Incident management goes universal

July 2010 Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection

Tiaan Janse van Rensburg, from Technology Solution House says it is time to do away with the dog-eared incident books.

Anybody who has spent time in the facilities management, security or engineering disciplines would recognise the following items:

* Security incident register.

* Site visitors book.

* Control room visitors log book.

* Fault log book.

* Key register.

* Contractor register.

* Health and safety, power, HVAC, plumbing, lights registers.

* Maintenance register.

Noticed the frequency of the words 'book' and 'register' in the list? A multitude of paper-based systems exist in the security and facilities industries. Most incidents or occurrences within a control room or facility are currently logged in what is generally referred to as an occurrence book.

The above-mentioned is usually accompanied by the much dreaded phone call from a customer that instils fear in the heart of the most hardened control room manager and service provider: “I want an immediate consolidate report of all my sites”; or, “There was a break-in at site XYZ three months ago, tell me what action was taken on that specific occurrence and what similar occurrences happened during the last six months at all my sites …. I will hold”.

Due to the fact that occurrences are logged by hand and on paper makes it almost impossible to receive timely updates on any outstanding occurrences, extract reporting from the myriad of books or do trend analysis. Service providers find that a huge amount of time is spent extracting information from these manual repositories while the customer gains limited value from the reports due to the lapsed time between the actual occurrences and received monthly reports.

Current solutions

What are the solutions for both the building owner and security or facilities manager, responsible for at least two sites, looking to extract facility business information and better manage operational spending; or the progressive service provider who wishes to pre-empt the customer and provide better business information and value for money?

There are numerous solutions available in the market. Some are developed locally, but most are sourced internationally and supported locally. These solutions usually fall into three categories, namely IT incident management software based on the ITIL standard, facilities management (FM) solutions and risk management solutions. The latter includes security, risk management and electronic occurrence books. These applications are installed and used by only a fraction of the industry and are prevalent in the corporate environment or with advanced service providers to the corporate environment. Why is this?

Barriers to entry

Cost

Most of these applications are expensive. Installation and training costs run between tens and hundreds of thousands of rands. Operating costs normally consist of monthly maintenance cost or application rental, and in many instances place these solutions firmly out of reach of the majority of companies.

Complexity

Many of these applications are specialist applications providing functionality for almost any foreseeable situation. The value of these applications is immense and indispensable in complex environments. But, if we call on the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto and his 80/20 principle, it is obvious that only a fraction on any industry has a need for such complexity. The knock-on effect of such in-depth functionality is also evident in the above-mentioned cost and skills and training of the operators.

Skills level and training

To operate complex applications requires significant training (which is lost if the resource resigns) and has noteworthy cost implications. The skills level and aptitude of the operators also becomes an issue at this point and finding and keeping such resources poses a challenge.

Do not forget convergence

The word convergence has been overused and lost almost all its impact, but where there is smoke there usually is fire.

In the facilities management and security industries, convergence is a reality, not only in terms of IP-based devices, shared networks and servers, but also in the management and maintenance of these functional layers. For example, building management systems (BMS) are no longer locked in a basement somewhere but are fast becoming a business application running on a server supported by the IT team. Similarly, as security and facilities are now using the same networks and servers as IT, the management and maintenance of these devices are moving closer together and usually gravitating towards the IT manager who is now responsible for all IP devices: laptops, printers or CCTV cameras. This leads, albeit sometimes as an unintended consequence, to the standardisation of incident logging, management and reporting.

Unified management framework

A unified management framework of all converged support layers (network, database and server, application), functional areas and solutions (ICT, physical security, building management etc,) is an extensive subject and I will only briefly mention it here. As the functional solutions and devices all become IP-based and are run on the same networks and servers to decrease costs and increase efficiencies, it makes sense that the management of these operational areas also converge into a coherent unified management framework. Such a unified framework consists of a number of layers namely standardised operating policies and procedures, operational management, maintenance management and business reporting.Which brings us to a simple but effective part of such a unified framework, which is the standardised logging, management and reporting of facility-wide incidents

A different way

Most companies cannot afford separate systems for logging IT related incidents, facilities management incidents and security occurrences. So let us take a closer look at the 80% of companies which have more than one site. It is safe to say that they will have a network connecting their sites, a connection to the Internet, a small data centre, a number of employees using PCs, laptops and printers, some level of facilities management and a security component consisting of guards, CCTV, access control and CCTV monitoring. Some of these functions may be outsourced and some may be supported internally.

So what are required by these companies?

* An application that is universal enough and can be used to log all kinds of incidents while storing significant detail of each type of incident.

* An application flexible enough to adapt to almost any kind of business and industry.

* Core functionality which consist of best-practice incident logging processes.

* Multisite functionality.

* Instant consolidated reporting on all sites, categories of incidents etc.

* An application that is easy to install and requires limited training to be operated, in other words no specialist skills need to be employed.

* It should be so easy to use that almost no software support is required.

* It should assist in managing vendors and service providers at a glance.

* The facilities, IT or security manager must be able to see all incidents which are logged while each service provider must only be able to see the incidents allocated to them.

* So cost-effective that the business value per site far outweigh the costs.

Implementing such a universal incident logging application would not only have the obvious impact of timely business information by replacing numerous paper-based systems and reducing the number of occurrence books, it will also have a number of knock-on effects. It will improve vendor and service provider management and provide a platform for moving towards a unified management framework, which will further reduce costs.

For more information contact Technology Solution House, +27 (0)82 565 8081, tiaan@solutionhouse.co.za, www.solutionhouse.co.za.





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