In 1865 Richard Miller Devens, while talking about the then banker Sir Henry Furnese, in the book ‘Cyclopaedia of commercial and business Anecdotes,’ coined the term ‘Business Intelligence.’ The book states that Sir Furnese would maintain a complete and perfect train of business intelligence, throughout Holland, Flanders, France, and Germany. This resulted in him gaining various profits owing to his early receipt of information.
In 1989 Howard Dresner proposed Business Intelligence as an umbrella term, to describe concepts and methods to improve business decision making by using fact based support systems. Later, Dresner became a Gartner Group Analyst, and today Business Intelligence is defined as an umbrella term in Gartner’s Glossary that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to, and analysis of information to improve and optimise decisions and performance.
Pulling together these definitions, the analysis of information for profitability can be framed as the core purpose of Business Intelligence (BI). On the basis of the information available in our surroundings and definitions, it can be perceived that an organisation looking for business intelligence might have to go through heavy transitions in order to implement it. The required tools along with the information flow, need to be verified. The perception moves against BI for small scale industries, and when it comes to private security providers, BI struggles to find a seat among various operational requirements.
BI and private security organisations
Musselman and Jackson in 1992 defined business as an activity that meets the needs of society and the economy, and the company that is organised to engage in these activities. For private security sector the definition summarises business as the activities involved in providing security to customers and their belongings. Griffin and Ebert extended the business definition to providing goods and services to earn profit. This definition includes the business owners’ or managers’ interest. The organisations’ aim to maximise their profit makes it necessary for the decision makers to think out of the box.
The usual practises are being challenged with the change of technology, and technology is evolving on day to day basis. Recently, some out of box solutions have been introduced around the world. Google, in an event recently had introduced a new level of artificial intelligence (AI) solution which can make calls on behalf of the user. Alexa, the amazon’s virtual assistant is now easily available in the market. Microsoft has been talking about the power of AI for a while. AI is filling gaps between human imagination and reality. Business is a different game altogether. Imagination has different meanings and definitions in business and therefore BI, as has been highlighted above, is business’s answer to profitability.
The private security sector has a complex operational process. Remoteness is a crucial factor with its respective impact on every business step, from recruitment to delivery of services. While we mention the various business steps we shall not overlook the point that all the steps have the delivery of services as their epicentre. After all, it’s the delivery of services, i.e., the guards’ presence at the customer location that turns into earnings. This makes the attendance and allocation of guards, the front-runner for BI in the private security sector.
BI is dependent on data and its utilization. In case of attendance, there are numerous solutions now available in the market which can help the agency to sail towards BI and profitability. Some of the possibilities and solutions are as follows.
A common practise apart from the pen and paper is the use of biometrics. The staff can punch their movement time, but the biometric’s output needs to be merged with the existing system before it turns into a meaningful resource.
Biometrics, though low cost, is more of an old age solution, and the attendance process at the time of shift change, at customer’s location, can become messy. Also, it requires installing the machine at the customer’s premises. Looking from the future perspective, biometrics and BI do not gel-in as a solution.
Video cameras have now become an integral part of the security industry. Usually, it is considered as an agent to serve customers, but video cameras can help with attendance marking as well. Video analysis, a new trend in the market, is a technique of automatically analysing video and determining events like guards entering the premises, leaving the premises etc.
Though the solution sounds interesting, it faces challenges on the cost front. Video analytics is an expensive option and organisations would prefer this kind of solution at high end locations only.
Radio frequency identification, popularly known as RFID, uses electromagnetic fields to detect the object. The common practise is to use RFID tags as identification cards and whenever the person holding the card enters the premises, their attendance is marked automatically.
The RFID is useful when the agency can ensure that the guards will enter and leave from the specified gate or the RFID reader only. Also, the malpractices such as a guard giving his card to another fellow and leaving his duty cannot be controlled through RFID. The control measures for such malpractices can again be expensive or may even struggle with feasibility issues.
GPS based attendance
An interesting solution that has evolved with the growth of mobile phones is GPS based attendance. The agency can ethically track their guards and their movement. The solution’s usefulness is not just restricted to attendance marking, but can be used for various other services also.
Various agencies have tried this method through either their telecom provider or through other service providers. With telecom providers, due to the established infrastructure, the cost might look to be on the lower side but connectivity emerges as an issue. Along with the connectivity, the low cost solution may give only brief information, which might fail the main purpose of having GPS based system. The service providers dealing in GPS can provide meaningful data, but then, the solution needs to be implemented at the bottom of the pyramid and decision makers have to decide if the cost can be justified or not.
Mobile based attendance
Another available attendance marking solution is marking attendance through mobile devices. Field officers travel from location to location, and they can mark the attendance of the guards through their mobile phones. UP government has, few days back, implemented a similar requirement for their sanitation department.
The phone based attendance marking has restrictions of its own. The field officer cannot carry heaps of documents stating daily allocation data and spend hours at a site marking attendance, and thus the solution needs to be defined in a manner in which it can save time. In order to mitigate the malpractices, customer involvement is required.
Saralweb launched one such solution at 12th Security skill and leadership summit, 2017, which handles the allocation of guards that can remarkably reduce the attendance marking time.
The way ahead
The solutions mentioned above will need some more works for BI to be introduced in day to day practises, but the agencies will need to decide on the method they would like to opt in order to initiate BI process. The solution should be chosen wisely, as it will determine the level of BI that can be introduced in the system. The data collection, implementation, as well as availability are major challenges for BI to be introduced.
The agencies need to decide amongst various available options. A system which can answer to complexity as well as customer involvement needs to be developed. The age old practises are becoming obsolete. Quality of service and cost are major worries for private security providers. BI is the way forward and attendance seems to be the top contender to initiate BI and related activities for private security agencies.
By Ruchir Walia – Product Manager, TA Netgables Pvt. Ltd.