Managing Large-Scale Security Maintenance Programs

Managing an enterprise security environment is challenging, especially in the government sector.  There are different ways to approach these responsibilities, and investing in an enterprise security maintenance program can yield a clear economic benefit to an organization. Here is more about the rationale, pitfalls to avoid, and how to invest in an effective, large-scale security maintenance program for physical security.

Increased budget pressures and limited resources have caused companies and governments to increase their focus on controlling costs. Justifying expenditures on security infrastructure is always necessary. There are generally two ways to approach enterprise security technology maintenance:

  1. Spend money to fix the immediate problem if and when a system component fails, or
  2. Proactively invest money in a maintenance program to ensure smooth operation of assets.

In the government space, managing mission-critical systems and facilities requires security systems to be fully functional at all times. Government security personnel must not only select and procure the technology but also manage the maintenance effort that keeps the systems operating continuously. The decision on how to maintain the systems generally comes down to a risk management trade-off, and the investment in the maintenance program sometimes is placed on hold if funds are scarce. In a mission-critical environment the resolution time to fully-restored operation is vital. Any downtime is unacceptable, despite unforeseen system problems. Balancing the need to conserve budget funds and maintain mission-critical systems is challenging.

Challenges of a Time and Materials Approach

Consider this example of what can happen without a structured maintenance agreement. An access control system within a large government organization provides access via multiple card readers throughout a campus environment, including at the entrance of each building. If the system unexpectedly malfunctions, the loss of the system can be a major impact to the operation, with significant delays:

  • Work is completed and billed on a Time and Materials (T&M) basis. The work is subject to service provider availability with no priority status in the queue.
  • A technician with proper clearance might not be available immediately.
  • The technician might not be familiar with the building or system configuration.
  • Countless hours of productivity is lost due to employees without access to buildings to perform their duties.

The need for preventative maintenance security expenditures can be easily justified when measured by the risk of downtime in a government agency with mission-critical status. A T&M approach can appear inexpensive on the surface and might work temporarily. But in this example of an unexpected problem with a critical card-reader controlled entrance, the result is unacceptable downtime, and cost is no longer the driving factor from an agency management perspective.

Response Time vs. Time to Fully-Restored Operation

The security industry standard for response time is four (4) hours. This term often does not address how quickly the problem is resolved, but rather how quickly a technician must arrive to the facility. The defect-correctable” response time denotes when the system is fully operational again. A practical goal in a high-security, mission-critical environment is often “fully-restored operation” in less than one (1) hour, which requires a robust maintenance program.

Maintenance Agreement Checklist

A security manager might want to consider this when evaluating how to manage and procure maintenance for a large-scale government physical security system:

  • Response time: Align your performance metrics to your agency mission. Is 4-hour response time adequate, or do you need fully-restored operation faster?
  • Technician certification and government clearance: Identify the level you require based on your site needs. You might consider an on-site technical team from your service provider, consisting of trained, cleared and experienced technicians who know the buildings and systems, can walk the site and test systems daily, anticipate problems and resolve issues quickly.
  • Scalability: Develop a proactive and preventative maintenance program for your unique facility and system needs. As requirements change over time, the program can be adapted.
  • Spare Parts Depot: Keep in inventory onsite one or more of all parts. Regardless of whether systems are under warranty, all spare parts should be available to “plug-in” while awaiting arrival of warranty replacements.

Conclusion

Maintenance programs should be flexible and designed around your unique needs. The program can be evaluated over time by location and/or line-item so that costs can be justified for each actual security system configuration. This allows an understanding of how maintenance costs are calculated and validates the coverage and returns in the agreement. As large enterprises change in size and scope, systems change accordingly, so unit pricing based maintenance agreements may be considered for the benefits of flexibility and scalability.

Building these elements into the overall security plan can establish a good foundation for success. Fast resolution of any security issues can result in minimal impact on the overall operation of the organization.

For more information on Managing Large-scale Security Maintenance Programs, call 1.888.721.6612.


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