An Essential Tool - Customer-centric security operations now require mobility

An Essential Tool

Customer-centric security operations now require mobility

An Essential ToolMobile devices and mobile apps have become a fixture in the lives of people around the globe. They are now beginning to make a profound change in the way CSOs and security directors manage and provide security to their organizations. These devices and apps enable more convenience, more options and more support for customers, management teams, clients, employees, contractors and visitors.

Initially, security systems were tasked with simplifying guarding operations and encompassed a wide range of actions including access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection and fire suppression. As a result, a typical organization developed a large footprint of complex security systems with minimal interaction—either between systems or with customers who were using these systems daily. These diverse systems often included proprietary hardware, complicated user interfaces and expensive maintenance plans.

Newer breeds of applications, such as Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) and Physical Identity and Access Management (PIAM), have improved many of these issues, including features like self-service for end users, audit certification by access area owners, management dashboards, situational awareness and response checklists. This evolution helped elevate security to a senior management level discussion, as it now touched on ROI, efficiency, compliance, customer service and cost reduction.

At the same time, global trends, continuing budget awareness and mobility began are making an impact on security operations. Since 2008, the highly-competitive, budget environment ensures that only those organizations that can successfully focus, adapt and deliver value to their customers can survive—companies like Netflix, Adobe, Amazon, Capital One and Harrah’s.

To thrive, an organization must clearly identify its key customers and deliver near-flawless customer service across all interactions by anticipating customer needs, taking targeted action and responding in real-time.

Historical Trends Provide a Gateway

Around 2008, there was a geometric expansion in the consumer world of mobile devices and applications, providing simple and user-centric functionality. Tasks like making airline reservations or submitting expense reports became automated and simple for the user. These devices had a clean look and feel, a small footprint, and were so intuitive and user-friendly that virtually anyone could use them without any training.

These trends have provided the security industry with insights and a pathway to transform security from a purely operational discipline into one that is customercentric. Leveraging the new breed of applications—PIAM and PSIM—along with mobility not only enhances security operations but also delivers more business value to organizations. Customer-centric security identifies valuable customers and then puts them at the core of its security strategy and day-to-day operations, defining results and outcomes in customer terms.

This is where security directors can take the lead and make a meaningful difference in developing a customer-centric security plan that leverages mobile as a new way to interact with their customers and enhance security operations. A customercentric approach in planning, building and deploying mobile apps for security helps security departments connect with their users and ensures that the final product offers optimal usability, convenience and a superior experience for employees and others. Customer feedback is a key component of every physical security request or transaction, and the integration of a mechanism to allow user feedback will provide the necessary data for management to make ongoing improvements.

For example, customers may request specific functions from their mobile devices, such as physical access approvals or completing NDAs from visitor kiosks, all automated via a mobile app. Well-designed, automation software makes it easy for the customer to make and approve requests, reduces response time, provides auto-notification to the customer upon completion and gives the customer an opportunity to rate the transaction. This increases customer satisfaction while providing information to continually improve the process.

With each transaction, an advanced PIAM application can automatically update each of the many diverse security systems, such as access control and dispatch, while defining results in customer terms like cycle time per request and employee satisfaction ratings. Apps should be developed with support for all leading mobile platforms—iOS, Android and Windows—to make certain that an organization will be able to benefit from every employee’s participation. A responsive design will guarantee support for smart devices of differing sizes and resolutions.

Security Benefits of a Customer-Centric Strategy

The customer-centric approach will improve adoption rates among users. Adoption is vital to the success of the mobility platform; the program becomes more robust as more users participate. A number of productivity gains will begin to become apparent, as well.

For example, security processes will take less time to complete as users are able to capitalize on travel time and other non-productive time which would otherwise be lost. By minimizing approval and other delays, the process becomes more efficient.

Additional benefits include a reduction in program costs by eliminating the need for multiple peripherals, minimizing installation and IT support costs, helping lower total cost of ownership (TCO), and sending out quicker emergency notifications to first responders.

Security and Beyond

Implementing a customer-centric security strategy that enables employees and others to conduct key business functions from any location via mobile devices has the potential to create positive results that travel beyond the security department to make a meaningful difference throughout an entire organization.

If multiple key business functions throughout an organization could download applications critical to their roles from a central repository, it could have a strong, positive impact on personnel satisfaction and productivity. Employees, customers, suppliers and business partners could each choose the appropriate mobile applications for their specific situation.

Beginning with the identification of a small number of critical security requests, for example, quickly registering contractors or vendors arriving at a data center for repairs would enable physical access and tracking of all access requests. Security operations can become more efficient and effective through the development of highly-focused, single-function mobile applications that are designed for simplicity and utility to ensure quick adoption.

Three Possible Outcomes

When customer-centric security applications are as much a part of the organization as they are the consumer mindset, they will drive three optimal outcomes:

Process efficiency. Customer-centric apps enable employees and clients to save time and increase their own efficiency by enabling them to perform activities such as approvals, submissions, analytics and workflows on a mobile device.

One security-centric example of this would be a mobile app that allows data center managers to approve physical access requests by reviewing each request by identity and/or area risk profiles. Another mobile app could allow employees to report a missing or lost ID card, while at the same time automatically and temporarily turning their NFC-enabled smart phone into a physical access credential.

Each use of an app by an employee or visitor would automatically alert security managers to any security policy violations along with remediation steps, or if security requests are not closed within internally-mandated response times.

Productivity gains. Mobility can help achieve the goal of cost reduction by fundamentally re-engineering existing security processes. This is made possible by leveraging embedded features that are already available on mobile devices, like plug-and-play accessories for:

  • Driver’s license scanning for ID verification;
  • location identification to enable an employee to send an alert that identifies his or her location;
  • image/barcode recognition for scanning visitor badges;
  • capturing photographs for badging via cameras;
  • tracking security guard patrols via accelerometer/gyroscope; and
  • near-field communication so the phone can be used as an access credential.

Because these embedded technologies are already available on mobile devices and because the communications infrastructure exists, the investment required to enable these technologies is marginal compared to installing new hardware.

Customer experience. In-app messaging, ratings prompts and surveys make mobile devices excellent tools for gauging how well a security department is delivering services. By gathering real-time feedback from customers while they are using each app, security gets actionable information on what needs improvement, what services to prioritize next and how to justify security spend and budgets.

A visitor management app for mobile devices can empower users to review, approve and/or deny access requests from inside a facility or remotely, and allow visitor self-service check-in and check-out, or front desk administered check-in and check-out via a smartphone or tablet. Reports related to visitors’ activities, hosts’ activities, access requests, etc. can be generated with the click of a button.

Some businesses may be apprehensive about the security of mobile devices with concerns of employees losing their devices or exposing corporate data through poorly secured phones. Today, however, there are extremely effective techniques for encrypting data, locating lost devices, “wiping” sensitive data from stolen or misplaced devices, disabling devices and authenticating users through authorization codes or biometric information, such as fingerprint or iris verification.

Getting the right information to the right person at the right time is critical to the security of an organization. With the exponential growth of mobile devices, access to critical information in real-time and the resolution of business issues while on-the-go have become competitive advantages and game changing assets for security professionals. It is now simple for organizations to extend the reach to all of their physical security solutions. In a world of increasing mobility, security will reap the benefits.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Security Today.

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