(19) Lean Security Operations

Think Like an Entrepreneur, Manage Like a Businessman

This past week I had the chance to peruse the websites of a selection of global companies, all of whom were rightly proclaiming that their leading business practices made them leading companies.

Several of the “About Us” web pages included terms like “managing for excellence”, “leading edge process management systems”, “transformed by innovation”, and so on. Several mentioned their extensive use of IT systems to streamline their business operations and enable them to behighly responsive to customers. Most of these companies listed their ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and other certification programs.

I understand why each of these companies adopted the best business practices that they mentioned. The results speak for themselves.

Ignoring Security Operations

What I don’t understand is why they did not include their global security operations when applying leading business practices.

It may not be immediately obvious, but ignoring security operations in this situation is doubly dangerous. The reason is that many of the business improvements bring increased operational risk—including security risk—with them.

This is one reason why supply chain security has been getting so much attention in recent years. Just-in-time delivery and reduced warehousing bring tremendous benefits. Yet they raise the vulnerability of the business because supply chain interruption can translate into immediatebusiness interruption.

The fact is that today’s streamlined global businesses—who apply leading information systems technology to achieve new levels of business operationscannot fully address their security risks and costs without also streamlining and applying information systems technology in their security operations.

Here is a simple but powerful ideaapply the successful business practices used througout the company to security operations. Many of them can be a surprisingly good fit.

Applying Lean Principles

My favorite example is what I call Lean Security Operations. This involves two approaches:

  1. Apply Lean Manufacturing principles to security operations.
  2. Use security technologylike security video camerasto support lean operations outside of security.

Lean Manufacturing is the production of goods using less of everything compared to traditional mass production: less waste, less human effort, less manufacturing space, and so on. A key concept is the elimination of steps that don’t add value to a process.1

Here is an example of the first approach.

Recently at a New Jersey manufacturing plant that had launched a Lean initiative, the security manager applied Lean principles to security operations with impressive results. He implemented manual process improvement and also used software to implement self-servicefor items like parking permit applications, area work permits, and changes to access privileges. This improved departmental productivity and reduced the time for employee transactions. Now his security operation is looking at over $150,000 in cost savings and recovered staff and employee time annually—and that’s just at one facility.

The second approach is also simple. Here is an easy-to-envison example. Consider a clean room manufacturing environment that requires white coveralls, a head cap, shoe coverings and an escort in order to enter the area in addition to all the walking time involved. Imagine the time that could be saved by taking a virtual trip into the area using a high-resolution video camera. An hour can be reduced to minutes.

One Executive Vice President in California has used cameras to eliminate walking the 1/4 mile trip down long hallways to the loading dock. He verified that critical shipments were ready to go out—and in fact did go out—without having to step outside of his office.

Many companies are taking a new look at Lean principles for implementation enterprise wide, not just in manufacturing. After all, they helped make Toyota the largest auto company in the world.

Successful Business Practices

I used Lean principles as an example for this article because at first blush they seem to have little to do with security operations. But security is simply a part of the business—an important part—and like any other business function will do better with good business practices applied.

Are you looking for more ways to improve your company’s bottom line? What are the most successful business practices in your company? How can you apply them to improve security operations?

Best regards,
Ray Bernard

1 For more information on Lean Principles see the following references:
Wikipedia: Lean Manufacturing
Lean Enterprise Institute: What is Lean? and Lean Principles

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