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Independent advice ensures security solutions that target the risks

NZ Security Magazine, Feb/Mar 2018

Using an independent security consultant can produce a more appropriate solution.Using an independent security consultant can produce a more appropriate solution.

 

James Yearsley, Managing Director of ICARAS Consultants, argues that security consultant independence and specialisation in the delivery of security services are necessary ingredients for an effective security sector.

 

A logical starting place is to consider what the actual definition of ‘security consultant’ is, in particular the differences between a security consultant (SC) in the context of the Private Security Personnel Licensing Authority (PSPLA) 'SC' Certificate of Approval (CoA), and a truly independent security consultant.  They are two different things.

The first, the PSPLA-defined CoA SC is (paraphrased for brevity): 'an individual who enters any premises...for the purpose of selling, or attempting to sell, any device referred to in the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act 2010 (CCTV, access control etc...) or advising on the desirability of having installed such a device or the desirability of having a guard on, or dispatched to, the premises.” [Part 1, Section 7]

The second is the role of the 'independent security consultant'. The independent security consultant is a professional who makes their living selling security advice that is purely based on a client's operational requirements or needs and the client's longer-term best interests, rather than a desire to simply sell a specific security product or service.

I believe there has been some confusion in the industry and amongst clients as to what the independent security consultancies do. This has partially been a result of the PSPPI Act definition, with systems integrators, guard force companies and the like selling 'security consultancy' services when in fact they are selling products, technology systems or guard services at client premises. 

A true independent security consultant is not there to sell a particular product but to better inform the client; to determine the operational security requirements that client may have; and advise on finding appropriate and integrated services or products. 

In line with the Protective Security Requirements (PSR), the independent security consultant helps the client determine their security threats; understand and prioritise the security, safety and privacy risks that may arise from those threats; and then assist in ensuring the client receives an integrated, holistic and 'whole of life' security solution to mitigate those risks in a cost effective and appropriate manner.

This may be achieved through a fair and open tender process and may even include a collaborative design solution (for example between the client, independent security consultant, systems integrator and product supplier), to ensure those requirements are met in a way appropriate and proportionate to the security risks faced.

There has also been a degree of confusion with the growth of cyber security firms selling similarly named services such as 'security risk assessments' and 'perimeter protection' when they are only talking about ICT/cyber security threats and risks.  There also seems to be a significant number of these 'IT security consultants' that do not currently hold SC CoAs or even company licenses under the PSPLA; which is an anomaly that should be rectified if we are to have a more integrated and fair approach to security. 

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has, for a number of years, managed a 'Security Related Services (SRS)' panel that was specifically aimed at ICT security providers that many government agencies incorrectly believed they were mandated to use for all physical, personnel, information and governance aspects of security consultancy advice - the SRS panel is solely comprised of ICT security providers. 

It has taken over 18 months of discussion, debate, and wrangling (thankfully supported by the PSR Outreach team) to get a similar, All-of-Government Protective Security Services sub-panel (a component of the Consultancy Services: Operations Management and Risk panel) for those independent security consultants who specialise in the integration of security governance, physical, information and personnel security. 

 

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It could be argued there has been a relatively quiet period for the traditional independent security consultancies; but the adoption of PSR as a framework across government and spreading wider through the market, is starting to affect the industry.

There is a slow, albeit growing, realisation from clients that using an independent security consultant can produce a more appropriate and proportionate security solution for the security risks they face compared to an 'SC' with a non-independent perspective who is driven more from a desire to sell a product or service to meet their sales target. 

That isn't to say there are not outstanding SCs out there amongst the systems integrators and guard force companies in our industry.  They provide a great service in designing and meeting the needs of the clients they serve, often in innovative ways to win tenders. 

However, it is the sole purpose of the independent security consultant to identify what those client needs are and ensure the client procures the right security products and services in a holistic and integrated way with other security services and products - a basic tenet of security.

To stop our security industry from continuing its downwards spiral in costs – and therefore service – we need to find better and fairer ways to do work and to play to the strengths that all aspects of our industry bring from their respective backgrounds, skills and experience.  This starts with the client and independent security advisor through systems integrators, security service providers to product distributers and suppliers.

If we can convince the client of a better way to do things that makes the most of the tight security budget they have and yet meet their security risks in a more focused manner, we should be able to build an enviable security industry here in New Zealand.  I think that would be a better place to be in rather than a disparate bunch of individual security businesses trying to deliver in areas of the industry we cannot truly deliver in - if we were to be completely honest with ourselves.

We need to specialise in our distinctive areas and understand where each other sits in the wider scheme of things within the industry. Only then can we collectively deal with an ever-changing security and compliance environment and the increasing complexity of technology and technological threats - never mind the integration and continual improvement of all that!

 

RELATED ARTICLES

Where are all the security consultants?

NZ Security Magazine, Feb/Mar 2018

Contrary to recent reports, physical security is not dead

NZ Security Magazine, Feb/Mar 2018

INTERVIEW: State of the industry with RISQ New Zealand

NZ Security Magazine, Feb/Mar 2018

 

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