Are you trying to keep abreast of trends in the security industry? Well, that makes two of us!

We can agree that two of the most common hashtags of early 2016, relating to security, are #infosec and #bigdata. Information Security and everything related to it, namely, the breaches, the causes, its ownership, the limits, the impact, etc. Bigdata, its uses, its relevance, its omnipresence, its power, etc. If forced to rank them, then #BigData has likely outpaced information security because everyone is talking about data (big and small) not only security professionals.

Security professionals are less accustomed to talking about their data than other professionals. As a group, we are likely more protective of what we collect. The data is no less valuable considering that using it can help secure the people and assets that we care about and in many cases are paid to protect.

Considering the focus on the aforementioned hashtags, I wanted to draw your attention to data and its impact on physical security.

Reflect for a moment on the data collected by security teams that are operating in the field. By some reports, there are close to a million contract security guards working in the United States alone. The number doubles when taking into account in-house security teams. These astronomical numbers do not include US-based Law Enforcement Agencies nor do they include private security resources operating in the rest of the world. The volume of data generated by these resources is huge. So huge in fact, that it is unmanageable if approached traditionally or in an unstructured manner.

We can agree that having a system to properly gather security data is becoming the norm (yes – we are way beyond the paper and pencil & spreadsheet based approach). With this in mind, systems are not all created equally, as such, in order to properly exploit security data, the system you deploy has to be more than: easy to use, accessible from anywhere, and centralized. In fact, those criteria have become the strict minimum to meet industry/business expectations and standards.

You can judge the effectiveness of your workforce management technology to determine if it has gone beyond the minimum by evaluating how the data is used, with who it is shared and to what extent security decisions are driven by data as opposed to being “best guesses”. Here are some of the signs your reporting software is likely not optimized:

1. Seen strictly as an Operations Tool

The solution, or worse, the data collected from the solution is not used as part of the overall security reporting process. In today’s business environment the most senior security professional such as the Chief Security Officer (CSO), VP or Director of Corporate Security often reports on security and its impact within an organization to the company’s executive on a monthly or quarterly basis. Reports include organization specific metrics, such as, what incidents are trending, which locations are hot spots, what represents a greater threat, what asset is more vulnerable and where could a threat have its biggest impact. In certain structures, corporate governance dictates reporting to the Board of Directors. The goal is to identify what security situation can have material impact on the brand or on the company as a whole. The data collected by your field based teams adds real value to these reports.

2. Having to enter data into Multiple Platforms in order to take advantage of Reporting Capability

The goal should be to have a single integrated platform for all field security resources to enter data into and use for the execution of their tasks. What you want to avoid is having many resources touch multiple systems in order to be able to generate accurate information. The solution should enhance and not detract your field staff. The enhancement can come from documenting patrols, to reporting on incidents, to accessing instructions to being tracked by GPS for safety and efficiency purposes. It should optimize readily available technology that is likely already in your guard force’s hands (such as a smartphone equipped camera, etc.) The technology should improve reports by adding rich information and provide real-time alerts when your operation dictates. It should take advantage of features such as the body camera/wearable trends that we see often in the field that increase officer safety.

3. The end user (the client) and the contract security provider are not both involved in the setup and use of the system

Optimal use of the system requires that the security service provider work hand in hand with the contracting party, the one where security is being delivered. The base or backbone of the system rollout are the contract documents that define the service level agreement. The contract security company should have access to a live dashboard that highlights mutually identified critical deliverables. Simultaneously, the client should have access to a different live dashboard that highlights critical deliverables from their perspective. From the dashboards and the system data it should be easy to extract and create reports that cover measurable security information that is important for both parties. The end user wants to know that his security company is not only generating and harnessing data but they are focused on allocating efforts on improvement versus “bad costs” i.e. turnover. With end-user buy-in the win/win should become obvious.

4. Does not take into account security business needs

The security company has to deliver the right resource to the right place at the right time. In order to do that, there are many moveable parts that need to be addressed. The company has to have access to a customizable interface that includes not only security operations focused functions but also, critical workforce functions such as timekeeping, scheduling, qualifications tracking and efficiency tools. If the security company is properly run and efficient then chances are that the service provided to its clients is considered top notch.

Optimizing a workforce management solution, you will need to account for:

  • Workforce performance (real-time information, real-time GPS, real-time notifications, and checkpoints). – hint: keyword real time!
  • Secured data has to be available from anywhere, lags are not acceptable and uptime has to be
  • The interface should be flexible and readily available on a smartphone, tablet or computer – anywhere where you can connect.
  • The solution should drive customer satisfaction and allow for customizable reports generated by guards who have the information at their fingertips.
  • Reaction by your supervisory staff to personal safety situations should be efficient and prompted by alerts.
  • Advanced reporting and accessible data for comprehensive record generation should support your business and your client’s business should there be an event where a legal situation is encountered.

For a Workforce Management solution to properly harness and use data for security decisions, it has to go beyond the basics and aim to be a standard that is fully integrated into one’s operations and driving the following benefits: Organization, Efficiency, Peace of mind, Competitive edge, Accountability, Performance and be Paperless.