The way our IT system works together with Flowfinity has definitely given us a competitive advantage.
Advance Security Goes Paperless, Saves Hundreds of Hours with Flowfinity
Region: United Kingdom
Company Size: Large Enterprise
Function: Security Guard Management
Advance Security, a leading provider of security services in the UK, employs 4000 security officers who monitor over 1000 sites nationwide. With a large number of staff in the field completing paper forms each day to report on their activities, the company needed a way to improve communication and data transfer between field managers, staff, and core systems at head office.
Advance Security selected Flowfinity software to replace their paper forms with smartphones, integrate with their back-end systems, and improve productivity throughout the organization.
- 180 management hours saved per week
- Competitive advantage
- Time savings in the field
- Better customer service
- System paid for itself in the first year
Previously, security officers and their managers at Advance Security were required to fill in paper forms for activities such as site visits and employee reviews, which resulted in a large amount of paperwork and data entry. Audit trails were lacking due to using a combination of paper forms, spreadsheets, emails, SMS and phone calls for communicating and tracking issues.
Field staff had to spend time updating security reports at the end of the day on laptops, and administrative time was needed to key the data from paper forms into a database. Managers and staff at the time also had limited access to digital data from the field, which was primarily web-based.
"At the time of investigation few companies provided a solution which satisfied our requirements."
Advance Security needed a mobile solution that would allow their employees in the field to be more productive and work more flexibly, while reducing administrative costs. They wanted to improve data access and data flow between the field managers and staff, to and from core systems at head office.
The company's primary concerns in selecting a mobile solution were the speed of transfer and the security of the data on the smartphone. The company had explored using a CRM-based solution, but found that it lacked flexibility and caused difficulties in inputting and synchronizing data.
"At the time of investigation few companies provided a solution which satisfied our requirements," said Roderick Stamp, Senior Software Analyst, Advance Security
Advance Security selected Flowfinity Actions Enterprise Edition to replace paper forms and improve communication and data flow between field staff and head office. Flowfinity is currently used in 7 divisions across the company, with over 50 mobile forms in use and half a million form submissions each year.
Advance Security currently uses Flowfinity software for three major functions:
- Information request: Managers request information or data from head office, which is then returned to the device.
- Data gathering: Site managers and supervisors gather contractual or legally required data, which is passed onto back-end systems for processing and dissemination to relevant parties including clients.
- Two-way request and control: Live real-time two-way instruction and information flow allowing field personnel to react to changing situations on the ground with a minimum of delay.
"All the information in a form can be dynamically created, so the field employee knows what to inspect on a given day or at a given time."
When performing site visits, security guards use Flowfinity software to record critical information about their site inspection.
Upon arrival, they log in to Flowfinity on their smartphone, which automatically collects their GPS location and triggers an email notification to the client to let them know that they have arrived at the site.
Site inspection forms can be customized for each site and filled in with static or dynamic data.
"All the information in a form can be dynamically created, so the field employee knows what to inspect on a given day or at a given time," said Stamp.
When the employee leaves, he or she submits an update to record the departure time. This sends a notice back to head office that the person has left the site, and removes information about the site, such as security codes, from the employee's mobile device.
Alarm Response/Key Holding
Flowfinity is also used to coordinate live responses to incidents such as alarm triggers. When an alarm goes off, an employee in the control room records the details and determines the closest Response team in the area from their GPS location. The chosen response team is called and records a Flowfinity acceptance, a dispatch notice is returned instructing the response team.
On arrival at the incident the team calls the control room to obtain authorization. This results in an update to the Flowfinity form providing detailed instructions as to the procedure to follow, these being unique to each location and include a number of questions that need answering.
"When the guard does arrive, an email notification is sent directly to the client to say that they have arrived. The details are then sent to the guard’s smartphone about what to do on-site. It is very much a real-time system," said Stamp.
When the guard indicates on the smartphone that he is leaving the site, the data is removed from the mobile device to ensure the privacy and protection of sensitive data such as alarm codes and deactivation instructions.
Integration with Backend Systems
Flowfinity is used on smartphones to receive assigned tasks, initiate actions and submit and pull data from back-end systems such as payroll, uniform, HR, and dispatch.
"Every single Flowfinity form integrates with the backend. Flowfinity offers an open standards-based API, the Flowfinity Integration Interface, that provides the option to call out so we don’t have to change our backend systems," said Stamp.
For example, a notification can trigger a shift in the rostering system for the control rooms. "When a guard leaves they can close that shift off, so everyone knows in real-time where that person is. It is all very well integrated," said Stamp.
Flowfinity is hosted on-premise, which gives Advance Security full control over their network security. "The nice thing about Flowfinity is that we can host it ourselves, especially given the sensitive information that we control. We have customers who are more security conscious and would not necessarily want their data hosted offsite or in the cloud," said Stamp.
Flowfinity has helped Advance Security deliver even better customer service. Previously, the security company kept clients up-to-date primarily through a customer portal, which required them to logon to a website. Now through Flowfinity, real-time data from the field is gathered and formatted automatically into an html email, so that customers can receive site visit reports directly to their inbox, as soon as they happen.
"The reduction in workload on the field staff through the use of Flowfinity software has allowed them to improve their relationship with the customer or take on additional sites."
"Customers like receiving status report emails because they can keep a record of it in their inbox, and they know right way if their site was visited and what the issues were if any," said Stamp. "It also facilitates better feedback, since the customer can print out the email, write out their notes and bring it to the next meeting, so any issues or concerns are dealt with right away."
Less time spent completing reports on paper and laptops means that field staff now have more time to spend with clients.
"The reduction in workload on the field staff through the use of Flowfinity software has allowed them to improve their relationship with the customer or take on additional sites," said Stamp.
Having integrated Flowfinity with their core systems that manage employee activity, scheduling, dispatch, client and site information has given Advance Security an edge over its competitors. "Our databases have a large amount of business logic embedded in them. The way our IT system works together with Flowfinity has definitely given us a competitive advantage."
"From the client’s point of view, we are much more pre-emptive. If anything comes up we can call the customer first instead of them having to call us."
For example, if a guard has not checked in at the required site after a certain time period, it notifies their manager on their smartphone and flags a no-show. Then the manager knows right away to phone the employee that hasn’t arrived, arrange a replacement if necessary, and alert the customer.
"From the client’s point of view, we are much more pre-emptive. If anything comes up we can call the customer first instead of them having to call us," said Stamp.
Employee Management and Scheduling
Reduced paperwork and improved communication with employees in the field have enabled managers to work more effectively. Forms such as employee information and meeting reports are now completed on managers’ smartphones instead of hand-written and manually typed in.
With 90 managers performing 10,000 visits a month throughout the company, the management time saved at each visit quickly adds up.
"Now when managers visit each officer, they fill in a smartphone form with the various questions that need to be answered. Managers can fill in forms through a website or on their smartphones, or register employees on the employee website directly from Flowfinity," said Stamp.
Managers also have quick access to information from head office, including:
- Contact details of clients
- Shift patterns for employees
- Employee roster 24/7
- Inspection roster for site inspections
"If a manager is looking for a person they know where that person is right away," said Stamp.
Advance Security has continued to expand its use of Flowfinity software for over 7 years. Flowfinity enables efficient information capture and control in the field to support daily operations, which has given the security company a distinct competitive advantage. Fully integrated with all backend systems, Flowfinity facilitates efficient data transfer between staff in the field and head office, resulting in hundreds of hours saved each week from productivity improvements.