CS @ 40: The new normal
When I look back at the most significant changes in the security industry over the past several decades, two trends stand out: the rise in public and corporate awareness of security as a retail service to be consumed, and the growing sophistication of some institutional consumers of security services.
Forty years ago, few had a home security system and crime prevention was not a common topic of discussion in the corporate world. Now both are ubiquitous.
Public and corporate perceptions of safety, crime and victimization have resulted in a larger and more specialized security industry, even though reported crime has been declining in Canada for quite some time. Now we expect to see uniformed security personnel and CCTV in public and private spaces and access control in corporate and government offices.
Also driving the demand for services are medium and large entities that are now more aware of risk, liability and the negative impacts to their brand so are more likely now to hire security consultants and private investigators to nip emerging problems in the bud before they get out of hand or create a real threat in the workplace. These demands for service mean there is a growing need for specialist security, risk and investigation firms to step in to fill evolving needs in the market.
More recently there has been a shift in the nature of the demand for services as some consumers have more sophisticated expectations of security services and vendors. It is more common now to see organizations create senior administration positions such as Chief Security Officer and the person behind the desk is more likely now to have a related graduate degree and a depth and breadth of experience and knowledge that makes them a demanding and well informed client of their security vendor.
These clients now expect vendors to arrive with complex, integrated solutions, sophisticated KPI’s and be able to demonstrate ROI. Rather than talk about guard hours per week, they want to see the demonstrable impact and outcomes of those hours. Efficiencies, automation and the use of bots are becoming the new norm. Some vendors are unprepared for this new reality, have a hard time adapting or now find themselves shut out of some opportunities.
Others see the opportunity and have shifted their team, internal systems and culture to focus on innovation, metrics and value-added service.
Security systems are now “smart,” personnel are better trained and services not seen twenty years ago are the new norm. While some of these changes are driven by vendors and the regulatory environment, others are driven by a rising number of well informed and discerning consumers who are no longer content with the old way of doing business.
What remains to be seen is how the industry will continue to evolve and what aspects of the industry will slowly disappear. While “basic” security services will always exist, some staff will be replaced by security systems, algorithms and bots. Vendors slow to adapt or lacking vision will lose ground or be absorbed by more agile, forward-thinking firms.
At the same time, some vendors realize that they now need a very different group of client-facing managers and leaders with credentials, complex knowledge and competencies in problem solving and enterprise security risk management to meet new and sophisticated client needs.
I hope that more security firms rise to this level. It will lead to higher pay, better credentials and greater professionalization of the larger industry. I believe that while many in the industry think they can meet these evolving client needs, in fact they lack the complexity to compete on a level that is becoming the new norm. By virtue of vision, resources and sheer will to thrive, I fear only a few will rise to meet the challenge. I hope I am proven wrong.
Mark LaLonde is the Chief Safety Officer at Simon Fraser University (www.sfu.ca).
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Canadian Security.
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