Organisations across all vertical sectors now have a wide array of security-related issues to consider, ranging from theft, anti-social behaviour and terrorism to vandalism and Health and Safety compliance. With higher levels of protection required than ever before, Simon Chapman explains why it’s time to radically reappraise the role of the security guarding function in order to make better use of this vital resource.
Although the Home Office’s 2016 Commercial Victimisation Survey revealed that crime against businesses has, in many cases, decreased in recent years, there’s no doubt that it remains a very real threat. Figures such as those released by the British Retail Consortium, which stated that the annual bill for UK retail crime soared to £613 million in 2015, highlight that the need for an effective security strategy is more important than ever.
Theft, anti-social behaviour, vandalism, terrorism and Health and Safety compliance are all key drivers for the procurement of security guarding. According to Apex Insight, the outsourced security services market is approaching £5 billion in size, but despite the vital role guarding plays in protecting people, property and assets, it’s still often considered a grudge or commodity spend, leaving it undervalued, underused and underdeveloped.
Commoditisation of security services
The commoditisation of security services has far-reaching implications. Buyers’ pre-occupation with lowest cost is increasingly proving to be a false economy. At a time when their security strategies should be watertight, many organisations don’t have adequate measures in place to counter key risks or threats. Tenders are often carried out on an ‘as is’ basis because purchasers are concerned that the cost of implementing measures that are different than those already in place will cost them more. While this can indeed be the case, it’s equally possible that it could cost less, as a more optimised service will be more efficient.
In this remarkable age of technological innovation, it’s disappointing just how little the security industry has changed. There has been a move from analogue to digital electronic security, new tagging devices and efforts to professionalise guarding, but the approach towards protecting buildings and their occupants from those with malicious intent is fundamentally the same as it has always been.
This situation has massive repercussions for the long-term future of the guarding sector. Many end user organisations already question what tangible benefits they derive from their guarding provision and, until they begin to see measurable value, they’re unlikely to pay any more money for these types of services. It also perpetuates a ‘chicken and egg’ situation in terms of improving the quality and skills base of personnel operating as security officers.
A more holistic strategy can reduce response times, lower security-related expenditure and improve the quality of the security operatives deployed. Traditional Shopping Centre security, for example, encourages a silo-based mentality that creates a fragmented, costly and ineffective security strategy that doesn’t enable adequate measures to be put in place in order to counter any risks or threats and deal with them when they happen.
Armed with some existing technology and smarter thinking, many of the issues faced by premises could be resolved by the adoption of a ‘clustered’ approach. In Shopping Centres, at the moment there’s normally security guarding provision in communal areas, while each store has its own security team. It’s a situation that fails to make the best use of resources and doesn’t lead to more secure premises.
Data acquisition, analytics and information sharing are highly useful tools in the battle against crime, as they reduce the need for over-provisioning and make better use of deployed guarding personnel. ‘Clustering’ has benefits for all interested parties. It reduces expense for customers, while at the same time improving margins for the security services provider and facilitating the deployment of more highly-trained and skilled personnel.
In practice it means that, for instance, installing a panic button within a store or in a reception area could allow security officers to be notified via a smart phone, tablet or even a Remote Monitoring Centre where help is needed and provide an immediate response.
To ensure standards of response are maintained regardless of the size of the organisation, Key Performance Indicators can be agreed in advance, customers can be notified when help is on its way and the security operatives can use their smart devices for live incident reporting.
Moreover, businesses in a defined area can work together, talk to each other and create a more cohesive security solution.
Fitting the bill
To effectively secure a building or site, it’s important to remember that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Some business sectors are more at risk than others and those operating in the defence, pharmaceutical and banking industries must be particularly vigilant due to threats posed by anti-war protesters, anti-capitalists, religious extremists and anti-vivisectionists. Organisations located near to any of these types of companies, transport hubs, or major utilities such as power stations could also be in danger.
It therefore stands to reason that what works for one organisation will not necessarily be appropriate for another, yet a lack of foresight and understanding often leads to a situation whereby security officers are deployed when technology could carry out the same task. Not only does this make no sense from an operational point of view, but it’s also far more costly and often results in a less cohesive security strategy for the customer.
Far too many organisations are oblivious to just how vulnerable they are and fail to realise that anything less than a comprehensive, expertly-designed security strategy is a risk not worth taking. No two organisations are the same, so a security solution should be based on a comprehensive risk and threat assessment that involves an analysis of all premises, activities and facilities.
Just as security guarding shouldn’t be the default option, technology should never automatically replace a human presence. Risks, threats and dangers should always be assessed and acted upon accordingly.
In some situations there’s no substitute for security guarding and personnel specialising in protecting certain types of environment. For example, a security officer working in a retail environment can maintain a more visible and ‘hands on’ approach than someone working in a corporate office space.
Then there’s the potential for certain types of event to occur. Take, for instance, a situation where there’s a fire. A security officer can be far more reactive and, if necessary, take immediate action to prevent the blaze from spreading.
While the above points are important considerations, the use of remote monitoring can remove specific duties carried out by security officers. For instance, it isn’t necessary to assign them to operate barriers for the occasional site visitor, carry out temperature checks, conduct internal patrols or administer CCTV monitoring and alarm setting.
In addition, using two-man teams to manage access control and complete site patrols on an alternating basis isn’t usually required.
A security strategy can only ever be as effective as the people charged with implementing it on a day-to-day basis. There has been a distinct reluctance, or an inability, to move on from the ‘cops and robbers’ mindset that has prevailed for decades, but some forward-thinking security services providers are reacting positively by providing operatives with more diverse skills sets – ones that better represent changes readily apparent in the commercial sector.
An ‘intelligent guarding’ approach combines technology, and the data produced by it, with people who can deal with the outputs of these systems. Knowledge about counter-terrorism, loss prevention, report writing, behavioural analysis and profiling, Health and Safety, data and intelligence gathering and First Aid, combined with excellent customer service skills, is now vital for the modern security officer. Fortunately, a growing number of security services providers are recognising the value in empowering their workforces in order for them to become more efficient and effective.
Value is about more than just price. It’s also about the quality of service provided. When it comes to choosing which security company to work with, a customer should select one with highly-trained and skilled operatives. This will ultimately provide best value via an integrated approach that combines the use of security guarding and technology, meshing the most effective elements of each discipline.
We must move with the times, tear up the rulebook of the past and use smarter thinking to take the security industry forward.
Simon Chapman is CEO of Cardinal Security
*Security Business Sector Insight is the space where members of Cardinal Security’s management team examine current and often key-critical issues directly affecting today’s companies and their customers. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are intended to generate debate and discussion among practitioners within the professional security and risk management sectors. If you would like to make comment on the views outlined on these pages, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
**Cardinal Security was formed back in 2003 and is a privately-owned company delivering innovative security solutions throughout the UK, Europe and the US. The business is a leading supplier of security officers, store detectives and key holding to the retail and logistics industry and works with many well-known brands including Arcadia, Asda, Dixons Carphone, Footasylum, House of Fraser, Morrisons and UK Mail. Cardinal Security is a Security Industry Authority Approved Contractor and in the Top 5% of all security providers