In the olden days, when sailors were at sea and the wind died, they didn’t just sit and wait. They checked the rigging and repaired whatever needed fixing; they organized and prepared for the return of winds. In short, they created efficiencies where possible. In this economic climate, companies — and physical security teams in particular — can stand to take a page from that approach.

For most business sectors, the winds weakened over the past year. Sales are lagging, demand for some products is softer and budgets for 2023 are tighter. Many organizations have pulled back on hiring or cut headcount already. 

Many companies have put large projects on hold, shying away from capital expenditures such as new products, branch expansion and infrastructure replacement. Adverse to equipment price hikes, some are also stretching the lifecycle of outdated legacy systems and devices. 

That’s the macro view. But how is this impacting physical security? If companies are cutting back on large projects, they are also trimming budgets to support physical security. This could result in underinvestment in resources and technologies — which could ultimately result in a weakened security posture. 

Take advantage of the lull to regroup 

Many departments now have a chance to catch their breath and find — or create — efficiencies that align with enterprise priorities. This is about much more than simply cutting costs; it is important to get ready to protect the business at a higher level when the turnabout comes and expansion resumes. Here are a few things physical security teams can do while the mothership’s momentum is on pause:

Check systems to ensure equipment uptime: Are all systems operational the majority of the time? If not, they deserve examination. This is especially critical with security video coverage. Avoiding downtime goes hand in hand with physical security telling its own success story. A good goal, for example, might be cutting video monitoring failure time by 50%.

Rethink metrics & KPIs: Times change. What was relevant last year may not be this year and upping the ante is critical for continuous improvement. Look at downtime statistics, cost per repair and MTTR for various device types. Track cybersecurity countermeasures. Is the company exceeding metrics each year? If so, moving the goal post to a more ambitious position will only lead to better outcomes. Running a physical security organization without new/higher metrics is akin to sailing with dated navigation equipment. 

Make maintenance great: Add capabilities to diagnose and recover devices in the field faster without sending expensive technicians. Look at predictive maintenance to avoid field repairs in the first place, and look for processes that physical security can automate for budget efficiency.

Strengthen relationships: Emphasize communication and collaboration with the IT department and system integrators, and among physical security personnel who may be dispersed or mobile. Meeting with technology partners to explain intentions will be time well spent. Their experts might save months and significant expense in lowering MTTR, for example. Ask IT what physical security can do to be a better collaborator. 

Work more closely with cybersecurity peers: Cybersecurity and physical security are no longer siloed organizations. Given the fast rate at which new cyber threats emerge, it’s more critical than ever for both teams to work as closely as possible. This also includes the IT organization. Physical security has been shifting from analog to digital for quite some time now, which means the systems many organizations use (many in the cloud) are vulnerable to the same threats that cyber and IT teams are accustomed to fending off. 

Report consistently: Be systematic in informing stakeholders about physical security effectiveness, device availability and compliance across the entire fleet. With better metrics in place, report on them to keep alignment with counterparts in IT and technology partners. 

Rest assured, the winds will pick back up, and organizations will emerge stronger

Physical security teams, like other departments in the enterprise, have the challenge of getting better when spending is limited. Budget contractions don’t last forever. They offer the opportunity to get stronger in maintenance, metrics and reporting, management and visibility over equipment. Use the time well, and when the winds pick up and growth snaps back, physical security can be ready and better than before. 

This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security magazine. Subscribe here.