The Business of Security is Business: A Professional Development Consideration by Cuchulainn Morrissey

The challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic over the past thirteen months are unquestionable. Many in our industry have found themselves redundant, others perhaps in a state of flux due to a series of national lockdowns, re-openings, and an ever changing landscape in the wake of the pandemic. Although we live in uncertain times, one certainty is that the security industry will persevere and continue to evolve regardless.

As with times of uncertainty and change come opportunity, for many this period has been an opportunity to develop themselves. As the Summer months approach many will be contemplating undertaking an academic programme of sorts in September, an admirable endeavour regardless of the choice of subject. Choosing a programme, however, is not necessarily clear cut, the obvious choice, a security related degree while undoubtedly useful might not be the only option.

This is not based on personal bias, as someone currently undertaking a master’s degree programme in security and risk management, I advocate for anyone choosing to develop themselves in the area. That being said, I truly believe some should give consideration to a business education. As some may gather the title of this article is a riff on a quote by famed economist Milton Friedman who famously stated, “the business of business is business”, I, for one believe this rings just as true for the security industry.

In essence everything that we as security practitioners do, much like our colleagues in any other function contributes to the achievement of organisational objectives. Our business is security, but the business of our employers and their clients is ultimately business. So, what does this mean? To enhance our standing, add value, and potentially advance our careers (as most undertaking an academic programme do), I believe there is arguably more value to be found in developing our knowledge and competence in an area that fundamentally influences our actions rather than honing the quality of the actions themselves.

By this, I believe the best metaphor is that of the iceberg, the tip of the iceberg is obvious, it’s the duties we’re familiar with undertaking on a regular basis, the bread and butter of what we do. The submerged area of the iceberg are the deep-rooted unseen factors that necessitate our existence in the organisation such as: the achievement of competitive advantage, business strategy, the external and internal business environment, etc. The people who understand the tip of the iceberg best are the security function who at an estimate are likely to account for less than 3-5% of most organisations. The majority of the other 95 – 97% are the various functions for which the business vernacular expresses their concerns, activities, and interests. To extend our personal influence and become more effective we need to understand their concerns, rationalise their activities in an organisational context, and partake in their interests, in this sense their business become our business, too.

So, as a security practitioner what are the benefits of an education in business?

Firstly, for those working for contract security providers it is worth noting that the further you progress within your organisation the more emphasis will be placed on your competence in the fundamentals of business rather than security. Account management, business development, and operations management will all place a demand on skills such as relationship management, procurement, performance management, budgeting, etc. all of which can only stand to be enhanced through an education in business. Often the skillset that brought you to the dance does not prepare you to be a good dancer, one of the anomalies of management.

Secondly, as I have written in previous editions, an understanding of business will not only improve your personal influence and credibility in the organisation as a security practitioner but that of the entire security function. Being a person who is seen to understand the organisation and its concerns by interpreting and engaging in the concerns of other functions enables you to distinguish yourself as a valuable resource in a function that is often deemed a non-productive cost. This is a benefit as both a form of personal branding and stands to improve the security function’s relationship with key stakeholders.

Thirdly, an understanding of business can only stand to improve your ability as a security practitioner. A strongly developed knowledge of various business functions serves to add context to your role in the organisation, improve your effectiveness, and add to your ability to identify vulnerabilities in processes and thus contextualise risk.

Drawing from personal experience, as someone who undertook and successfully completed a business degree programme I’ve been questioned on several occasions as to why I chose to do a business rather than security degree. The answer is relatively simple, I reviewed my previous education, reflected on where I was in my career, considered what I would ideally like to do over the next number of years, and researched how I could get to that point. Once this process was completed a business degree appeared to be a wise investment in my both myself and my future, that is not to say it’s the unequivocal best choice and invalidates all others but merely that it was right for me.

If nothing else, the purpose of this article has been to spur an idea in the minds of anyone contemplating further education or reviewing the range of available professional and academic programmes to broaden their options.

Our business might be security, but the business of security is business itself

Cuchulainn Morrissey

Cúchulainn is a security risk management consultant and managing director of Celero Consultancy. Cú assists organisations to reduce risk and limit liability through site security surveying, audits, and the provision of bespoke training solutions. As a business (hons) graduate, holder of diplomas in areas including learning & development and asset risk management, and a current MSc security and risk management student through the University of Leicester, Cú is among the most qualified security professionals in the Rep. of Ireland.

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