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Asset Tracking and Management: Physical Security’s struggle with Spreadsheets

Would you use a tool that actually causes more problems than it solves? Probably not. But while spreadsheets have a 90% error rate, most security teams still use them to track their assets.

Asset tracking and management are essential for a strong physical security program. Yet, many organizations still rely on outdated methods, like spreadsheets, to manage their physical security systems.

But here’s the question: Are spreadsheets really a viable solution?

The short answer is no. One study found that 70% of businesses experienced financial losses due to Excel errors.

But it’s not because spreadsheets are inherently prone to error, hard to manage, and difficult to scale. It’s because most organizations don’t have a system that’s designed for the unique needs of physical security. For example, spreadsheets can’t automatically notify you when an asset is missing or needs maintenance.

In this article, we’ll show you why spreadsheets are a poor choice and how technology and smart processes can be combined to achieve asset tracking and management.

Spreadsheets Don’t Work for Physical Security

The average employee spends 2.5 hours or 30% of their workday, searching for and retrieving information. When using spreadsheets as the primary system of asset tracking and management, information is much harder to get hold of because it’s not centralized. That’s not to say that spreadsheets aren’t practical, they’re just not scalable.

Spreadsheets have inherent limitations that make them ill-suited to manage large, complex physical security systems. Many organizations have thousands of devices across video surveillance, access control, and intrusion detection. These systems require oversight and management to perform optimally. Using spreadsheets to manage these systems can cause more problems than it solves, and here are a few reasons why: 

  • Spreadsheets are not built for security. They lack the purpose-built design required to manage complex security systems effectively. Security teams need to know where each of their devices are – they require a visual map, something spreadsheets don’t provide.
  • Data entry is not automated. Sure, you can add tabs for each system and location, but the data entry itself is manual, making it prone to human error, affecting response time and increasing downtime. Imagine having to lookup a specific device and having to go find it amongst eight thousand rows of information.
  • They’re unwieldy. The rigid format of spreadsheets can make it difficult to identify patterns and trends in data, causing potential security issues to go unnoticed. How would you know a specific set of devices have a higher failure rate than others by looking at a series of rows and columns? Sure you can run pivot tables and graphs, but shouldn’t you have a system that tells you what you need to know, when you need to know it?
  • Collaboration and user permissioning is hard. The cloud makes it easy for multiple teams to collaborate on a single spreadsheet, but it’s hard to provision users when using spreadsheets. How do you ensure that Tech 1 can only see the first 500 rows of cameras in Location 1 and not the others? Tracking changes and version control become challenging to manage, leading to confusion and conflicting asset data. 
  • They’re not built to scale. Spreadsheets are also inflexible, making them unsuitable for scaling up or integrating new security systems. Using multiple spreadsheets to track different enterprise physical security system components is cumbersome and inefficient and can lead to delays in problem identification, resolution or other security-related measures.

Need more reasons to ditch spreadsheets? A 2019 article by Oracle 

In today’s complex threat landscape, organizations require adaptable security systems that can address emerging threats without downtime. Although spreadsheets have evolved over the years, they are not the best option for managing critical security system components such as maintenance schedules, repair histories, device-level history, and vendor performance monitoring. It can be a headache to manage everything without a central platform that tracks all this information. Using spreadsheets can get messy fast!

Visibility of Your Physical Security System is Key

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. To effectively manage physical security assets, it’s essential to have comprehensive visibility into those assets. The average office building has a video surveillance system, access control, alarm system, intrusion detection system, fire detection system, and perhaps even a weapons detection system. Without knowing how they’re performing, security teams could be setting themselves up for failure. 

So what does “visibility” mean exactly? It means being able to readily gain access to information such as:

Digital Transformation = Visibility + Scalability

The average employee spends 2.5 hours or 30% of their workday searching for and retrieving information. If you look at it another way: for every 3 employees you hire, one person’s time is spent primarily in looking for information. And today’s end-user doesn’t have the time to waste on inefficient manual processes. 

Security leaders know that a comprehensive physical security plan combines both technology and security operations to reduce risk and protect people, assets, and facilities. 

Often, this asset information is located across disparate systems  such as VMS systems, IT or facilities asset management systems and spreadsheets. 

Even if you’re a spreadsheet expert, the variables involved in security management make it difficult to use spreadsheets as the primary method of asset tracking. Physical security systems require monitoring and maintenance that go beyond the capabilities of spreadsheets, and other disconnected methods. Instead, you need a solution that can easily integrate with your existing systems and processes without creating new silos of data. 

By digitally transforming the delivery and management of your security infrastructure, security teams are not only empowered to work smarter, but are also able to focus on strategic initiatives.

What is SiteOwl

SiteOwl is the world’s first unified digital platform designed to streamline physical security lifecycle management and transform the way you approach asset tracking and other important physical security tasks.

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