From big box retailers and gourmet coffee shops to oil and gas companies, software firms and major automakers, U.S.-based businesses continue to expand their reach with global operations, all of which require the same high standard of security services as they have implemented stateside.
However, security directors will often find that there can be myriad challenges to overcome when looking to secure a new facility in a foreign country, or to standardize security systems for an international acquisition.
The bottom line is doing business in a different country can be different. There are cultural issues to deal with, language barriers, system compatibility problems and the list goes on. Seldom are these issues deal breakers, but they can sometimes slow down a project or at least require rethinking on how best to implement security, whether installing card readers at a satellite office or putting in an entire surveillance system.
So what are some of the requirements for tackling a global security project?
1. Start with a Global Platform
Doing business around the world becomes simpler when you have a technology platform that is recognized worldwide. Working with an open-platform such as Lenel can make the process of finding integration and solution support partners easier.
In addition, working with U.S. integrators that have international relationships can make the discovery and vetting of these partnerships more streamlined as well.
2. Identify the Barriers and Address Them
Language can certainly become an issue when working internationally. Thus, it can be helpful to have a project manager who is bilingual or at least to engage an interpreter when warranted so everyone involved can be part of the process. And be aware, there may be added problems when troubleshooting technical issues because terminology may differ.
Another language-related problem may arise when the company undertakes alarm integration, bringing alarms at its international sites back to a U.S.-based central station. With IP connectivity it’s easy enough to transmit the information, but there may be trouble with getting that data in various languages.
Cultural differences should also be addressed. Other nationalities look at various forms of security differently than Americans do. A company may not think twice about putting access control on doors to sensitive areas, since that’s the protocol within its U.S. operations, but doing that in Japan would be considered an affront to loyal employees.
Privacy issues, such as the placement of cameras, also differ by country, so again it is important to find someone who can walk you through those issues so they don’t become impediments to a successful project.
3. Be Adaptable
There are two kinds of companies: The companies that have strong central control, where the mothership tells the field offices how to operate, and the companies that allow the field offices to do what makes sense for them.
Chances are security directors will find that there are some areas in which they can more easily institute what is tried-and-true for their business, and others where they will yield to local dictates. Often this is determined by environmental factors.
What is considered older construction around the United States may seem like it’s newly built when sized up against historic buildings around the world that can be centuries old. Similarly, the tools of the trade used for domestic projects, from cable or door locks, won’t always be the products of choice when doing business in other countries.
A U.S.-based company taking its business overseas may want to bring its own standards and technology along, but it’s important to look at what is achievable within the setting. If the walls of the building are made of two-feet-thick stone, an integrator isn’t going to be running cable as they would in a modern office building.
Code requirements can be another area where countries vary. While the U.S. codes may require locking systems to break the power at the door, some countries don’t have that requirement. And that is just one of the areas of disparity. Within locking systems alone, there can be dozens of differences that security personnel will need to review to decide in which direction to go.
The adoption of technology will also play a role. While much of the world has adopted smart cards, many U.S. companies are still using a proximity card-based system. This raises the question of whether to standardize globally or find a way to coordinate multiple card technologies.
These are the types of issues that companies will face when entering into a global security structure. The key is to know what needs to be done, find the best way to do it and select partners, both within the United States and abroad, who can ensure that the project is handled the right way.