Many organizations design their security program from the perspective that it’s just another cost of doing business. Money you have to spend so the rest of the business can do its work in peace.
But there’s a much more constructive way to think about security. If you make the effort to align your physical security operations with your business goals, your security can become an actual competitive advantage.
What Actually Is a Competitive Advantage?
It can be any activity that puts your business ahead in the marketplace. A training program that makes staff more productive, a branch office in a prime location, a new hire with specialized skills, or high-value tools, like a new security system.
Transform Physical Security From a Cost Center into a Cost Saver
In many cases the advantage that better security creates is what’s called cost avoidance. Meaning the security system has a bunch of intangible effects on performance that help you avoid increased expenses. Like less theft this quarter, less vandalism the next, and over time the savings add up.
However, better security systems can also create much harder cost savings through automation. For example, if you have a staff member devoting 50% of their time to record keeping for compliance, the automated logging and reporting many electronic key, asset, and access management systems perform lets you assign them to more productive work.
So how do you put new security practices and technologies in place that do this?
4 Step Security Alignment Quick Guide
We’ve found that this fairly straightforward assessment process works equally well for designing a new program or for reevaluating the tools and systems you already have in place.
1) Define Your Security Goals
Start by outlining your organization’s essential operations. This is best undertaken by including leadership and departmental stakeholders to get their perspectives.
What’s mission critical? If every component were threatened at once, how should your organization prioritize their protection? What would be the financial impact of each operation’s loss—near, mid, and long term?
As an example, an IT-focused business probably prioritizes protecting its data center over its service vehicle fleet. Or vice versa, if the business relies on strong customer service and its operations are IT-light, keeping vehicles up and running might be the priority.
Remember that priorities shift over time, and you should expect to periodically revisit them. If change is expected in your organization, it can pay to build upon security systems designed for adaptability.
2) Identify Your Largest Vulnerabilities
Once you’ve identified your key assets and processes and prioritized them against your overall goals, it’s time to identify vulnerabilities. This also benefits from stakeholder input. Consider potential vulnerabilities at your perimeter, including access control measures for staff, contractors, and visitors. Then consider internal areas, assets, and processes.
Internal threats to businesses are unfortunately very common, so make sure to consider your vulnerability to threats both coming in through your perimeter and those trying to get out.
3) Help Leadership See Security as a Strategic Business Priority
Encourage this kind of thinking. Involving stakeholders and leadership in this process often has the added benefit of breaking down traditional corporate silos, especially the ones that keep security separate from the rest of a business’s operations. Non-security teams often find new efficiencies through the processes and technologies you thought you were considering just for security.
A finance department might find value in access control logs that verify contractor hours on site when paying out contractors or negotiating new contracts. HR might find those same access control logs, as well as key and asset transaction logs, valuable as evidence in disciplinary meetings. The IT team can look at asset transaction logs to get hard data on just how often specific laptops or tablets are used. Or to find out who last used the corporate laptop that now mysteriously has a cracked screen.
4) Don’t Just Look for a Security Vendor, Identify a Security Business Partner
Once you’ve identified which technologies you need to meet your goals, invest some time in a thorough vendor search. You’ve taken the time to truly understand your priorities, so you want to work with a security solutions provider that will do the same. That will make them function as a full business partner.
Do they offer training? What support levels do they offer after installation? Taking the time to find a partner that can stand beside you will generate a true competitive advantage for the long term.
This is just a starting point. There are as many ways to generate advantages through security as there are businesses. Learn how real-time security technology can generate a competitive advantage for your organization:
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on July 6, 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.