There’s no doubt that those who work in procurement face a big problem when it comes to selecting providers of security services – at the moment there’s no real, reliable indicator to help them differentiate between the many companies in the market, writes Bill Muskin (Click to View Personal Profile) who is Chairman of the security company VSG Ltd (Click to View Company Profile). Certainly they can visit prospective suppliers and look at the way they operate or they can contact existing clients of those suppliers and ask for endorsements, but how many busy procurement officers have got time to do these things, especially when you remember that they have hundreds of companies to choose from?

This isn’t a new problem. As long ago as 2003, the BSIA started looking at developing a new operating standard called, ‘Towards the Future’ a voluntary scheme that would highlight the best security providers. Work on this project was halted, however, when the SIA announced plans for its own ACS scheme which the BSIA assumed would do a similar job.

But it doesn’t. Valuable though the ACS scheme most certainly is, in my opinion it indicates that a security provider has only met “entry level” requirements. If you need confirmation of this, remember that there are currently around 650 ACS accredited suppliers of security services. Does anyone really believe that there are 650 top-flight companies in our industry? If this is the case, how are procurement officers supposed to make informative choices based on these current accreditations?

I suppose it’s worth discussing whether this really matters. After all, surely any ACS accredited company is going to fulfil the role? In truth, they may do an ‘adequate job’, but that’s not at all the same as ‘a good job’. The best providers bring real insight, knowhow and enthusiasm to their work, which ultimately translates into better security, delivering a solution led approach, very often at a lower overall cost. Lesser providers may initially appear cheaper, but they often don’t, or cannot, deliver these benefits.

If ACS accreditation doesn’t help with differentiation, what about the Contract Quality Marque that was recently introduced by the NSI? This is intended to raise standards and is likely to be successful in doing so, but it’s still doesn’t do the job of guiding procurement officers in choosing potential service providers.

The reason is apparent from the name. It is a Contract Quality Marque – in other words, it applies only to a specific contract. In the words of Dai Pritchard, leader of the working group that developed the Marque: “The scheme is all about the contract, not the company. It certificates the partnership between the customer and the service provider.” But, of course, that partnership cannot exist until the service provider has been selected.

Hopefully all of this will explain why the BSIA recently announced that it has resurrected its plans to introduce a higher standard of qualification that can be aspired to by all security service providers. It will be awarded to those companies that can demonstrate that they are consistently achieving the highest standards within the industry. As Chairman of the newly formed working party for this standard, which includes representation from the NSI and Skills for Security, I will be able to give you an insight into the way we’re thinking and the progress we’re making, in my next article … so watch this space!!

VSG Website