Thursday, July 30, 2009

Guest post: Frisk Free!

Author: Narayanan Viswanathan

Narayanan's back to write another excellent article. You can read his earlier post here. This time around his focus is on..well, read to find out more...

The serious indictment for organizations across the globe is now on providing safer work environments, by insulating the associates from external threats, besides having internal security mechanisms that would help alleviate potential threats to business continuity due to external malicious acts. All leading multi-national companies are implementing critical and important ‘first-in-line’ policies towards internal security, to ensure safety of their data, business processes, fixed assets and employees.

The information security as a process has been constantly evolving ever since the advent of the IT industry. However, we are not only talking about information security here. In recent times, the importance of physical security to be airtight has assumed equal importance if not greater, in the wake of the threat posed by global terrorism – from Manchester to Mumbai. Today’s professionals are exposed to potentially perilous situations and the term Job Security, will now have a new meaning. The term Workplace Hazard normally associated only with blue collared workers will henceforth be applicable to white collared professionals too – only that the context in which they are placed into perspective would vary. The serious indictment for organizations is now on providing safer work environments, by insulating the associates from such external threats and also in having internal security mechanisms that would help alleviate potential threats to business continuity due to external malicious acts. The business entities therefore, are focusing their attention on information and physical security policies as much as strategic business plans, financial management, or human capital management.

Most companies seem to have a formal security policy in place; but very few enforce them in entirety. However, a generic analysis of some of the initiatives taken by the business entities off late, in ensuring internal security, goes to prove that they want to leave no stones unturned. This will potentially transform the way businesses would operate – in effect, necessitating a full-fledged change management to enable this transition at the grass-root level. In these circumstances, as an individual, I ask myself;

· Who will be responsible for internal security? Let’s look at the answer options – Management, GIS Team, Security Personnel, Every associate in the organization…
· What are the implications of implementing vs. not implementing a stringent security system? Here, as I think through, the answer options can be as humongous as grains of sand on the beach or as small as I would like it to be…
· How much of my personal space am I willing to give up, in order to feel more secure? The options here seem to be dichotomous, Am I convenient or Am I secure…

I will try to zero-in on the final answers based on analogies. Let’s say I walk into the office tomorrow, and I have a security personnel, whom I would rudely pass-off every day as someone who didn’t do well in his school days and is therefore on the other side of the table, frisking me or peering into ‘my’ belongings; and also commanding me to show my ID Card, as proof of my association with the organization. Well, I might give him a look of displeasure and repugnance. I might even consider telling him, “Do you know who I am?” I might deem the whole process as irrelevant, as a nuisance and a potential waste of my executive time. I might feel livid that I am made to wait longer than I would ideally like to, at the entrance; as unwarranted barricade before I can move into my coveted workstation, to dole out all the game changing solutions that will benefit my organization.

However, isn’t it only fair that I give myself a chance to think, that the robustness of the security process will potentially provide me a good sense of safety, and in effect enable me to concentrate on what I need to do, than what will happen to me while I am on it? Come to think of it, as is the case with life itself, everything is a trade-off, but here, it is a good trade-off to make. The question that I will need to answer may be, am I convenient or am I secure… it is less likely that it can be both – but we can strike a balance.

It might be expensive and inconvenient to implement a security policy but it would be costlier, if it isn't implemented. A comparable metaphor could be that of a 9-10-Jack in the cricket team, the wallies of the willow, going out to bat in the middle, wearing every possible protective gear available. Of all you know, Jack might get a perfect Yorker in the very first-ball, uprooting all three stumps. Now, that would make one question whether it was worth the while, for him to wear all the protective gear. Let’s say Jack was disinclined to wear a helmet, and the first ball was a bouncer – won’t we have a situation here? In effect, it’s more like “trust in god, but lock your car”.

The moral of the story, is that internal security is everybody’s responsibility. It starts from the proclivity of the top-management in emphasizing on the need for implementing information and physical security, by defining key policies and processes. It ends with the concerned individuals vested with the responsibility of enforcing these policies and processes. The vital missing-link here will be ‘you and I’ – we need to be able adjust to the renewed need of the hour and cooperate whole-heartedly in the implementation of the internal security policies.

The next time I come across a nonchalant security personnel, unequivocally examining the rear of my Car or peering into my lunch bag, at the end of the search I would probably tell him… “Thanks mate. Since you are here, I shall now go to my workstation worry-free”

About the Author:
Narayanan Viswanathan, is a certified Global Professional in Human Resource Management (GPHR) with over 10 years of progressively responsible hands-on experience in the entire gamut of HR functions; with functional specialization in Talent Management & Talent Engagement. Currently, he is part of a 6-member HR Centre of Excellence (COE) team, at Cognizant, which is the strategic wing of corporate human resources, that manages the cross-geographical implementation of Balance Score Card, Performance Management, Career Development and Career Progression initiatives. He is also a Six Sigma Green Belt certified professional.