Crime is a concern for nearly all enterprises today. It can harm operations, assets, people and profits. And the random outbreaks of public violence currently occurring amplify physical security concerns. Therefore it is prudent to periodically reassess your approach to what is called ‘the most fundamental aspect of protection’, namely electronic physical security. If you are a manager, are you asking yourself questions like these:

• How do I best secure my operations and people?
• What technology should I use and who are the best suppliers?
• Can I find a solution that is easy and effective to use?
• How do I make system choices which future-proof me?
• How will I maintain this system and my training?

If you are, you may really be saying: “We need a good security systems integrator.” How do you find one? By first asking another question: “What makes a good security system integrator”. In this article we will endeavor to provide an answer.

What is a Security Systems Integrator?

A security systems integrator by definition specializes in bringing together subsystems into a whole and ensuring that those subsystems function together. When the goal is physical security, those subsystems might be video surveillance, access control, intrusion, emergency notification, computer networks, and more. Some security suppliers have established business simply on the procurement and installation of systems predefined by others. More fully developed are considered ‘design-build’ integrators. However the most capable security integrator is a full service provider capable of supporting your operations in every phase of the security system lifecycle:

 Security risk or needs assessments,
 System engineering and design for the major technologies,
 Broad access to the leading product lines,
 Custom engineering when required,
 Alternate investment options,
 Procurement, staging, installation, commissioning and training,
 Full lifecycle service and maintenance,
 System functional and technology upgrades.

A client who selects an integrator fully capable in all the above can then take advantage of his unique perspective on what are the key ingredients for successful development of a physical security program that is supportive of a healthy enterprise.

Working with a full service security provider also reinforces quality. Consider why this is so. If, for instance, the integrator offers long term service and maintenance for the system he installs, then both the service provider and the customer are motivated that the design should be solid and the installation of high quality. And if the integrator can offer attractive long term financing, even operational leases, then he again has a further stake in the caliber of the security provided.

It is also evident that some continuity and economy is gained by having the same people cognizant as the solution develops from concept to implementation. The end result will more likely be that what you have realized as a solution is the most productive answer to the security needs identified during concept development.

Consider the Alternative.

Examine what often occurs with new building construction or major remodels. In this scenario many security systems are installed as a subsystem in a project defined by a general architect and contractor. It is almost impossible for the architect and engineers to be on top of every aspect of modern building systems, especially electronic security which is a $70B industry with serious developments annually.

To compensate general A&E’s often rely on a variety of outside technical resources which can include consultants of varying capability as well as major supplier technical representatives. Particularly when relying only on vendor input the finished system design can suffer the lack of well integrated features and value selection of components. And if the A&E is not putting sufficient effort into the design but relying on little more than cut and paste details from other specifications the resulting documentation often presents an incoherent and deficient design for the installer. Symptomatic of the problem is that within construction bid packages the technical details of the physical security are often interspersed across different specification trade division codes (i.e. Division 15,16, 26,27 and 28) and drawing set classifications.

Additionally, if the security package is successively subcontracted once or twice (as often occurs) the contracted solution may be distorted even further compared to the original intent. Similarly the results can suffer as the winning low cost bidder struggles to render a working system from an incoherent specification without losing money. It doesn’t occur too often but some procurers in this process will take pride in having obligated a lowest cost bidder by contract to the task of wringing a full solution from an incomplete design. This often is a ‘win the battle and lose the war’ situation which rarely ends up being the desired solution for the client enterprise.

For the above reasons it is not uncommon for an enterprise to elect to obtain its security solution independent – to some degree – of the general construction process.

What is the Solution Development Process With a Full Service Systems Integrator?

Risk Assessment. Your integrator should be able to assist or guide you in this first step toward development of a security solution. The industry standard for this is the ASIS 7-step general security risk assessment guideline. The guideline defines a process which starts with identification of assets and risk events and ends with a solution cost benefit analysis. Properly done the end product is not only the security you want and need but a documented rationale for the investment.

Financial Options. Similar to many internal enterprise processes the best electronic security solution is sometimes planned to be phased-in over time to give the client the best possible security function progressively. Nonetheless a full service integrator enables you to tailor acquisition of enhanced security in a manner which meets your needs. As an example, reasonably priced capital leases can push the cash flow impact of security into outer years. Due to current accelerated tax depreciation in effect these leases can in some instances reduce the net cost below that of an outright purchase. If a full service integrator has the internal resources – service fleet, repair department, stocked inventory, etc. – to maintain their installed systems they may also offer and administer operational lease programs to the security solutions they provide. These leases differ from capital leases in that ownership of the physical security equipment is retained by the service provider yet the site installation and its sustained operability is available as a monthly service fee.

Design. The functional design should clearly define for the end user the extent of the solution’s protection. It may involve multiple technologies for the most effective solution. Minimizing the burden placed on general staff to maintain security and respond to emergencies should typically be a demonstrable objective.

Value driven component selection may require a number of different supplier sources. Exterior components will be weatherproof, interior components will be vandal and wear resistant as needed. System operation will be well protected from the dangers of tampering, surges, electrical strikes, etc. as well as single points of failure if possible. A good design will not dead-end the customer but position the delivered security solution for adaptation to meet anticipated future needs. Good designs may even enhance as well as protect enterprise and site operations.

Installation & Commissioning. The installation should conform to and even exceed state and federal regulations and guidelines and be performed by licensed personnel as required. The installation should be safe for all onsite, reflect excellent workmanship and conduct should be courteous and respectful to all involved. System configuration should be performed by individuals with good system knowledge. The end user training should be complete enough to address at least typical daily tasks and provide them the resources they need to reinforce the training and administer further if required. This is most likely provided by a resource positioned to be a partner in meeting your security needs.

System Maintenance and Service. The overarching goal is to maintain the operability of your security solution with the same effectiveness experienced as it was commissioned. But electronics degrade and fail and sites often continuously require system tweaks as they grow. A good service program will make available to you certified service personnel as well as standard and emergency response times you can depend on. The best providers will often maintain stock for repair and loan and even have inhouse bench repair capability for rapid, cost effective turn around. And if you have outgrown your security systems or they are generally showing their age a good provider can offer mid-life upgrades and/or ‘system refreshes’ which progressively secure your operations and people.

Enterprise Security is Not A Commodity.

Why is enterprise physical electronic security more than just a commodity to be procured? Because the security risks are multiple, varied and changing. Some which occur infrequently are the most potentially damaging. An outside perspective developed from meeting a variety of client needs can help prioritize. The current solution state of the art is technical, multidisciplinary and rapidly evolving. There is not a consumer protected design-bid-build process which guarantees success. Only a subset of security industry service providers are equipped and positioned to reliably assist you from needs development through to system maintenance.

What is at stake in selecting a quality service provider for electronic security? The very stability of your day to day operations, the well being of personnel, even the freedom to productively focus on an enterprises success. Good reasons to do it well. ■

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