A Chartered Security Professional (CsyP) is warning that security has an image problem, and it is only when something goes wrong – a break-in occurs, or a perimeter is compromised – that businesses begin to appreciate its true worth.
It’s also often when organisations find out whether the security, they have installed was actually up to the job for which it was intended, and the moment when buying cheap may look like an un-informed purchase.
The warning comes from Brendan McGarrity, Director of Evolution Risk & Design, and a Fellow of The Security Institute (FSyl) who says that for too long, security has been sold as a commodity item: “Like insurance, we know we have to have it, but we’re determined to buy it as cheaply as we can, and even then our money will be grudgingly spent,” he explains.
He says that when an incident occurs, the security team is often blamed for failings elsewhere: “An intruder breaches a perimeter and it’s the security team that is accountable. Assets are stolen or damaged, and huge sums are spent on their replacement or clean up, before a more thorough evaluation of the actual security need is then undertaken.
“This is often a frustrating time for the security team, who recognise that if their voice had been heard from the start, they might have saved their organisation the inevitable disruption, cost, and impact on corporate reputation that inevitably follows. It is even more frustrating for them to see their organisations spending more money after the event, than they would have had to spend if they had listened to the experts at the beginning.”
Brendan senses, however, that the balance of power may be changing, and that conversations are becoming increasingly positive, at all levels and across multiple disciplines: “Security, far from being a grudge purchase, is being seen as a potential business enabler, if appropriately specified and managed. It is going beyond the basic principles of keeping buildings, people and assets safe, and taking on additional meaning,” he continues.
“This more positive mindset is having a direct impact on the solutions now being proposed. Our industry has been guilty in the past of over designing and specifying systems and equipment that the customer doesn’t really utilise the full potential of. Just because a new piece of technology is on the market, does not make it immediately necessary for every security system owner. Indeed, over-specifying equipment can be as big a problem as under-specifying and can directly impact a buyer’s perception of value for money when the features of the technology are under-used.”
While innovation is a good thing, Brendan believes it is important to elevate the conversation beyond a narrow focus of an individual product, and its associated cost: “We must look instead at the value that the entire system delivers over time. The alignment of the client operational needs through the completion of Security Operational Requirements (SyOR), support the relevant, proportionate and necessary security systems to be procured.”
Buying an unproven, unreliable camera, for example, even though it is the latest ‘thing’, may seem like a smart decision, especially when looking at the initial capital cost. But if that camera should fail at the critical moment, or require disproportionate service and maintenance, then that smart decision may not prove so smart after all.
“It is much better if the value of security is seen in the context of its lifetime cost, rather than as a snapshot of time. And it is much better that the security team is listened to from the outset, rather than finger point and picking up the pieces afterwards,” Brendan concludes.
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Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Security Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922