Just five years ago, security maintenance and administration for insurance giant Aetna Inc's more than 100 nationwide field offices was complicated, cumbersome and costly. In fact, the security "system" for the Hartford, Connecticut-based insurer and its field offices was an amalgam of multiple records for each badge technology type and required more than 30 systems integrators to support the program with-no direct interface to human resources or vendor databases."Not only was it difficult to manage all these different systems, there were frustrations in locating vendors when there were problems and getting work done at the sites as well," says Dave Gionfriddo, system design manager at Aetna.

At a total program cost of about $1.4 million, Aetna used innovative technology products and software to migrate from a legacy system and separate vendors to a single system of record beginning in late 1999.

As a result, Aetna has drastically improved and streamlined its security management in 2004.

In addition, the company created a state-of-the-art security command center in Middletown, Conn., to maintain security for its more than 30,000 employees and 6,000 contingent workers nationwide. As a result of technology and process changes, Gionfriddo says Aetna has realized a $1 million savings in reduced staff and administration expenses to date, and an additional $400,000 cost savings by having consolidated its five remote centers into one central facility in Middletown.

Creating the solution

When faced with the security system inefficiencies in 1999 along with an annual directive to reduce selling and general administration expenses, Gionfriddo and IT staff set to work to find a creative, cost-effective solution.

"We had to develop a system of record as a repository of all our information for physical security as well as build a foundation for that system on human resources data for our employees and contingent workforce," he says.

"We also knew we needed the ability to receive a constant feed of information from external systems to keep that physical security system current."

Aetna needed a high-capability platform flexible enough to run on a corporate network while being user-friendly on desktops and servers, Gionfriddo says. Three companies and four separate systems were considered.

Gionfriddo was familiar with an existing system that was currently operating at Aetna from Software House (SH), a Lexington, Mass.-based developer of access control and integrated security management systems software and a product group of Tyco Fire & Security in Boca Raton, Fla.

Gionfriddo and Aetna's IT team ultimately chose the C.Cure 800, an SH security product that helps users control access and manage events for single or multiple sites worldwide.

"The biggest challenge was implementing the system on our IT network," says Gionfriddo. "After doing extensive quality assurance tests and checks, our staff was very pleased with the overall efficiency of the system and its ability to distribute information over the corporate network."

American Dynamics (AD) products, another business unit of Tyco Fire & Security, were selected. Working in conjunction with the SH product, the AD products provide access, administration and management of all video systems from one location.

Training time and costs for security personnel also have been drastically cut because now a single system handles video, access control and alarm monitoring. The products helped Aetna realize a $400,000 cost-savings because fire alarm, access alarm and environmental systems, as well as phones and entrance intercoms in each of the facilities, can be monitored through the single command center in Middletown, according to Gionfriddo.

Conversion and consolidation

The conversion process began in late 1999 when the SH product was first implemented in Connecticut.

The C.CURE 800 was able to reside on Aetna's corporate network using standard desktops, and the intuitiveness of the software made it easy to train administrators over the telephone with in-house talent, according to Gionfriddo.

The migration from the existing legacy system to the system of record required the re-badging of 12,000 workers in three offices and the replacement of some 400 card readers.

In addition to building access, the new badging system enables employees to use their identification badges as a debit system to buy lunch in the cafeteria. The badges also can be scanned to show receipt of overnight mail packages and used to manage parking.

After the conversion of its major Connecticut facilities, Aetna began converting its approximately 100 field offices over to the corporate system, with full conversion of all its facilities planned for mid-2004.

Specific rules and standards

Another critical component of implementing an effective system of record is creating specific rules and standards.

Gionfriddo and the IT staff wrote a separate document of standards and procedures for security personnel, employees and contingent workers and posted it on the company's Web site.

The access identification standards document also is updated two to three times annually. "People need to be made aware of their responsibilities," says Gionfriddo.

"In these documents we explain the rules about paying a fee for a lost badge, what to do when a badge is forgotten, and what happens if someone borrows a badge."

Once a system of record was implemented and conversions were well underway, in 2002 Aetna focused on consolidating its five command centers into a single facility in Middletown.

Gionfriddo says one of the major challenges of consolidating all systems to operate under a single command center included upgrading from an analog to a digital video recording system and bringing it over the network.

Using a combination of SH and AD products, cameras were configured in the command center to allow access to live or recorded video and provide a central point for video administration. The domes, or cameras, can be controlled from Aetna desktops.

Future plans

Gionfriddo says the system's flexibility is important because it is able to receive external data and also send out data to feed external systems in other areas.

"Because of the data we have in this system, we can provide our real estate services group with critical information on our contingent workforce population that uses building space on-site," he explains.

"We can provide this current data in a more user-friendly way than our human resources system can."

The Middletown command center will continue to be the focal point for the operation of Aetna security, and increasing the capabilities of the command center will receive the most attention, according to Gionfriddo.

"The center is capable of handling much more than it is currently," he says. "Middletown will remain the focal point of security operations at Aetna, and it will play an important role in our disaster recovery plan if anything were to happen at any one of our offices," he concludes.

Tina Tapas is a business writer based in Prospect Heights, Ill.

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