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Maintaining Security in a Down Economy

MANY SECURITY directors in corporations being hit by the current economic downturn are being asked to do more with less.

Don Walker, CPP, chairman of Chicago-based Securitas Security Services USA and co-chair of ASIS International’s CSO Roundtable, says that about two-thirds of security heads whom he’s dealt with have been asked to reduce costs. Among the first budget line items to get cut are traveling and attending unnecessary meetings. After that, some more difficult decisions have to be made on what expenses to eliminate.

One traditional way to do more with less is to turn to equipment as a way to keep personnel costs down. Daniel Consalvo, CPP, corporate security manager of State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Illinois, has implemented technology such as surveillance cameras and Segways to enhance efficiency without adding staff.

Other organizations are taking a more restrained approach to equipment purchases. On both the physical and IT security fronts, experts are saying that companies are trying to limit upgrades and get the most use out of existing equipment.

Fredrik Nilsson of Sweden-based Axis Communications says that his company is seeing an uptick in encoder sales because encoders allow end users to connect the company’s legacy analog cameras to a digital network.

And although Frost & Sullivan reports that video surveillance spending continued to increase through 2008, Nilsson says customers are being more conservative by trying to cover more ground with fewer cameras or taking a step-by-step approach in building CCTV systems.

One security director taking this approach is Kort Dickson of Perdue Farms Inc. in Salisbury, Maryland. His company is laying the groundwork for a CCTV system that will eventually include more than 40 cameras, but he started the project by installing just four cameras and the head-end equipment.

Dickson also handles a smaller budget by spreading a project’s costs throughout the organization rather than have the entire price borne by the security department. For example, each location pays for its share of the CCTV system, but security directs the project.

On the IT side, John Bambenek, a handler at the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Center, says there is a re-tasking of existing tools where possible and a trend away from buying new sophisticated network monitoring equipment. He also says companies are employing personnel to monitor anomalies and using open source devices that are less expensive.

Timothy J. Scott, CPP, global director of security at Dow Chemical Company, based in Midland, Michigan, says his company is leveraging security personnel across sites rather than concentrating them in corporate security. That way, the people at the sites are becoming global experts, and the company can take advantage of their expertise and experience. This approach cuts down on the need for more personnel in corporate security and provides more efficiency to customers, according to Scott.

David Harrold, CPP, CISSP, security director for the electronic solutions business of Nashua, New Hampshire-based BAE Systems, says his company has been preparing for decreased resources for years now. One of its major strategies has been to ingrain security throughout the business, not just in the security department.

BAE has many compliance and regulatory responsibilities. Instead of taking a “cop” approach and constantly auditing, Harrold says, his group coaches nonsecurity staff on both physical and IT security requirements.

Harrold warns that it’s not easy to change a culture of security. “Anybody can save money by cutting resources, cutting nonsecurity staff,” he says. “But if you don’t have the right amount of time to think about the cost benefit of that or think about places where you can build efficiency,” you could do more harm than good. He notes that “some of the efficiencies that we’ve gained over time, they were just impossible to do overnight.”

Another tactic Consalvo and Harrold are using is having a contract security service take on additional tasks such as manning lobby posts and shuttle driving, which is cheaper than hiring full-time staff members. But Consalvo says that a company has to build up trust with a vendor before outsourcing such responsibilities.

Walker notes that in these tough economic times it’s important for security directors to make themselves indispensable to the company. They can do so “by assuming more responsibility and finding ways that they can assist in the company’s management going forward by maybe picking up additional fire responsibilities or safety responsibilities,” he says.

Walker also recommends that security directors highlight in reports to upper management the security department’s efforts at cost savings and effectiveness. For example, the security director could compare the crime incidents at the company with the CAP Index statistics of crime in the geographical area.

“I think the mistake is to hunker down and hope nobody notices you,” says Walker, “because if you do that, then people will eventually say, ‘Hey, what does he do and why do we need him?’”