Time for Transformation

Posted On 15 Apr 2018
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Looking towards the future roadmap for private sector security provision in the UK, Danny Williams tracks the move from traditional security guarding to the delivery of a new style of service that affords value-driven, predictive and intelligent solutions making use of client and industry data while at the same time encompassing open source intelligence.

Five years ago, although security was considered to be a necessary purchase, it’s fair to suggest that many clients had limited visibility or clarity as to why security services were required or how they could proactively protect their assets and people. In the intervening period, times have most certainly changed. Clients are now far more aware of the importance of security and how effective risk management strategies can serve to protect their assets, people and property.

In today’s world, the industry is moving away from the traditional security guarding model, whereby a physical presence used to be a standalone feature, and more towards collaborative partnerships wherein security providers offer a range of protective services that realise end-to-end security solutions.

Undoubtedly, the security of today – and, indeed, the future – will rely heavily on a combination of people, technology and knowledge working in unison to ensure that clients receive value-driven and predictive total security solutions.

People will continue to play a pivotal role in security, of course. Given their local knowledge, experience and personal judgement, security officers will always be at the very heart of service delivery and best placed to develop collaborative relationships and understand local client needs. As is the case across many industries, though, the advent of new technology and digital innovation is certainly redefining the role of the security officer. It’s a change pattern that the industry simply must embrace with open arms.

With increasingly innovative and advanced technology solutions, one might expect the role of the security officer to be in some way diminished going forward. However, the reverse is true. Innovation and technology is actually enhancing the value of security officers on the ground. Clients now expect better qualified and more highly engaged individuals who possess core skills and have both the knowledge and flexibility to deliver the important personal element of a total security solution.

As the number of tasks an officer is expected to perform continues to multiply, and clients’ expectations increase in unison, the role of an officer provides enormous opportunities for personal growth and development.

From reactive to predictive

If the industry is to make a successful transition from reactive to predictive security, we must harness Big Data to provide intelligent security solutions. Tailored security solutions are already being devised using detailed data-based risk analyses filtered to specific levels, and by a variety of parameters, including geographical areas, site and even type and propensity of criminality. The intelligence gleaned then allows security providers to foresee and proactively mitigate risk to implement preventative measures.

The ability to proactively mitigate risk, particularly in today’s climate and with an eye towards the future, will become the modus operandi of the security industry going forward. Proactive data management and the analysis of real-time and historical data allows us to review security solutions implemented on a site and consider: ‘Is the solution still appropriate and is it fit for purpose?’

For example, does a location need on-site officers present at all times or would a flexible allocation of resource to risk in the form of mobile patrols actually present a more efficient and appropriate solution? These are questions that detailed data analysis coupled with thorough risk assessments can answer.

Security providers boasting an Operations Centre capability are able to share real-time information with security officers via a number of mobile devices, among them smart phones and PDAs. As necessary, operators liaise with officers to guide their actions on site or send out a mobile patrol vehicle if required.

The connection between the Operations Centre staff and the officer(s) on site helps to reduce false alarms and ensures that valuable resources are allocated to those situations where they’re most needed.

Security in a digital age

Technology is making a breakthrough impact on the industry, with the onset of virtual reality training, augmented reality patrol systems and autonomous robots all now entering the security space as support tools for the security officer. Investment in these groundbreaking technologies is essential and must continue in order to allow security providers to build those aforementioned value-driven and predictive total security solutions for their clients.

In addition, the next generation of monitoring hardware is evolving. We’re now witnessing a move away from passive CCTV cameras to a combination of smart cameras, various types of sensor and analysis software. These solutions will not only record and detect incidents, but also analyse, draw conclusions and suggest appropriate actions.

A much-publicised development is the use of drone technology. The option to deploy drones in support of officers is a further example of people and technology working in unison. One of the benefits of drones is their ability to scan and patrol far-reaching areas not usually accessible to humans.

While this presents an obvious positive, there’s also an obverse consideration for clients working in sensitive environments who need to keep their sites secure from the general public. However, technology now allows for anti-drone solutions to combat this risk.

Trusted advisor

As the digital transformation of the industry continues to gather momentum, we will increasingly see improvements in efficiencies, lower costs for customers and an increase in the safety of security officers. However, it’s also important to appreciate that the move towards technology-based security management solutions may seem intimidating for clients, and particularly so those who are used to a physical presence alone.

It’s here that a security provider should establish itself as a trusted advisor in order to help the client feel comfortable in making any transition. The rise in the adoption of mobile, remote and electronic security solutions over recent years is a direct reflection of the changing face of security and demonstrates a move away from purely on-site or security guarding solutions.

While innovation and technology are creating positive changes in this era of digital transformation, we must also remember that there’s a flip-side to all of this as more and more people have access to information and data widely available through the Internet and social media channels. A much greater focus on these platforms is going to be necessary in order to combat potential security threats.

Law enforcement agencies understand that intelligence can be gleaned through open source investigation and this is something that security providers are now starting to offer their clients. In the first instance, open source investigation can begin to combat the insider threat, providing an enhanced level of vetting for particular roles that have a heightened requirement for discretion.

Add to this the ability to offer enhanced social media screening through the right monitoring software and you’re then in a position to mitigate any potential risk at the very outset.

In countries outside the UK, the role of the security officer is seen as a career pathway. It’s a respected profession with long-term career prospects. Here in the UK, we still have some work to do. With a greater focus on security as a specialisation, we must strive to improve the perception of the security officer’s role.

When you compare security to other industries in the UK, there’s a misconception that the industry is unattractive and unrewarding, but this is changing. Technology and innovation have paved the way for IT-based security solutions, and it’s this innovation that will undoubtedly appeal to the next generation of security professionals.

Indeed, young people now embarking on a career in security expect technology and innovation to play just as important a role in their working life as it does in their personal life. The security industry needs to challenge itself. It must evolve to attract and retain the best talent. There’s no denying that people remain at the heart of security, and rightly so, but it’s important to look beyond traditional ways of working, embrace change and build long-term sustainable partnerships with clients.

Security is developing. Technologies and client needs are changing. Our industry cannot solve the challenges of an evolving landscape with traditional approaches from yesterday.

Danny Williams is Managing Director (North, Midlands and South West) at Securitas UK

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.