The more things change, the more they stay the same

Residential Security Handbook 2022: Smart Estate Living Editor's Choice, Security Services & Risk Management, Residential Estate (Industry)

It was French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr who wrote “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. And so, before we peek into the future trends which will be outlined in this issue, I wonder if we might take one step back in order to consider this caution.

That no matter how new the technology, if it does not springboard off a solid foundation of security industry best practice principles, then it may as well be built on quicksand.

The Home Owners’ Association of yet another prestigious estate has been left reeling, having discovered that the expensive security solution in place has not been delivering. Not even close. For my client, the news has had far-reaching implications.

Of real concern is that this is a scenario that I come across repeatedly.

Naturally, what soon follows, is the growing realisation by residents that what the estate website promises, is not what is in place. So, what can and should be done?

I have always recommended that residential estates journey through three phases and I stand by all three. However, it has also become more apparent that the all-important first phase, in fact, consists of two very important foci. Let’s call them Phase 1(a) and Phase 1(b).

Understand exactly what you have

Any business analysis must necessarily begin with a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive understanding of what is currently in place. Of the here and now. Physical security is no exception, meaning that the all-important Phase 1(a) should be an audit. There are two primary reasons for this. An analysis reveals the hidden shortcomings which could potentially result in reputational, financial or physical harm and it saves significant cost in the medium- to long-term.

Therefore, before a single cent is spent on any recommended security upgrade given to any residential estate by any provider, an estate manager needs to stop and tackle this independently.

It is critical to define the specific client environment and understand the external factors, over which there is little control, that may influence it, delve diligently into the matters over which the client has control, determine a baseline risk profile, examine the health and efficacy of all of the current technology resources by conducting field tests, explore the manpower resources, organise the security service into a high-functioning whole and ensure the effective management of the solution.

To do this, an audit will examine physical barriers, test and document the network infrastructure, study the outer perimeter, the inner perimeter, access and egress, examine the maintenance processes in place and finally, understand the degree to which there is cohesive command and control of the property (which includes monitoring).

Sounds simple enough. Yet the process is complex. Scrutinising an estate’s security pertains to manpower and to technology and to the processes which integrate the two. Good security is, was and always will, stand on that three-legged pot. Therefore, the analysis will be of a complex set of systems and subsystems, meant to integrate proactively and cohesively into something that should deliver more than any one aspect could on its own.

As a rule of thumb and this also applies to small estates, if an audit report is not in place yet – and I am referring to a good 250 pages as an absolute minimum – then the estate is not yet ready to proceed in any direction.

Professionalism and not your cousin’s opinion

Every estate should have on file the results of a thorough, time-consuming analysis of the current security solution’s core and distinctive characteristics and the exercise is serious enough that the responsibility to ensure that it does happen must remain in the hands of the estate manager/HOA directly.

To my mind, steps two and three have always been to undertake a formal risk determination, followed by the facilitation of long-term security strategy development with the client. However, more and more, Phase 1(a) audits undertaken on residential estates are quite coincidently revealing a more immediate need.

I will christen this Phase 1(b): the need to assist the estate to understand the roles of the various players within the security industry value chain which might be involved with the current or future solution (or not).

Why is this so very important? Because in my personal experience I cannot think of one single client property in the past three years which has not been engaging with the value chain incorrectly – to the detriment of its security solution.

In the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world that we function in today, the industry itself can no longer get by on a deep-seated malaise in which ‘everyone is THE expert’ (including even the consultant). Good security solutions require the active input of a team of experts in their respective fields. Again, the responsibility to ensure that this does happen, has shifted to the estate manager and/or HOA.

This is not to advocate taking business away from any of the hard-working security services providers to be found all over the country. But it is very easy to spot which of these providers are leaning on the wealth of expertise available to them within the industry and which are not, to the ultimate detriment of the estate.

It’s about the safety of people

The time of territorialism within the industry is over. There is no longer room for unofficial alliances, clients deserve the most suitable provider for the specific estate. Now more than ever, the safety of the residents at the end of this chain deserves better than that. Every estate is unique. Every estate will require a unique team of experts. And there is more than enough work for everyone.

Hence, show me the client boardroom with a great coffee machine and a table around which are seated the accountability partners of: estate manager, independent consultant, manufacturer, distributor, local guarding provider, fencing guru and experienced system integrator (one with real expertise and an embedded understanding of manpower and technology through process), with a 300-page independent analysis of the current condition in the middle of that table and I will show you a security solution that is actually going to add value.

Lesley-Anne Kleyn.

Kleyn Change Management is in the business of business improvement. Lesley-Anne partners with clients throughout the country to solve complex internal challenges relating to people, processes and technology. She has a particular interest in the South African physical security services sector. Contact her on +27 64 410 8563.


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