Managing security suppliers: what are the key factors to optimising performance?

Jan 13, 2023Webinars and Blogs

The traditional problem, suppliers want to charge more for a better service versus clients who want to pay less for a more targeted service, has been and is being played out globally. The difficulty of recruiting personnel, and keeping them, plus the opportunities provided by technology against a background of economic austerity are factors that are giving this topic both extra attention and a modern focus. In this webinar we will discuss:

  • The factors that clients need to consider to drive optimal performance
  • The issues that suppliers need to consider to retain client confidence
  • How the modern challenges can lead to a better security

Chair: Professor Martin Gill

Alexander Masraff 
Michael White 
Oliver Curran 

Key points
Alexander Masraff was formerly an entrepreneur and now works as a client. He starts by offering five routes to optimisation. The first is to understand the global environment in which the supplier works, what size of company do you want, can they really get the staff you need, how viable are they? In 2024 the Olympic Games will be in Paris which will put a demand on guards so reading ahead and being prepared are important. Second, be clear with your expectations, don’t let the provider guess what is important. Third, human security is about humans so treat them well; treat contract staff as your own as much as you can. Fourth, be clear what you can afford, be realistic and engage all stakeholders. Fifth, the contract must be profitable for the provider. In short, it is crucial for buyers and clients to understand each other, this creates the context for informed decisions to be made. There is a key role for security professionals here though in educating the organisation, about security, about the value of a good security supplier over a bad, about understanding the risks if compromises are made.  

Michael White starts by focussing on the importance of education. Both sides need to be educated, the buyer must be clear what they want and need and who they are buying from. The suppliers must understand their own capacity and limits and the marketplace they are entering; they are not all the same, in fact marketplaces can be very different. Admitting a bias on this he highlights the value of consultants. Overall, communication and transparency are key. You will see him argue that good supplier practice can mean firing the client; where the latter does not appreciate the service been offered and has not the finds to enable a supplier to be effective in a profitable way it is best to walk away. There is an interesting discussion about the value of incentivisation, Michael presents the case for and against, it may have a place but it needs to be introduced responsibly. He gives an example where one organisation had a low visibility security director, that in part this is a result of the organisation not backing its security portfolio but it also reflects the lack of skill of the security sector in engaging the relevant stakeholders. Where this happens then other problems are likely to follow. 

Oliver Curran formerly worked for a supplier and now for a university as in house manager. He underlines the importance of forging a long term relationship with the supplier, establishing a true partnership, recognising their need to make a profit, understanding that procurement professionals are not security experts so they need to be guided. He cautions that suppliers must not oversell themselves; clients need assurances that suppliers have understood and are committed to meeting their needs, they are dependent on their expertise. Communication and performance reviews are key. Things can go wrong because: some suppliers focus on what they can provide rather than what the client needs, and clients need to be transparent. The relationship is key and don’t forget that it is a small world so don’t end on bad terms, you may meet again. 

In response to an audience question the panellists were asked whether they felt the real problem with supplier performance was that organisations now only really cared about cyber, that physical security was seen as marginal. None of them agreed. Good security includes paying much closer attention to the buying process, and there is a lot to it, at least a lot to pay attention to do it well.

Professor Martin Gill
12th January 2023

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