New Technology with a Personal Touch

  • 15 Jan 2018 15:47

​As a financial services organization, Northwestern Mutual helps clients plan now to prepare for the future. And at the end of 2014, the Milwaukee-based company took that goal to task when planning a security strategy for a new building in the heart of the city.

Symmetry GUEST

As a financial services organization, Northwestern Mutual helps clients plan now to prepare for the future. And at the end of 2014, the Milwaukee-based company took that goal to task when planning a security strategy for a new building in the heart of the city. The 32-story, 1.1 million-square-foot Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons houses about 2,400 Northwestern Mutual employees and signals a shift in the organization's approach to business.

"In essence, it was revolutionizing our organization from an insurance and financial investment company into a financial tech-savvy organization," explains Bret DuChateau, corporate security consultant at Northwestern Mutual. "How do we position ourselves over the next few years to build this brand new state-of-the-art building to attract the workforce of the future, and how leading up to that do we design and integrate systems into that building that will set us up for the future?"

DuChateau has been on Northwestern Mutual's security team since 2004, and the new building presented an opportunity to not only update the technology but position the organization's security approach as one that will be cutting-edge for years to come.

Key to this concept was considering how technology could augment a physical security presence through digital guest registration systems, data analytics, and streamlined command center protocols. First, however, DuChateau had to get the entire campus on the same security platform.

Come Together

"The tower is a learning center for all of our financial representatives and employees, designed in a very open and collaborative way from an organizational and customer experience standpoint," DuChateau says. "It certainly positions us where we want to be in the future, but is also designed to connect better with the community here in Milwaukee."

The new facility connects to three existing Northwestern Mutual buildings via skywalk and also boasts a public commons area featuring gardens, restaurants, and coffee shops, and an interactive museum of the organization's history. With the combination of old and new buildings, as well as public and private areas, it was critical for the campus's access control to work as a unified solution.

"We had multiple campuses all under one corporate security team, but we were talking two different languages," DuChateau explains. "You would have one system and one set of rules at one campus, and one system and set of rules at the other, and there was no data exchange, so you were always trying to manually keep databases in sync. If someone leaves one site, we have to manually take them out of the other site. Just onboarding and offboarding people, manually entering their first name, last name, and employee number in one system, assigning them access, and then turning to the next computer and entering them in another system. I could go on and on."

Northwestern Mutual chose AMAG Technology for its Symmetry access control enterprise system and Symmetry GUEST visitor management system to streamline the flow of employees and visitors alike throughout the campus. Now with all buildings on the same platform, and the ability to automate several of the processes that had previously been manual, Northwestern Mutual estimates it saves about 14 hours a month when it comes to managing the access control system.

"You're not only looking at a security process efficiency, but a support process," DuChateau explains. "Now we have dedicated IT teams that help us from an infrastructure standpoint—they don't have to remember which system they are working on, because we're all working on one system across the enterprise. We're in a virtualized server environment so everyone is seeing and touching the same thing, and just from a staffing standpoint, we have people who can bounce between multiple campuses and they are not having to relearn everything."

Comparing the response to a standard door alarm before and after the technology upgrade shows the efficiency of the new system, DuChateau points out. When multiple security systems were in place, a door alarm would be automatically logged into a database and a patrol officer would be dispatched to where the alarm went off. Employees in the command center would open up an Excel spreadsheet and document the date, time, and location of the alarm and how it was resolved. At the same time, the responding officer would record the same information into his or her own response log.

"We'd have this incident documented in five or six places," DuChateau notes. "In our traditional mindset a few years ago, we just kept doing it because it was the process. None of the documentation was coalesced into a common system, it was just out there."

After the AMAG upgrade, the process has become more streamlined. The access control system will register the door alarm and immediately display a notification on video monitors in the command center. The situation can often be resolved just by looking at the video of what is going on, and the system allows employees to document the alarm in the system itself.

"It's pretty hands-off, we put a heavy lift into the programming," DuChateau says. "We went from logging 1,400 different entries on a shift down to 200 just by taking a step back. When you're saving 800 steps from a shift, that equates to time, so we gained about six hours out of an eight-hour shift by freeing someone up from documenting everything."

Watchful and Welcoming

Northwestern Mutual's corporate security team is blended, with about 40 in-house employees and another 40 contracted officers. The organization switched from another contract security provider to G4S at the end of 2016 due to its familiarity with the AMAG systems—AMAG is a subsidiary of G4S.

"That was a factor in identifying this relationship," DuChateau says. "We could have the benefit of G4S folks coming to us that have familiarity with their own products already, so we don't have to spend as much time as we normally would with someone coming in cold and having to train them on the solutions."

