Do your guests check out?
Controlling who comes and goes from an office building over the course of a day is something most organizations wish they had a better handle on. Who is in the building and for how long? What areas are they visiting? Do they have an escort the whole time they are in the building and do they sign out with an escort?
By Jennifer Brown
All good questions but in many cases few have all the answers at their fingertips.
They were questions Dan Watters wanted answered when he went looking for a visitor management system a few years ago. The resource protection officer for Kanata, Ont.-based communications provider Mitel was looking to bring the company out of the paper log era and create a system he could more easily track from his desktop.
“Originally, we had the old sign in logs where the visitor would come to the desk, their escort would sign their name, enter the time — all done manually. Essentially what we have done is remove all that so we have no more logs on the desk anymore — it’s all software based,” says Watters.
By moving to a computer-based system Watters has a more streamlined system for visitor management that provide more accurate and readily-accessible data.
“In the past, if we were trying to find when someone was here we’d have to bring out a stack of log books and you couldn’t even make out some of the handwriting in some cases, which made it very difficult. With this system we can find someone within seconds — who they were here to see and dates and times.”
Mitel went with Ottawa-based Site-Secure after Watters saw a demonstration of the product at a conference.
“I was intrigued by it and they were able to tailor some of it to my specifications which helped a lot — that’s one of the biggest reasons I went with Site-Secure — if I needed a small change here or there they were willing to do it,” says Watters.
Because the Mitel building in Kanata is also home to several other tenants, Watters was looking for something to not only get a better handle on traffic arriving to see Mitel personnel but also assist tenants with their visitor management.
“We have two systems here — the employee system which includes an identification badge and turnstiles — actual physical barriers where they have to swipe their badge. With just that traffic we have 500,000 transactions a year in our headquarters. We’ve also processed 9,100 people through the Site-Secure system annually,” he says.
The Mitel turnstiles aren’t currently integrated with Site-Secure but could be if Watters chose to do so.
Now, when a visitor arrives, they report to the front desk and if they have been pre-registered by the employee at the company, all of their pertinent information should be registered in the visitor management system.
On the Resource Protection portion of the Mitel Intranet there is a link that allows employees to pre-register guests through Site-Secure.
“It’s a web-based interface that asks the name of the person, where they are coming from and when they are expected. The staff at the desk can see a tab for guests expected and if someone uses the Site-Secure visitor management they will view them in the ”˜expected guests’ area for that day and see how many total guests are expected,” says Watters.
When the guest arrives, the person staffing reception just clicks the tab to “sign in” and the visitor is asked for their vehicle information. “An access card can then be issued which allows them a little more freedom within the facility or, if they need an escort, we issue them an escort badge and call the person they are here to see to come down and get the visitor,” says Watters.
The visitor can provide either their business card or driver’s licence to be scanned. “It doesn’t keep any personal information, all it retrieves is first and last name and photo from the driver’s licence. That gets stored on our system — through the scanner devices connected to Site-Secure,” explains Watters. “For a business card it retains all information for future visits.”
The system can also be set up to send out an e-mail invitation to visitors who might be arriving in a few days, which provides them with a printable card they can present at reception upon their arrival. The bar code on the card can be read with a scanner at reception and it speeds registration.
Any visitor who is signed in through Site-Secure can be tracked by Watters through the system during their stay.
“I can call it up on my screen and see who is in the building, what company they are from, who their contact is here and when they came in and that remains on the screen until they are signed out,” he says. “When it comes to be six o’clock and the person signed in at 7 a.m. we might start to wonder if the person is still here and follow up.”
Increasingly, clients want to refer to a watch list to track exactly what date and time people are coming and going and if they are staying too long in their buildings, says Larry Tourville, senior programmer with Site-Secure.
The company, which has partners in Toronto and Montreal, serves customers largely in the government sector, research facilities and increasingly in the high-tech market. Site-Secure is installed at the House of Commons, the Senate, Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Pearson International Airport in Toronto.
Typically, Site-Secure deals with security managers, directors, facilities operation people and increasingly, the IT departments of large companies looking to create a system to control the flow of people from their organizations.
In Watters’ situation, as the Mitel building is a multi-tenant facility he handles the security for some of the other tenants and that is also common.
“They will ask us to tailor some of this for them and ask for stats on how many guests did they have this month?, or did this person come in?, and we can give that information to them very quickly,” Tourville says.
Visitor management is becoming a larger issue for many companies, beyond just knowing who is in the building and when they left. Tourville says companies are asking for a means to also track the assets visitors bring into their buildings.
“What we see is they want to track items coming in and out. So if I bring a laptop into your building they want to know that and they want to have something to track prohibited items such as cellphones, cameras — things like that not permitted in certain high-security environments,” says Tourville. “It’s like a coat check at the door.”