J. Mike Farnham, Providian's corporate security director, placed emphasis on the front end of considering new technology including integration of video monitored by Guardsmark officers.
Success of the application of new security technology can depend greatly on specifics of front end load. Creating a focused team blending outside vendor management, engineering staff and consultants with in-house management and technologists means there are no surprises or arguments when it comes to an enterprise security project across numerous locations and subsystems.

That’s the conclusion of San Francisco-based Providian Financial Corporation, a leading provider of credit cards to mainstream American customers throughout the United States. The sensitive nature of its customers’ information and security requirements associated with financial institution operations required a robust security system capable of interfacing with multiple physical security processes and systems.

Kick-off Planning

In 1999, the card access system was no longer capable of meeting the organization’s needs: 34 buildings in six states and three countries managed by a staff of 10.

So the security operation began a lengthy request for a proposal process to improve physical security operations. The primary goal was to build a global enterprise card access system capable of supporting and growing with Providian’s service demands into the next decade and beyond. The process first looked for a partner that knew security and had experience with global enterprise systems. Knowing the importance of an undertaking of this magnitude, security honed in on a partner that offered superior service and support.

The partnership evaluation process was very detailed and lasted seven months. During this period, internal security management visited with the senior management teams of those participating in the bid process at their facilities. Specific agenda items included research and development departments, customer support operations and product availability. When all the information was in and variables associated with taking on a project of this magnitude were evaluated, the choice was Picture Perfect Enterprise Edition, UNIX-based AIX platform access control and security management system with Access Vision from GE Interlogix, Boca Raton, Fla.

Providian believed it could provide the necessary security controls – platform stability and flexibility of features – as well as a vendor history of never leaving its partners or old platforms behind. Additionally, a product line of micro-panels, boards, readers, access cards and badging stations matched the system and level of quality. Providian security liked that there were no patches or special code re-write requirements – just a seamless interface.

To date, the stability of the system has been outstanding and the flexibility and ease related to operational functionality has been solid.

Signage locally mixes with a diversity of devices to control access through doors.

Get the Details

For security, the success of the rollout was greatly enhanced by what is described as a very detailed evaluation and front end load. By bringing the appropriate GE management and engineering staff to the table with installation vendor ADT Security Services, Boca Raton, Fla.; project coordinator Zack Hamm of Security Management Consulting, Raleigh, N.C.; Providian’s technology team, Providian’s corporate vendor management team and the corporate security staff, a functional action plan was easily developed. There were no surprises, no arguments – just a group of committed people working for one purpose.

This group took the time to lay out the whole project, and discuss possible roadblocks and contingency plans to overcome them. Providian purchased a back-stock of parts to have on hand at each site as system upgrades were brought online, just to ensure a bad part would not delay installation. There were personal visits to all sites detailing the conversion process for each of the location’s senior management teams. Security staff followed up providing needed information. Because security site management teams were part of the process, there was site support up front and the complaint factor related to the conversion process was almost zero.

The time taken on the front end to address possible problems, explain needs, clarify processes and involve all stakeholders who could have been impacted by the conversion paid off big-time.

Integration is not just a security buzzword. It’s an essential feature of the security solution.

From security video to door sensors, alarm features and remote or multi-site monitoring, everything is tied together and works smoothly. That’s what makes the Picture Perfect platform desirable.

Officer Role

At Providian, the security operation also includes security guard coverage. For the past five years, the organization has contracted with Guardsmark, New York City and Memphis. From the optimal system configuration to the special features developed by Hamm, to the smooth integration between them, the security solution is both extremely flexible and user friendly. The guard staff enjoys working within the security environment and has no problem using Picture Perfect as the cornerstone of their daily duties.

From an operational and management perspective, having a system capable of providing the capabilities to enable access by group area or individual need is a powerful tool. The operational platform calls for Providian site security managers, located at each location, to have the capabilities to manage their own facilities. The system administrator maintains ultimate control over all host operations. Still, for the most part, daily operations are at the fingertips of the site management team, which particularly likes the ability to move entire blocks of staff that may be relocating to another floor or location with a simple highlight, drag and drop. Staff move updates that used to take days now take minutes. During the September 11, 2001 terrorism attacks, security chose to make adjustments in the number of access points to buildings. For example, at 6 a.m., sitting on the side of her bed and still in her pajamas, the Providian corporate security systems administrator took 40 doors offline and locked them down in less than 10 minutes. Conversely, if needed, she can remotely open or unlock a door just as easily.

With some additional help from security management consulting and Providian’s own technology team, the security system went online with a daily interface update program connected to human resources. Address changes, name changes and other targeted status updates occur automatically every night.

Even if a host connection is lost, the micro-panels keep integrity of the access systems intact – with no interruption of service – providing security the time to correct problems.

Finally, while Providian’s information technology team’s involvement was of great importance early on in the conversion process, since then, the security team, with the support of the service provider, has been able to maintain the system’s functionality with little or no difficulty.