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Secure at the right price

Bill Freear, group managing director, Pilgrims Group, explains which criteria should take priority when FMs are deciding which security partner offers best value for money.

As a professional, I’ve learned over the years that there are many different ways of buying in a security service, but many FMs tasked with this (along with so many other areas of responsibility), are unsure which criteria should take priority. You may be asked to make decisions based on value for money, but how cost effective is your security solution, when you are often not comparing like with like? 

As with many other areas, price is a key factor but you need to consider which other criteria will help you decide which supplier is right for you. Also, think through security as a whole, and don’t underestimate the power and value of ‘interlocal’ expertise. This is where specialist companies operating internationally also have a superb local network in countries where you may also operate, giving them invaluable up-to-the minute local knowledge as well as a wider security perspective and connections to a global network.

Here are the key areas which, from my experience and along with price, need to be considered:

» Technical capability – This is important, but not the be-all and end-all. It is essential that the needs of clients are clearly understood and that technology is bespoke and capable of achieving the desired results. It is often the case that technology is sold to end users without the end users benchmarking or even truly understanding the proposed solution and therefore setting sufficient time to project manage and implement would be a good starting point.

» Operational management proactivity – Many contractors simply firefight and only engage with clients in the event that there is a problem, and even then will often prioritise the problems faced, delaying permanent resolution by putting in a temporary fix that, if not followed up, becomes a problem again. Others will provide all the reassurances needed and then promptly put the problem to the bottom of the pile until really pushed to resolve and usually it’s a case of those that shout loudest getting the attention. Is that acceptable to you and, if not, how have you ensured that the supplier has sufficient and credible resources? A relevant and supportive management structure from the supplier, and pro- activeness of the supplier to ensure FMs have the most up-to-date supply of information on legislation and new industry practice is also important.

» Company resources and support structures – The contractor’s management teams responsible for managing the contract may be portrayed as sufficient in terms of numbers but, in reality, are often inadequate. There are many companies who will make assurances about the availability and pro-activeness of their teams, but the truth is that some of these managers will have portfolios of 50-100 sites and this challenges that statement of intent against what actually happens on the ground. Clearly having a large number of sites to manage will leave shortcomings in availability and proactivity and it doesn’t take long to figure the time availability of those stretched resources.

» Training and company accreditations – Ensuring that security officers are fully prepared for their role is another area that merits attention as the majority of companies will provide personnel that have no other training than their SIA basic job training and, in many instances, very little direction from their employers other than reference to often limited assignment instructions. Whilst companies will talk about additional training and workshops, the question those making choices should ask is ‘Where is the live evidence of any training and what are the positive results of such training?’ Within the UK all contracted security officers have to hold an SIA (Security Industry Authority) licence and have that licence displayed when at work. This makes the checking of individuals straightforward in that licences can be inspected. It is important that employers make regular checks to ensure individuals have not had their licence withdrawn and should form part of the robust administration process of any supplier.

» Reporting – Another important area, which is regularly neglected by suppliers, with limited resources and low prioritisation, is the reporting of true performance of the contractor over and above key performance indicators which can often be fairly basic in detail. Is the contractor reporting everything and indeed are they aware of everything occurring on the site? If they are under resourced and unable to demonstrate in detail that they have full awareness and control of site activity, providing bespoke and useful reports, is this sufficient for delivering a quality service?

These key areas will help facilities managers to ensure that they have the best opportunity of choosing a supplier that is more likely to perform and exceed the contract requirements; an essential element of this is testing the supplier’s statements of intent and their facts and figures.

Bidding companies will, of course, always put forward an aspirational ‘best face’ of their business and practices, regardless of any truth in the words they speak and the documents submitted. But due diligence from those procuring these services will ensure that their chosen contractors can truly deliver what they say they can, and deliver true value for money.

For more information about security services, visit: www.pilgrimsgroup.comwww.sia.homeoffice.gov.uk

 The Importance of ongoing training

The private security industry in the UK has seen reducing margins over the last decade and the result of this has been a reluctance for many companies to invest in their people. One of the effects of low margins is a lack of investment in security personnel, with minimal training, low morale, reduction in performance and increased risks. The challenge facing the security industry is to bridge the gap between low margins, and the need to invest in security personnel.

Often security personnel have little or no additional security training once their initial Security Industry Authority (SIA) basic job training is completed. It can prove difficult to take site based security personnel away from their places of work to provide training as it is a costly activity which, without client investment, is unlikely to happen. Regular site based workshops and briefings on legislative change have an important part to play. I believe, however, that this needs to be enhanced through more structured and ongoing training programmes. One of the most cost effective measures producing excellent results is the investment in distance learning packages. Pilgrims has been delivering award winning E-Learning training and has demonstrated positive results to both security personnel and clients.

Pilgrims has also committed to a new 45,000 sq ft Training Academy which will provide delegates with what we believe to be the most advanced corporate safety and security training centre in the UK. Underpinning this facility will be an E-Learning team, including several graphic designers.

Investment into and training of our security personnel is achievable and this investment will ensure better capability and morale in teams facing a challenging future.

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