Described as a paradigm shift in thinking, the unrelenting march towards introducing new technologies across the security sector continues unabated. However, in this almost frenzied haste to be seen as leaders in the field of systems development, are we perhaps riding roughshod over the jewels in our crown – security officers? Or does such progress in fact herald the birth of the ‘new and improved’ officer? Andrew Hallam shares his views
My first experience of the security industry left me with two lasting memories. While on a visit to a very large hospital in North London having recently joined one of the UK’s largest providers of guarding solutions, I enquired as to how many security officers were working on such a huge site. Expecting a figure close to ten, the reply was: “Two”.
Somewhat shocked, it soon became time to meet those two officers and listen intently as they detailed exactly what they had to cope with in such a challenging environment. I left the hospital that day with the understanding that security officers don’t always receive the recognition or the reward for their often heroic efforts in protecting both people and property.
As my career progressed, I duly met several more brave security officers and heard many more amazing stories. Stories related by officers who had dissuaded people from attempting to take their own lives or rescued desperate individuals from extremely perilous situations. The common reply when those officers were asked as to what drove them to act in the ways that they did was always the same. They were “just doing their job”. A casual complacency and acceptance was apparent. To them, it wasn’t a big deal.
Clearly, when people outside of the industry hear of these outstanding acts of bravery they do see them as a big deal.
As you may have gathered, I’m passionate about promoting the role of the security officer within our industry. Indeed, this was one of the main reasons why I was delighted to join Unipart Security Solutions.
The Unipart Group works towards the guiding principles and philosophies of The Unipart Way. At the heart of these beliefs is the delivery of performance through engaged teams. An acknowledgement that empowered teams will provide the catalyst of change on our customers’ premises. It’s about teams who take an active role in problem solving and the development of sustainable solutions on clients’ sites. In essence, The Unipart Way ensures that security officers’ voices are heard.
Each day, our teams gather around Communication Cells and discuss ways in which to improve our service. Concerns are raised and logged with specific actionable dates at which point these matters will be resolved.
Active and creative problem-solving encourages the whole team to dissect any barriers to progress and provide a workable, sustainable solution. All problems will be solved at the levels at which they are raised.
Often, I’m asked as to what the difference might be when a team of security officers is transferred under the TUPE Regulations. What changes apart from the uniform? If a disengaged team is inherited then the changes over time are hugely impressive and very noticeable indeed. There’s lower staff turnover, reduced absenteeism and new ideas.
Above all else, perhaps, the process will focus on creating a security officer team whose constituent personnel enjoy their working life because they’re actively and personally engaged in driving it forward.
Best of both worlds
The question that’s often posed in relation to the introduction of new and further technology in our industry is perhaps not the correct one. To my mind, it shouldn’t be viewed as an ‘Officer versus Machine’ dilemma at all. The real question, I would respectfully suggest, is one that asks how we could potentially derive the best from both factions.
The real winners will be those companies who can adapt new ideas and technologies to match their clients’ specific needs. Rather than building a robot, why not work with our customers to design a robotic security solution that matches their brief? Let’s ‘build to order’.
The salient point here is that it’s not what the technology can do. It will always be about what that technology can achieve for the client.
A great example of this presents itself in the many opportunities now afforded by the use of drone technology. At Unipart Security Solutions we have our own Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (also known as Harmony). In simple and practical terms, Harmony will fly over buildings and specific events, etc, in turn recording and sending back live footage to various locations.
However, the real advantage of Harmony can be found in what our customers believe she can provide for them and the endless possibilities that exist in their minds. The power of the ‘Art of the Possible’ will always outweigh any of our own recommendations.
Of course, we’re able to suggest and sow the seeds of possibility in our customers’ minds. We will set the dream in motion and then let it fly (quite literally).
Video analytics and security
On a similar note, it’s also opportune to examine the ways in which video analytics can enhance security protection.
Having recently joined forces with a major global provider of analytics, I was truly amazed at the sheer capacity of analysis that can be derived. Again, the possibilities are almost endless. How we use and adapt this fantastic solution is absolutely key.
Our success here – and, indeed, that derived from all of our technological offerings – will only come from having a deep understanding of exactly what our customers need.
Only by understanding their risks and how we can manage them will we be able to convince end user customers to take our solutions on board and run with them.
End users will not buy our solutions because what they do is ‘fantastic’. They will only buy them if they believe they’ll provide fantastic results for them. That’s also why engaged security teams and security officers make all the difference. There has never been such a need for all parties to work in unison.
Understanding what works
How, then, do we really begin to understand what works and what doesn’t? Who has the ideas, the know-how and the understanding at ground level? Who will manage the implementation of new technologies? Who will make decisions based on rendered images and data? Who knows where the biggest threats reside at a customer’s premises?
Further, who can advise on exactly where the new CCTV cameras should be located and directed? What benefit do we derive from a deeper analysis of imagery on site?
Security teams will always be the foundation of the solution. An engaged security team will look to continuously improve, seek better ways of working, strive to solve problems and add value on site.
In years to come, the role of the security officer will adapt. Officers will be better trained and skilled in the use of new technologies. As their numbers fall their skill sets will increase (as, one hopes, will their pay).
At Unipart Security Solutions, I’ve found a real and demonstrable engagement from our security teams that derives from all employees undertaking their ‘Gate to Great’ journey on The Unipart Way. I’ve witnessed a real desire to add value and a desire to make a difference.
In simple terms, I’ve witnessed engaged teams who take an active interest in continuous improvement. Teams already well suited to our future changing marketplace.
Long into the future, the skills of dedicated security officers supported by the very Best of Breed in new technology will remain our central option. True enough, the trained eyes behind the lens of the latest all-singing, all-dancing CCTV systems will need to adapt, but by doing so they’ll inevitably increase both the value and perception of the security officer’s often sadly underappreciated role.
Andrew Hallam is Managing Director of Unipart Security Solutions