How to complete a security transition successfully

by FM Media
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SUE CARTLEDGE investigates the possible pitfalls of changing from one security provider to another and discusses how these can be avoided.

The change from one security provider to another is a major challenge for any organisation, and needs to be well-planned and executed to achieve a seamless transition. What are the possible pitfalls, and how can these be avoided?
Three key elements to successfully transitioning a contract identified by Michael Hunter, business development manager at Kastle; Mike Mulvihill, operations director of Five D; and a collective group of ISS security staff and facilities managers are:

  • comprehensive risk management
  • detailed communication with all participants, and
  • ongoing relationship management between the client and provider.

The ISS security staff and facilities managers spoken to describe it as a simple PER model – process, engagement and risk. They note that it is important to plan for:

  • process – a rigid planning and reporting process to the transition will reduce ambiguity
  • engagement – a structured stakeholder communications plan will ensure the broader stakeholder group is engaged and prepared, and
  • risk – a dedicated transition risk management plan is critical for identifying and treating risks specific to the transition.

They add that the key steps to a successful transition include:

  • understanding the major transition risks, including transfer of knowledge and on-site relationships
  • determining key decision-makers
  • setting specific goals and objectives
  • defining a realistic timeline with definable measures
  • actively supervising the transition through weekly monitoring meetings, and
  • using well-established reporting tools to monitor the transition holistically.

A risk management plan should identify possible security issues that may arise during transition. “The best way to avoid risk is by understanding from the outset what the risks are and developing well-documented risk mitigation strategies to deal with them,” say the interviewed ISS security staff and facilities managers.
Mulvihill, however, warns that a risk management plan is not a silver bullet. “Even with the best systems and processes in place, it is still possible to miss some important matter that can create havoc on the day of go live. As long as this is understood and the transition process is flexible enough to cater for any last minute emergencies, the organisation will be well-placed for a successful go live.”
He also advocates the carrot and stick approach to risk management. “Ideally, there should also be some risk/reward mechanism that financially rewards exceptional performance, while on the other side penalises poor performance. A profit at risk mechanism can help and puts some ‘skin in the game’ by the service provider.”

Key to transition planning is comprehensive communication at all levels of the company, says Mulvihill. “A detailed communications plan should be pitched at various levels within the client organisation to ensure everyone is aware of when the change is to occur, what it means to them and what they need to do in preparation for the change. It is also important to include external parties that need access to a property, such as waste management, mail delivery and couriers, so there is no confusion at go live.”
Hunter agrees that communication between client and provider is crucial at all stages in the transition and provision of security services. “There must be communication with all the stakeholders, and cooperation between the outgoing and incoming providers must be developed and encouraged to ensure a smooth transition,” comments an ISS facilities manager. “Ensuring the employees who are transitioning are kept informed will also minimise potential disruption.”
The ISS security staff and facilities managers interviewed emphasise that communication must also include knowledge transfer. “As transitioning out of an incumbent security provider may result in change of on-site security personnel, it is critical the incoming security provider facilitate the transfer of on-site knowledge through the development of an effective procedural framework, on-boarding and site training of new staff.”

“A good working relationship between client and provider is vital to the smooth functioning of the security contract. You will get the best service by working closely with the service provider and developing the relationship by having regular meetings, reviewing service reports for quality and performing quality of service audits to identify issues prior to them turning into large issues that absorb a lot of time to work through,” Mulvihill says.
Hunter agrees, saying an ongoing relationship between client and security provider, based on understanding the client’s needs and the services the supplier is providing, is essential to the smooth functioning of any security contract.

Overlaps in service can be avoided by careful planning before and during the transition process. Determine a specific date and time for the switch to occur, and provide for a suitable handover prior to the date. During the planning phase of the transition it is important that both service providers clearly articulate the process to transition. For the incumbent supplier, this plan will be based on the transition out process.
“Both providers must coordinate with the facilities manager on the handover of services process for day one, with the facilities manager facilitating a services handover planning meeting between all three parties and mapping both transition in and transition out plans to the needs of the facility,” an ISS facilities manager concludes.

Sue Cartledge is managing editor of CONTEXTualise editorial services.

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