DuChateau points out that, despite the addition of the tower and commons to the campus, Northwestern Mutual did not need to bring on any additional in-house or contracted security personnel, thanks to the augmented technology.

"When you talk about opening a 1.1 million-squarefoot addition, you would think that it's a given that we'd need extra security people, but we didn't because we became more efficient," DuChateau says.

G4S officers have become a more integral part of Northwestern Mutual's security approach and are primarily in charge of the visitor management system, which is critical for the new facility—employees from all over the country flock to the Milwaukee campus every week for training. The increase in traffic required DuChateau to rethink the visitor registration process.

"We had five buildings that were all interconnected, but we had five separate lobbies, five separate ways to process visitors, five separate ways to get employees in and out, so we wanted to make some conscious decisions on where to direct people," DuChateau explains. "We just built this brand new beautiful tower and connecting commons and training space. Do we have to process visitors at every single building or can we direct them to the tower lobby? If we direct them to one main entry point, then we can deploy technology in these other lobbies and move resources where they're needed. We changed a little bit of behavior and moved some of the operations more towards a centralized location than doing everything everywhere."

AMAG's visitor management system allows guests to preregister, making it easy for officers to look up the guest and print a barcoded badge that permits visitors access to specified areas. The system also runs guests' names against a list of restricted visitors. DuChateau says that in the future the system will allow preregistered guests to print off a QR code that would produce a badge upon being scanned at the facility. "There are some cool things on the horizon as far as the efficiency standpoint goes," he says.

All in the Numbers

While DuChateau is glad to have a 21st century, enterprise-level security system in place, he says he is most looking forward to what the system can do for Northwestern Mutual in years to come. Already, data mining has made the security approach more efficient and intuitive.

"We have two cafeterias on our Milwaukee campus, so we can start gathering access control data and say at 9:30 a.m. here's a snapshot of the number of people on campus, give that to the restaurant team, and they can use it and plan to feed that many people for lunch that day," DuChateau says. "We want to use this data to say, 'okay, are we using our facilities how we had intended three years ago?' We start looking at singular systems, gathering data, and making that data actionable in a business sense. Data is data, but if you don't use it, what good is it for besides investigations?"

Preregistration data also helps the security team manage the flow of visitors each day. Employees can look at the guest database and estimate when and where large groups of visitors will arrive, and plan accordingly. "We get a couple more laptops, badge printers, and patrol people to help process visitors, versus having a bad customer experience and having 200 people lined up out the door just to get in to a training event that we're hosting," DuChateau explains.

That's just the tip of the data-mining iceberg, and the more Northwestern Mutual's security arm works with the rest of the organization, the more the data can be employed to the organization's benefit. "Our information resource management and cybersecurity folks look at it from a different perspective, and maybe our privacy people ask how the data is going to be used and what kind of data is gathered," DuChateau says. "Now that we're standardized on an enterprise-class solution, how can that data benefit the business? How can we slice and dice that data down the road? Maybe we can take snapshots of our environment across all of our facilities, not only in Wisconsin but in Arizona and New York—can we feed that information to our workforce planning people?"

DuChateau says he wants Northwestern Mutual's intelligent security control centers to take the heavy lift off of employees and use built-in analytics to proactively identify strange behavior, and instead use security personnel to respond to exceptions.

"For the longest time, our control centers had this big screen up with all card access activity in the environment, thousands and thousands of people badging in and out—all of this data is scrolling by and it's just noise," DuChateau says. "Why do we even care what these people are doing in real time? Let's care about the people who are badging into areas that they aren't supposed to be badging into, or someone who has a multifactored device and is putting in the wrong PIN code, and start dealing with the smarter security approach to a secure environment."

While the new technology and data augment Northwestern Mutual's security posture and reduce the workload on guard services, DuChateau says that does not mean technology will replace people. "Maybe we want to pull some people because we've deployed technology, but we will direct them to a different part of the operation that looks at metrics, or quality assurance, or all of these things that really build up those parts of the program, because we don't have to be so labor intensive on physical access control or checking IDs or things like that—we can look at resource management in a different lens."

For now, DuChateau says the security team is still getting used to the new facilities and platforms at Northwestern Mutual's Milwaukee campus and is learning to rely on the data the systems collect. But within a few years, he foresees a "phenomenal expansion" of leveraging the platforms to guide the team's efforts.

"We've really begun to scratch the surface on the potential of all of this technology," DuChateau says. "We're in a good spot because we did it early enough and we have people familiar enough with the technology. Now we can ask, okay, what else can we do and how else can we move the vision of our company forward?"

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