Agilent Technologies is an analytical instrument manufacturing company with more than 170 locations in nearly 30 countries. For years, we relied on more than a dozen suppliers around the world to fulfill security needs. A few years ago, however, we decided it was time to move to one provider for all facets of our security. In the process, we also reassessed which services we truly needed and which of those handled in-house could be outsourced.
When you start talking about identifying a single company to be your strategic partner in securing your people and assets, you’re talking about a fundamental shift in paradigms. This kind of a shift doesn’t happen without support from senior management. Management must be open to innovative methods and willing to take a few risks to move the model to the next level of maturity. Agilent management gave the security department the support and latitude we needed to approach the sourcing process in a less traditional manner.
One of the key reasons Agilent had been using so many vendors was our tendency to use local suppliers for many facilities. Our new objective was to improve consistency and cost-effectiveness.
When you consolidate services into one supplier, your leveraging opportunities expand exponentially. In addition, you can more easily assess and manage performance. And, of course, you get more consistency in everything from the appearance of the guards to the protocols and training.
The security industry has been changing as well, with several service providers moving from commodity providers to solutions providers. The various companies were finally at a point where they could offer Agilent what it needed.
The Sourcing Process
To begin the process, we pulled our internal security team together with our sourcing team and started mapping out which services we really needed. We made a conscious decision to avoid discussions about whether various services should be internal or outsourced and just focused on what functions had to be carried out.
As the internal security providers, we had to separate ourselves from the concept of, “Could these guys actually replace us?” And that’s a tough thing for people to do. When you start talking about outsourcing different services, the first thing that people think is,“Well, I’m not going to outsource my job.”
But if you start by outlining what has to remain in-house, you limit yourself before you even start the work. We didn’t want to do that, so we made sure to avoid any parochial bias.
Next, we set some general guidelines. We knew that we’d need strong leadership, deep knowledge, investigative expertise, and technical support for our worldwide security systems, and the ability to carry our existing educational and risk assessment programs to new levels. Above all, we needed a single point of accountability for the security of Agilent and a clear mechanism for measuring the success of the model on a real-time basis.
At the same time that we were assessing needs, we began a deep-dive into our existing costs to deliver security services across the company. We used that cost detail as a benchmark. We then worked with management to define a specific percentage of cost reduction that we would be striving toward during the sourcing work.
Finally, we pulled together a list of our current locations, including those where we didn’t have any physical security presence and those where we relied on landlord-provided security services. We were looking for a provider that could support any of our locations if called upon to do so, not just those where they had a day-to-day physical presence. That’s what a strategic partner does.
With the scope of services and our locations of operations defined, as well as having a price point in mind, we had the foundation to begin the request-for-proposal (RFP) process.
Our next step was to select qualified suppliers that we would invite to bid on the project. If you’re looking for a single company to provide services around the world, you obviously end up being limited to a smaller number. The fact is that there were no respondents that could deliver “direct services” in every location where Agilent operated, so we had to also look at the strength of their alliance agreements and partnerships in many areas of the world as well as the list of clients that they currently supported.
We also found in speaking with the RFP respondents’ various customers that our expectations surpassed the existing services that these suppliers were providing to their clientele. We wanted more than guarding services. We wanted a partner who would be integral to the protection of Agilent—from the functional strategic planning to the proactive oversight of our key programs, from expert support in critical investigations to help with lighting in our parking lots—and everything in between.
I had more than one of my peers in the industry simply smile and ask me to keep them informed of our progress with such a lofty goal. The implication was that it couldn’t be done.
We did eventually find the right partner—G4S, which had a portfolio of services and a footprint that aligned with our needs and our RFP criteria. The company was collaborative and transparent as we worked to identify cost efficiencies with our various sites.
G4S did not actually have operations in every single one of Agilent’s locations, but it had strategic partners that could fill in wherever G4S was not located. Additionally, Agilent had gone into the RFP process hoping to find a company that could also provide worldwide support for our systems security. G4S was not initially selected to provide our security systems support, but we gave them that responsibility after they acquired Adesta. We made this change about 20 months into the relationship. Now, after nearly two years of experience with our new model, we have seen the return on our efforts.
Assessing sites. In addition to expecting G4S to staff posts and handle systems, we wanted them to help us determine the level of security needed at sites. To that end, my global team and G4S first developed an assessment tool. Then G4S was given responsibility for carrying out the security assessments according to a schedule based on the risk ranking of every site. They continue to conduct staffing assessments on an ongoing basis.