Tim Finn’s immortal lyrics find new meaning in this pandemic. The challenges we face pose opportunities for facility managers to become more agile by eradicating complacency in the way we do things moving forward, writes George Moawad.
It was in September last year that NextDC shared details about how it was taking security operations at its data centre beyond the bounds of pure physical security, while also emphasising its desire to ensure a frictionless customer experience (CX). It’s funny how semantics can change in such a short space of time. Prior to February this year, when COVID-19 struck, a frictionless experience for most facilities was all about making the CX easier, faster and better – without compromising security. For NextDC, this meant using Genetec Security Center to manage access control and video surveillance as well as all connected video devices and access points in all its data centres that also include video access control intercoms.
At the time, NextDC’s head of security and customer service spoke about his desire to ensure a secure environment with a streamlined team yet provide exceptional CX from the first swipe of its members’ access cards. Finding the right balance between rigorous access protocols with drive for an optimal, frictionless customer access was high on his priority list. Fast forward to today, however, and facilities are navigating a raft of new challenges as managers try to deliver a new kind of frictionless experience. It’s no longer just about improving the CX. Instead, the priorities are shifting to how to manage and protect the health and well-being of customers and employees in accordance with physical distancing requirements. It’s about shaping new systems, policies and procedures and it means that facilities managers, who were previously laser-focused on reducing inefficiencies and streamlining operations for customers, are now exploring how to build in safeguards and protocol to protect them.
The frictionless experience post COVID-19
Reopening organisations and bringing them up to full speed is inevitably going to be more complicated than people think and will likely involve more friction than previously encountered. Control systems will be at the forefront of the new approach and the possibility of integrating more video and video management technology into security entrances, unified with access control system data, will be more critical than ever. While advanced access control will enhance the security of the buildings, significantly improve operations, and make it as seamless and effortless as possible to help ensure an unencumbered CX, they are also now playing a role in helping to ensure staff and clients’ health and safety.
One facility exploring how to navigate the new normal and all of its risks and limitations is McCormick Place in Chicago (pictured) – North America’s largest convention centre – which was converted to a temporary Field Hospital in April. Facing a wholly new set of challenges as a repurposed facility on the front line of the pandemic, McCormick needed to find ways to better track and report on traffic in and out of the convention centre using its access control system. Within 24 hours, Genetec delivered the Contagion/Contaminant Proximity Report which helped McCormick Place correlate physical proximity of an infected individual with other employees and badged visitors by analysing data by time windows from the access control system. This allowed McCormick Place to proactively advise people of their potential contamination in order to take the appropriate testing and quarantining measures.
Most managers won’t have faced the challenges that McCormick Place did, but will face considerable challenges in the return to a new ‘business as usual’. And in this, there’s little doubt that one of the top concerns will be how to manage occupancy numbers. Security systems will play a significant role here as well, with timely data monitoring applications allowing organisations to count the number of people in a space, visualise the data, and alert employees when occupancy limits are being reached. We also expect to see more facilities leverage the power of a centralised system – one that has the ability to delegate distributed authority. These systems allow for remote management in instances where it makes sense, while empowering different layers of the network – essentially offering both centralised and decentralised authority. This allows FMs to delegate access authorisation decisions to the manager of a space if they are in a better position to make decisions about who is able to enter, but also allow centralised remote management to lock down a facility where required.
On other levels, the concept of frictionless operation will move towards the overall goal of minimising human contact. For example, for organisations for whom video surveillance is essential and who still rely on hard copy media, new processes will need to be actively deployed that allow them to manage and distribute security media and files without the need to involve physical distribution.
In our own facilities, Genetec is working on ways to audit safety and security measures. One very simple example includes having the ability to track how often, and by whom, door handles have been wiped with disinfectant. While it sounds quite straightforward, it’s about improving workplace health and safety, meeting the challenges head on and using technology to ensure compliance. So as we all slowly move back to our facilities, we need to actively explore how to strike the right balance between restricting access, lowering risk and ensuring the convenience of a frictionless experience. With these challenges comes a considerable opportunity for FMs to become more agile by eradicating institutionalised ‘the way it’s always been done’ types of processes. So take the time to actively explore and develop new approaches that’ll work best for the health and safety of your staff and customers and to the financial benefit of your organisation.
Is it an opportunity for a clean slate? Perhaps not, but it’s certainly a chance to rethink things and perhaps, in the process, remove a fraction more of your facility’s points of friction.
George Moawad is ANZ country manager at Genetec.