Procuring Security: what should guide security buying practices?
Chair: Martin Gill
Gaitan Banzi – Head of Procurement of TIB Development Bank Ltd (Tanzania)
Roberto Fiorentino – CEO at Croma Security Solutions Group Plc (UK)
Finbarr McCarthy – Director, Global Workplace Safety & Security Operations, EMEA at Workday (Ireland)
Finbarr McCarthy has viewed procurement form the perspective of both the client and the supplier. He starts by reminding us that the purpose of procurement is to ensure the business gets value and that is not always enough to get the best purchase, it requires a broader and more expert input. In the end the business will get the security it tolerates, and there are in built dangers to be aware of (not all are). The first challenge is to properly understand the risk, this is a skilled task in itself, and then to interpret that in terms of formulating the response is another skillset, also requiring considerable expertise. He is critical of security egos which don’t allow security professionals to admit knowledge gaps which then serve to undermine the effectiveness of the buying process. There are different stakeholders when security is purchased, and it is important to engage them and crucially to understand their drivers, that too is a distinct skillset. Moreover, security professionals often don’t have a seat at the high table, and sometimes are not fully engaged in the business and the problems then are compounded.
Gaitan Banzi has spent 17 years in procurement. He laments the tendency to focus on low prices at the expense of quality. He makes the point that procurement professionals are expects at buying, not in security, and so they are dependent on security experts to guide the buying process, that is crucial; procurers need specialist help. This is in essence, ‘the problem’. Good procurers will work on bringing teams together, oversee effective evaluation of tenders, ensure stakeholders have an input, but they cannot be expected to be experts in the subject matter. In reality, if there is a lack of expertise then there is a tendency to award contracts on the feature which is easy to compare on, price. You will hear Gaitan highlight the value of ‘experience’ and ‘scrutiny’.
Roberto Fiorentino is a CEO of a supplier and laments that often purchasers are not fully aware of the threats they face; they don’t take the time to consult the most appropriate expertise to guide them. He too highlights the need to fully understand the risks being faced because unless that is a starting point procurement can quickly descend into a focus on that easily comparable item, price. He laments the tendency to view the skills of suppliers via a too narrow lens; of not understanding the site-specific requirements; of not taking sufficient account of sustainability and functionality (including ease of use); and of not allowing suppliers the scope to shape what the important questions are. In short security, when done well, is complex and not many have the skills to fully comprehend the dynamics (including some corporate security teams). Accepting it is an immense challenge he calls for a greater focus on education and communication (although legislation may help).
At the end of discussion the panellists consider the key strategic issues that need to be tackled, including leaving egos aside, and aligning needs with practice, while effective engagement is never far away. Perhaps what is most challenging is realising how truly complex effective procurement is. Whatever one’s stance on how to improve things is, it is vital to recognise that good procurement requires security expertise and only some, sadly, are up to the task.
Professor Martin Gill
12th May, 2022