Corporate Security, Technology Challenges and Changing Times: What the Future Holds for Physical Security and Risk Mitigation Leaders and Pracademics

by Ken Smith

Ten years from now, where do you see the role of a Chief Security Officer (CSO), VP of Corporate Security, Director of Physical Security & Risk Mitigation or whatever the security role/position you find yourself currently in? Without a doubt, the latter roles over the past decade have changed professionally and academically. They are now recognized positions and accepted core functions within organizations big and small globally. Roles that continue to evolve and hold positions at c-suite tables and other levels. Gone are the days when corporate security leaders confined themselves to the company basement or side office, only to be appreciated and acknowledged when called upon to evacuate and secure the company complex engulfed in flames, or when a workplace violence incident needed the attention of a practical, common-sense professional named ‘Corporate Security’.

Due to the ongoing transformation of hybrid workplace environments across industry, public & private sectors – triggered by the recent pandemic over the past 24-months – it is conceivably likely that ongoing change in how people work, and security professionals are structured within an organization will also continue to evolve over the coming decades. The best teams will be flexible and able to respond adaptably and strategically. Such departments are not necessarily smaller; being agile does not mean fewer people do more. Instead, greater efficiency is required, which involves curtailing unnecessary meetings and focusing more on precise, strategic, bursts of productivity. Corporate security departments of the future will need to be expanded to meet the needs of growing enterprises. Short-term thinking that forces corporate security departments to be decreased in the name of better results is best avoided by any CSO thinking of doing so.

Just as with any major development in human history, you can be a bystander, watching change as it unfolds, or use your platform to lead the change; as has the Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM) and other ambitious, hungry, organizations such as “Getting Security Done” – otherwise known as “GSD”. The GSD crew describe their mission perfectly in one sentence – “Accelerating the Advancement of the Security Industry by Fostering the most Relevant Conversations”. Go check them out online!

Furthermore, and as currently delivered online (Via live webinars) by the ISRM over the past couple of years, tertiary educations of the future will provide more security management programs and other related risk and crisis management degrees, courses, & qualifications to meet the demand of greater numbers of security professionals entering the industry internationally. As a result, there will be a strong market for skilled and knowledgeable employees in such fields. One can already see clear evidence that the security director/manager roles will eventually require higher education learning over an extended period, plus experience gained through work placements and certification programs. Through this process, there will be less diversity in the employment and learning backgrounds of security leaders in these top-level roles, and less variation in how these roles are titled through inevitable standardization.

Moving on: Historically, companies have been greatly dependent on services provided by the public sector, such as those offered by some local and state agencies. Instead, many of these services will become internal – private – offerings in the next ten/twenty-plus years. As a result, security experts with a comprehensive grounding in physical security, strategic risk, and crisis management, will be highly sought after, particularly those with the education and experience to bolster their skills.

Currently, employers and companies are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility to secure our information and data and ensure a stable and safe workplace for our employees. In the future, companies will require better security to fulfill this role. Instead of prioritizing team size, titles, and the hierarchical position of our security experts, more effort is required to ensure that these roles within an organization are performed by motivated and highly skilled people who reflect a unified and professional field.

Soon, anywhere between a couple and hundreds of corporate security experts – Facebook a prime example of corporate security growth/size/scope – may be required for a reasonably sized company. Regardless of the number, it is indisputable that there is great potential for the growth and development of this career path, particularly for skilled and professional experts. One can assume that corporate security departments will expand in both size and number; and, in addition, in companies where such roles are not currently filled, experts on these matters from other parts of an organization will need to be re-deployed to share their knowledge and expertise.  

The world has without hesitation become infinitely more complicated since the turn of the new millennium. Drastic shifts have occurred in almost every field, with areas as diverse as international relations, public health, social cohesion, conflict, the environment/climate change, political milieu, and the impact heightened by their intersection with technology. Which brings us to the realization that “digital and physical environments are becoming inextricably connected to one another”. This has driven the creation of unexpected scenarios with possibly global impacts in a real-time and unprecedented manner.

The scope of technological communication in the modern world – including through social media – allows almost unlimited dissemination of information on an unprecedented scale and at a previously unmatched speed. Information crosses borders and is received by readers and news organizations across the globe in the blink of an eye; especially news relating to unpredictable or tragic events. The wide-ranging and individual nature of technological developments corporate security and risk managers must deal with weekly, means that the crises of the future faced by corporate security are more significant in terms of number and diversity. Unfortunately, as always, many organizations will neglect to properly prepare for such incidents, in turn leading to the interruption of their business activities and/or risks to their reputation, plus the inevitable consequences for their financial success.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that technology that is often driving new crises will also allow those in charge to act in response more quickly.

So now, more than ever, we must all work supportively and collaborate openly across the wider security sector, recognizing, communicating, and promoting synergies and collaborations where possible and appropriate to better our corporate security profession as we know it today, for a better tomorrow.