Here's how physical security teams can integrate with the business to identify better solutions to security problems.

Tom Kopecky, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder, Ontic

May 27, 2022

5 Min Read
"Keep out" sign
Source: Tom Grundy via Alamy Stock Photo

The responsibilities of physical security teams have expanded well beyond traditional security roles. However, these security teams all too often are seen only as a cost center instead of being recognized as risk management professionals who can help move the business forward in areas far beyond "guns, guards, gates, and locks."

The same knowledge, skills, and abilities that help your security team excel when dealing with high-stress, high-anxiety physical security risks and threats can be focused to help confront other risks your business is facing. In fact, your team may already have significant knowledge and skills to handle risks that may not fall directly within the physical security realm, such as insider threats, third-party risks, cybersecurity risks, operational risks, and personnel issues.

Here are some tips to help security leaders reimagine how physical security teams can integrate with other business areas to find better solutions to the security problems their organizations are facing.

Connect With the Business to See the Big Picture
Expanding collaboration with counterparts in other business divisions — specifically, HR, legal, information technology, compliance, and risk management — can help security teams connect their day-to-day contributions to the larger goals and successes of the organization. It's pretty clear that when we connect security to the organization’s larger risk management strategy, the organization will be able to leverage the unique perspective of physical security risk managers to find effective solutions to other problems. It starts, as with many major improvements, with conversations across the organization among multiple stakeholders.

Indeed, it’s crucial for the engagement between security and its counterparts to be a two-way dialogue. When there is mutual understanding between the physical security team and other counterparts in the organization, that knowledge can motivate all sides to find more common-sense solutions and compromises that everyone can get behind.

Learn Something New
How much does your team know about other areas of the business or about the industry? In some cases, having additional knowledge and skills could be the difference between managing risks with a business-as-usual mindset and creating an innovative solution that could save your team time and resources. Encourage your teams to learn new skills, get training to accomplish a goal, or explore new tools helps keep everyone engaged and looking at their work with fresh eyes. Even a few hours spent learning a new skill in an online learning platform like LinkedIn Learning or Udemy can create enormous time and resource savings. Where possible, create opportunities for individuals to share their knowledge with others to reinforce their own learning and help motivate more growth throughout the team.

Use Technology More Effectively
Physical security teams are investing more resources in technology solutions that help identify and monitor threats, streamline and automate workflows, and protect personnel and resources. These solutions should ultimately make your team more efficient and effective, but that's possible only if team members understand a tool's features and know how to use them correctly. The right technology can provide a tactical advantage and instill greater confidence in times of uncertainty.

Encourage your team to spend time learning about the technology products they use, as well as the most efficient and effective ways to use them. In addition, use these opportunities to consider how the information and data your team is collecting could assist others within the organization. Many security-focused tools and platforms contain useful data and features that other departments would find valuable as they work to manage similar threats or investigate emerging problems. Ensuring that data and tools are shared with the appropriate stakeholders could save your organization money and your team time.

Demonstrate Value
As security teams have taken on more responsibility and managed a more comprehensive threat landscape, they have increasingly sought a seat at the executive decision-making table. While those in executive protection may naturally have greater access and be received more readily by those at the top, at too many organizations, the physical security team is still viewed through the antiquated lens of a cost center, solely focused on physical safety and security threats.

While upskilling the staff and integrating the security team into broader risk management functions will help the security team get its seat at the table, It's critical for security teams to create metrics that measure their activities, develop baselines, and document improvements over time. This can be challenging for physical security teams that successfully prevent problems — after all, it’s difficult to prove your team is effective and valuable if nothing happens — but it is possible.

I'll give you an example that came up in a recent discussion of security professionals hosted by Ontic. A security team initiated a conversation with its real estate and risk management team and found that they tracked metrics on the financial impact to the organization when and if specific buildings saw their operations disrupted. What’s more, a few buildings suffered from a disproportionate number of false fire alarms that disrupted operations. The security team worked with others to swap smoke detectors for heat sensors, resulting in a drastic reduction in false alarms. This resulted in a documentable reduction in costs to the organization.

Physical security teams can (and should) be much more than a cost center. By focusing efforts on training, collaboration, and value demonstration, physical security teams' reach and impact will help move the organization forward.

About the Author(s)

Tom Kopecky

Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder, Ontic

Tom Kopecky oversees corporate strategy while leading a team of security intelligence experts that develop protective intelligence programs and support clients in maximizing the economic value of Ontic. He also lends his many years of experience in protective intelligence and threat assessment to the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence. Prior to Ontic, Kopecky founded two boutique service firms that focused on global threat assessment and security consulting, as well as intelligence collection for both litigation support matters and protective security applications.

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