Risk Comment: An integrated approach for 2013

Posted On 31 May 2013
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Modern businesses and organisations increasingly operate in a risk-focused environment. Whilst it is unarguable that the issues faced are becoming more complex, it also must be accepted that the sheer depth of solutions available are equally complex and diverse. As the liabilities faced by many businesses develop, so the potential solutions also evolve. Every subsequent alteration in the risk landscape inevitably leads to the introduction of enhanced and ever more effective tools in the arsenal of those responsible for risk management and loss prevention. Whilst ‘simple’ problems still exist, and must be met and handled on a daily basis, the core requirements of modern risk management are increasingly becoming more challenging. Issues faced by businesses and organisations are often multi-facetted, and vigilance is therefore required, simultaneously, on a number of fronts. Risks increasingly include myriad elements which all demand some degree of attention if the potential losses are to be mitigated. Thankfully, the flexibility on offer to today’s risk management professionals also reflects this. Just as businesses face an ever wider range of risks with varying levels of complexity, so the sheer depth of solutions on offer can deliver protection against most potential situations. It is therefore increasingly foolhardy to think that there is anything approaching a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. If such a thing did exist, then the role of those involved in risk management would be less stressful and challenging! Despite this obvious fact, there are still many who like to ‘sell’ their solutions in such a way. Obviously, the implication of such an approach is that your business will be fundamentally more exposed to risk if you don’t invest in whatever flavour of solution that they are promoting. Inevitably, one of the suggested benefits of such an approach is low cost (not to be confused with cost-efficiency). In risk management, just as is the case in a plethora of other businesses, the old adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ stands true. Indeed, it could be argued – and should be argued – that often the most cost-effective approach is not the one that carries the lowest price-tag. Many of those offering solutions in the risk-based environment are still waking up to the possibilities offered by a truly integrated approach to site management, and as new possibilities emerge, so the potential on offer will continue to expand at a rapid pace. By way of an example, look at the traditional manned guard. Many see such a role as pivotal in risk management strategy. In this very competitive sector, there are companies that differentiate themselves solely on price. Some will do this because it’s the way they’ve always operated, others because they think that businesses will always opt for the lowest cost solution, and a few because a very low cost is the true value of what they are providing! However, spend a few minutes considering what your business is actually contracting into. With a low cost provider, if you have a number of bodies on the ground in high vis jackets, that often might be the limit of what you’re receiving. If those bodies have received minimal training along with the minimum wage, they are – at best – going to require a lot of management and a high degree of motivation. Even with this level of support, you will still end up with a number of people performing relatively basic tasks. The term ‘manned guard’ might seem limited in its scope, but that is a fair description of what you could have. More worryingly, the personnel may be dis jointed in an overall risk management solution, or even be operating in isolation from other elements of a solution. Moving up from the lowest price-point option, the more you invest in supplied personnel, the more you can expect in return. A well-trained operative will not only offer you the ‘guarding’ element, but could also act as a qualified first-aider, a fire marshall, or even a point of customer service! Many providers of on-site personnel will be able to provide staff with a number of skills and qualifications, but they’re never going to be the lowest cost option. However, when you consider that typically there is a legal responsibility for the site owner or operator to ensure that first-aiders and fire marshalls are in place, it can be a cost-effective option. Such roles are usually fulfilled by staff from the business itself. By covering the legal obligations, a better qualified ‘guard’ simplifies such requirements. A typical approach to overall site protection will include a number of technological elements to a solution, with control rooms handling various data sources, such as video surveillance, audio messaging and communications, fire and security alarms, access control and human resources management, etc.. The workflow between these elements of a solution and the security personnel on the front line can sometimes be slightly disjointed. Again, with quality personnel, this need not be the case. Modern technology makes it a simple task to ensure that the manned personnel can receive, manage and utilise all of that data, in real-time, on portable devices. Often, on-site personnel will have a much better understanding of the intricacies of a building’s or site’s layout than an operator in a remote control room. It is therefore far more efficient – and undoubtedly safer – if they can have full and complete situational awareness when dealing with any risk-based incident. There are also other benefits to such an approach. For many modern businesses, one of their most valuable resources is real estate. Control room environments can often be reduced in terms of size if management of risk-relevant data is delivered directly to those who require it! Some businesses have found that such an approach has allowed them to eliminate the control room altogether, with data distributed between their contracted security and safety personnel, as well as those responsible for risk management within their own organisation. Others have retained smaller, more streamlined control rooms. When properly considered and implemented, such an approach will also deliver enhanced levels of operational efficiency. Obviously, every site will be different, and the solutions pertinent to one set of circumstances may not always be ideal for any site, even those with some degree of similarity. That aside, one thing can be said with certainty. Viewing any element of a risk management solution in isolation – whether that be manned resources, video surveillance, alarm systems or any other element – can only lead to a flawed solution. Another fact is that a flawed solution will never be cost-effective. Take an individual carrying the lowest possible costs, and that’s pretty much the sum of what you’ve got! However, invest in the right person and deliver the data required to them, and you have a much improved chance of achieving a relevant and effective solution. If a provider is pushing their services or systems based solely upon the lowest cost, take that as a cue to question what the actual benefits on offer will (or will not) be. Also, if the inference is that you’ll only need their one element to manage your risks, then walk away! If the past year is anything to go by, risks faced by businesses and organisations are likely to become increasingly complicated and challenging in the near future. However, that past 12 months have also shown that solutions are becoming increasingly effective, as well as being simpler to integrate and employ. The mitigation of risks has moved to a higher level, with potential solutions delivering more protection for businesses and organisations. As a professional in the risk management arena, it is imperative that you have a complete and clear overview of all elements of a solution. However, it is more important that you ensure that the communication and interoperability between all of those elements is optimised if you are to fully realise the potential of any risk management investment.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.