to the industry, or not remotely relevant to your needs, ask your vendor how these features came to be.
Some companies systematically solicit customer feedback as an integral part of software development. To stay on top of a changing world, they also consistently participate in industry-related conferences and dedicate people to monitoring trends. Does your vendor engage in this kind of dialogue and information gathering?
(7) Does the platform try to be a jack-of-all-trades for multiple industries?
A Swiss Army knife certainly comes in handy on a day-to-day basis, but when it comes to survival in the big bad woods you need to resort to more serious tools.
Similarly, a general purpose enterprise resource planning system that does the job for a pizza delivery firm isn’t going to stand eye-to-eye with a software platform specifically designed for mission-critical functions in the security industry.
Since so much rides on the workforce management software you select, it’s important to commit the right resources and approach to the process. When you ask the right questions and approach the selection process in a sound and systematic way, you can go a long way towards building the foundations for future success. That’s the truth.
Mark Folmer MSyI CPP is Vice-President for the Security Industry at TrackTik