How do you upgrade a security system that covers 25 office sites in eight states quickly and efficiently? That's the challenge Noridian Mutual Insurance Co. is facing as it looked to make those upgrades.

Now, with the upgrade mostly complete at the time of this report, Ken Roseth, facilities director at Noridian Administrative Services LLC, a subsidiary of Noridian Mutual, says the company is pleased with the rollout. The success is due, in no small measure, to the work done by a team made up of numerous people from all areas of the organization, as well as all the planning done at the front end of the project.

With about 2,000 employees, Noridian provides a variety of insurance products and administrative services across the western United States. Noridian Mutual, doing business as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota within North Dakota, is a nonprofit mutual insurance company providing health care coverage to more than 75 percent of North Dakotans.

Building a World-class System

Noridian Administrative Services LLC, is a regional claims contractor for the federal government's Medicare program, processing Medicare claims for the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii from its Fargo, N.D., headquarters.

Noridian has learned in projects of this nature that the devil is in the details. With such a major project, the entire Building Services department began by getting all players involved, making sure that all specifications were covered in a request for proposal (RFP), while setting implementation steps to account for how the business works and where the various offices are located.

The outcome of such intelligent hard work: a world-class integration system using the GE Interlogix, Boca Raton, Fla., Secure Perfect 4.O Enterprise as the security platform. It integrates into the organization's PeopleSoft system used for human resources. For instance, Secure Perfect pulls down certain fields, such as first name/last name/employee ID number/employee status, from PeopleSoft so that there are no variances.

The integration was done using a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) with Novell NDS e-Directory and dirXML at the core. Detailed badge access rules are created natively in Secure Perfect. Noridian uses HID, Irvine, Calif., iCLASS credentials with HID read-only readers, as well as Bioscrypt, Van Nuys, Calif., V-Smart fingerprint readers.

Digital Video

Digital cameras are also at each site, ultimately coming into GE Interlogix's DVMRes combination digital video multiplexers/recorders. They are connected via the Noridian Ethernet network and are fully integrated within the Secure Perfect system. For instance, a video clip is generated each time a credential is presented to the access control system.

Still, while the technology boasts a lot of muscle, it's what went before that's the real story.

"Our mission? We needed to achieve the same high level of security across the board. Since we are a government contractor, we had a need to take everyone and every office location to that level," says Roseth.

Under the direction of Noridian Building Services Assistant Vice President Jack Brennan, Assistant Vice President for Information Services (IS) Troy Aswege and Roseth, a team from building services IS and corporate communications, among others, worked to address each area's needs and concerns prior to creating a request for proposal.

Roseth says, "There were two months of meetings, with topics centering on the impact of a smart card badge, video surveillance, the type of monitoring we would do, remote monitor tools available and type of connection into the IS infrastructure for continuity across all systems."

There were some RFP twists along the way.

The design had to accommodate a requirement for extreme database accuracy, no matter from where information is entered. For example, when the government performs audits, Roseth points out that "they check to make sure all records are correct and not using different names for the same person, such as Bill and William, for example."

The RFP, uniquely, honed in on smart cards. Aswege says, "We picked smart card technology not only for today's needs but for tomorrow's needs, too. Currently, the smart card allows a user to log into the computer system. In the future, we'll be able to drive additional applications."

Picking an Integrator

Noridian's RFP was sent to six vendors, with five submitting firm proposals. Following interviews, Floyd Total Security of Bloomington, Minn. was chosen to install the upgrades. According to Roseth, Floyd "specializes in this type of integration. We met and discussed the project several times, as well as reviewing other installations they had done in facilities similar to ours before awarding the contract."

Noridian and Floyd worked together to carefully review the details of the RFP, plus conduct a detailed analysis of each office site. "Since there were multiple systems in multiple sites, we decided to convert the less complex sites first to assure the system was working correctly and meeting our specifications," Roseth says.

Noridian had an advantage that some other organizations facing upgrades may not have – a strong IS backbone. The IS division wanted to make this a seamless final product and provided leading edge technical concepts and support to help integrate the existing PeopleSoft system and internal service work order processes with the access control system. The security system is able to piggyback on the backbone, even for video security. Digital video moves over the firm's Ethernet, which uses packet switching, providing a high level of security for the video.

The smart cards produced for employees include a picture of the cardholder but there is no reference to the organization. There are biometrics and anti-passback features in higher security areas as well.

Smooth Implementation

According to Brennan, the implementation of Secure Perfect 4.0 has gone extremely well. The goal of getting higher reliability from an Ethernet-based system, no longer having to rely on telephone lines and modems as well as much better system administration has been accomplished. He adds, "System administration does not take much manpower. Only one person at Noridian is designated to make any changes in the system, such as badging and access rights."

The bottom line to success at Noridian Administrative Services: details, completeness, communications between departments and careful attention to an intelligent rollout. To show how detailed the process was, Roseth adds, "We even took a breather in the front end RFP development to once again look at what new technology was introduced after our first go-around."