Managers or security specialists?
By Steve W. Ballantyne
Just like many others in the industry, I have seen how the world of security has evolved from the days when the security supervisor/guard in the guard shack out back waited for an incident to respond to. Security consultant and author Charles Sennewald explains that in the past, "little attention was paid to the administrative, managerial, and supervisory aspects of the security industry... and (security practitioners) were becoming highly skilled protection technicians but remained aloof and insensitive to the principles and practices of good management" (2003: Preface). It seems that these skilled technicians had become security specialists first and security managers second. Because of this, Sennewald believes "security executives, as a group, had fallen behind and had become less than whole executives in comparison to others in the corporate structure" (2003: Preface).
By Steve W. Ballantyne
Security consultant D. Cresswell seems to agree, and urges this of
security managers: "It’s hugely important that the security manager
strives to become a key corporate player rather than simply being the
corporate ‘umpire.’ This inevitably means that there’s a considerable
learning curve to be overcome, not in just the acquisition of modern
business management skills but also in becoming intimately conversant
with their business processes, products, markets and short and longer
term strategic goals" (2004:1).
The principles and application of management theory help security
managers and their departments become greater contributors to their
entire organizations. This is true in my experience, and it is
corroborated by security researcher Anthony McGee, who states that the
security department, "without board level interest and activity…will
inevitably lose its power, authority and status within the organization
to other better represented departments" (2006:36).
Sennewald explains that people in other career endeavors such as
finance, marketing, production, research and human resources are
regularly involved in learning management development trends but for
various reasons security managers had not been and that they were too
busy keeping up with elaborate security technology and too "absorbed
with the so-called emergencies and crises, and important
investigations" so much so that "the Security Department had been
content to limit its activities, and sometimes its image, to that of
‘company policeman" (2003:41).
Professor P.J. Ortmier adds that in this modern age, organizations
prefer to employ security managers with training and education in areas
such as general business practices, personnel management, labour
relations, planning and policy formulation in security service rather
than employ those with training just in law enforcement specialties.
Indeed, security management, with a broad managerial viewpoint, is
currently taught in a number of leading post-graduate institutions such
as the University of Leicester and the University of Portsmouth, both
in the U.K. The prestigious Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania
even has a combined ASIS certificate program for security executives on
how to effectively communicate a strong business case for investments
in security to upper level executives. I also firmly believe that in
the near future most MBA programs will be available with security
components and will, as a result, undoubtedly prove quite popular
because the MBA programs can properly prepare security managers, even
if they are security specialists first. Along with learning managerial,
cost cutting and finance skills these management professionals will
also learn to demonstrate how security departments also contribute to
the organization’s bottom line.
A security manager needs to be aware of the ongoing costs of operating
their security departments – whether the organization is a for-profit
corporation, not-for-profit agency, or even a government organization.
Security management consultant Dennis R. Dalton relates a story of
addressing one of the sessions at an ASIS conference on the topic of
business management strategies. He put up a slide that listed six of
the Fortune 100 companies, and then asked attendees to tell him what
each had in common. Some responded by saying all engage in the business
of satisfying their customers. Others even suggested that their
commonality was their inclusion in the Fortune 100.
"After a few more suggestions, I informed them that within the last 12
months all had released their security directors for failure to meet
the business objectives of the firms. In other words, they had failed
to demonstrate their ability as business managers first and security
professionals second" (1995: Preface).
This should be clear warning to Security Managers
Security executive Timothy L. Williams cites that in his upper level
executive security experience at corporations such as Nortel Networks
and Procter and Gamble most security managers actually do poorly in
more complex situations: "It is, however, the absence of the strategic
security thinkers that has proved the most difficult for me to ensure
that my function is valued in the eyes of senior management" (McCrie
2002:73). With this statement, Williams appears to believe his very job
and his department may be at jeopardy for the lack of strategic
security management thinkers on his team.
Should a security manager be a security manager first and a security
specialist second? In my recent research at The University of
Leicester, I have come to this conclusion. Perhaps it is not by chance.
U of L certainly believes in the need for the security manager "first"
as clearly stated in one of its criminology department’s modules: "The
skill required of a security manager is not knowledge of locks and
bolts; it is not the knowledge of CCTV; it is not even knowledge of
criminology or risk; the key skill is the ability to manage" (2007:24).
The skill emphasized here is not the skill of a security specialist but
rather the skills of a security manager.
Can we really run security departments without managers? No. We need
managers with in-depth management knowledge and expertise and I believe
that we are seeing the transition of security from the "watchmen" of
bygone years to the managers of modern times and that the very
existence of the security industry and yes, even the security
specialist, may well depend on security managers being managers first
and security specialists second.
Steve W. Ballantyne has a MSc in
Security and Risk Management. He is a security management consultant
with Securaglobe Solutions Inc. He can be reached at