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OSPAs thought leadership webinar: procurement

Understandably, Prof Martin Gill’s OSPAs thought leadership webinars, that began with the first covid lockdown in spring 2020, have not been running so regularly weekly as during the pandemic. But they are still happening in the same format and still as welcome, writes Mark Rowe after this afternoon’s latest, about procurement.

The panel as so often came from across continents and the English-speaking world: in Tanzania, Gaitan Banzi, Head of Procurement of TIB Development Bank Ltd; Roberto Fiorentino, a 41-year security veteran, CEO at Croma Security Solutions Group Plc in the UK; and an Irishman, Finbarr McCarthy – Director, Global Workplace Safety & Security Operations, EMEA at software firm Workday, who was a finalist and winner in the recent first Irish OSPAs, in Dublin.

A repeated point of Finbarr’s was that ‘you get the service that you tolerate’. Security managers may mistakenly believe that the procurement department are there to help you make a purchase; rather, procurement is there to ensure the business gets the best value for money – not always to help Security make the best decision.

Security managers know what they want, for example in manned guarding; and know how to deploy it, when the time comes; but don’t always know why it’s needed. Nor are Security people good at making an articulate case to the business, in relation to why they need that service. If you don’t understand what you want, don’t have appropriate KPIs (key performance indicators), you ‘will get the service that you tolerate’.

Goods are not the same as services, said Gaitan Banzi. He urged not buying on lowest price. For Roberto Fiorentino, it’s more about purchasers not being fully aware of the importance of fully assessing risks and threats. Instead, time and energy is spent negotiating rates; and looking at the complex feature within (CCTV for example) products and services, without anyone truly studying or understanding the risk to the client or target.

What needs to change? Martin Gill asked. Roberto suggested communication and education (of procurement) about how it’s important to have a thorough risk assessment, although that would not be something immediate. Roberto also made a plea for the specialist, whose expertise would cost more.

Finbarr – who in his career has worked on both sides of the buyer-supplier table – said that as security professionals, ‘we don’t tend to reach out to others in our industry for advice; we don’t like people to know that we don’t know. We don’t like people to know that we don’t have all the answers and in doing so we actually limit our ability to make good decisions.” As he added, if you don’t know what industry standards are (for service), you will accept sub-par service; and in his most striking phrase, ‘you get the service you tolerate’.

A procurement team, he explained, have their own drivers, and they’re not always in tandem with a security department’s. And vendors – ‘I mean no disrespect to vendors’ – may charge 20 euros for a service, or 25 for the same service, and if you (the buyer) try to ask the difference between the two, if you don’t know the risk, it’s going to be difficult to explain that difference.

Security, and procurement, then, plainly need to inform one another; as Gaitan Banzi said, procurement people need the support from technical people. A security department also has to represent themselves to the leaders of the wider business that’s buying services, as Finbarr said, even before the RFP and RFI (Request for Proposal and Request for Information) stages. For Security to have the proverbial ‘seat at the table’, Security has to have and understand data points, on existing KPIs, and to show where a vendor is failing, ‘because that’s why we are going out to tender, right?’. Security, in short, needs to be asking the right questions.

More in the July print edition of Professional Security magazine.

What’s next

Martin Gill’s consultancy Perpetuity Research is exhibiting at the IFSEC show at Excel in London Docklands, which runs from next Tuesday to Thursday. The next OSPAs webinar is on Thursday, May 26; on ‘How else can security contribute to preparing for the worst?’. You can sign up to listen for free, and listen to past webinars, at https://theospas.com/thought-leadership-webinars/.

For some further reading; Martin Gill’s SRI (Security Research Initiative) as he mentioned in the webinar carried out a study of ‘Buyer-Supplier Relationships in the Security Sector’. You can read it at https://perpetuityresearch.com/3111/barriers-effective-buyer-supplier-relationships-security-sector/.


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