They’re known as command centers, operation or ‘op’ centers, and fusion centers, but no matter what they’re called, many people believe they are the future of security. Security command centers come in all shapes and sizes with varying levels of service and sophistication. The general idea is to centralize and streamline operations. In some cases that may mean simply serving as a centralized alarm and monitoring center. But in more complex versions it can mean combing technology and people to analyze collected data providing business leaders with intelligence and information that increases operational preparedness and provides value beyond security.

Scott Jones, director of corporate security for Sony Network Entertainment International (SNEI) in San Diego, recently gave a presentation on developing security command centers. In his position, he oversees the SNEI Command and Control Center (C3), security technology, emergency response and global intelligence. During his 10 years in the private sector he has worked with other large companies on command center development. He spoke before a group of security profession at the ASIS San Diego Chapter July luncheon focusing on his personal experience.

Not a new concept

Jones told his audience the concept of a command center is nothing new. They have been around for centuries dating back to ancient Rome. Amphitheaters used for the bloody games of the times also provided an excellent venue to view and keep track of the populace. And during the rise of the British Empire when it was conquering the globe they set up a center in London to pull all of the data into one centralized location to keep an eye on what was happening in distant lands.

“Times have changed, but what we are trying to do today is essentially the same thing,” said Jones. “We want to develop a centralized operational model that lets us make active intelligent decisions.”

Why the need for ops centers? According to Jones, security doesn’t have the luxury of shutting down at 5 p.m.

“You really have to have eyes on the situation 24/7 and the ops center can do that for you,” he said. “It can be the silent knight out there looking for what could happen, what’s next.”

In addition to a 24/7 presence Jones said command centers also provide a place to collect and process data.

“We live in a data-driven world and it’s just too much to keep track of,” he said. “A command center may offer you the ability to make sense of it all.”

Types of Command Centers

Command centers can take on a number of forms. The less sophisticated centers are more tactical and less strategic. A level one center might be based on the old risk management model of recovery and response. More mature models start to integrate technology and people analyzing events and data allowing the company to be more prepared, more proactive and able to operate more effectively.

Jones gave an example of how centers can move from tactical to strategic. If a facility experiences an increase in laptop thefts, or loss, on a tactical level it is reported and investigated typically on a localized level. A more strategic approach would include the tracking of incidents, mapping the data, and using the visualization to analyze for patterns. A business might conclude that the spate of laptop theft is coming from a specific location which might result in security enhancements or even new employee awareness campaigns regarding the protection of corporate hardware (laptops) in vehicles.

“This is where you start to move out of a basic operations center model into a way of scaling into something more than a traditional physical security apparatus,” Jones said.

The 5 Cs

Jones had some advice for the audience from various lessons learned during work within a myriad of command center environments. He put together what he calls “The 5 Cs” – things security professionals may want to keep in mind when trying to develop a command or ops center.

Collaboration – Ops center development must be a collaborative experience. Bring people into the discussion early rather than later.
Clarity – Have a clear voice. What is the vision? What are you trying to accomplish? What is the point of the command center?
Centralization –Most businesses operate in silos and are looking for the magic solution to bring everything together. An ops center is one opportunity to do just that. Bring everything under one roof and start processing information to make sense out of it.
Costs – Have a budget in mind. Company leadership has to believe it’s a worthwhile investment. There is also a cost in terms of talent. Money has to be spent to get the right people. Also, remember to talk about the cost savings that will come from a well-functioning command center.
Consistency – It’s one thing to develop a command center. It’s another to sell it. Be consistent in telling the story. A really solid marketing socialization plan accompanying the command center helps. Be creative in your approach and branding.