Skip to main content
Insight

Are there any Olympic winners?

The Olympics is sadly coming to an end, although after the rich pageant London has seen I can eagerly look forward to the Paralympics. As the dust settles on the games it will also settle on the G4S

The Olympics is sadly coming to an end, although after the rich pageant London has seen I can eagerly look forward to the Paralympics. As the dust settles on the games it will also settle on the G4S headlines. As I post this, G4S has just met the security staff numbers required of it as security contractor for the games. But still the words "disaster" and "failure" have dominated the headlines about G4S, one of our leading security outsourcing specialists. Why did it happen?

LOCOG initially estimated around 2000 staff for the job. These staff need recruiting, training, vetting and accrediting before being let loose on the public. I have worked on many large-scale people based projects. Recruitment like that takes time and care.  When in December LOCOG raised the requirement to 10,400 staff, this must have made G4S's position very difficult. Each employee needs approval by the government's Security Industry Authority to ensure public safety. Even if G4S ramped up its management efforts to expedite recruitment and candidates could be found, SIA approvals would take time.

The story highlights a typical issue with the current outsourcing climate. The customer-supplier relationship is not always one of common sense; and the more political the customer's position, the less common sense matters. Demands, pressure from ministers, questions in parliament - these are all part of the scene for contractors working with the public sector. G4S no doubt was familiar with the scene.

Outsourcing contractors are paid for a reason: They know how to run complex operations efficiently and professionally. But ignoring the capabilities of your supplier and the market can create unmanageable risk and the probability of failure. It is not enough to step back from these risks and blame the supplier. Customers need strong internal governance to ensure their requirements remain feasible, manageable and good value. Whatever the ins and outs of this particular story, it is LOCOG who came close to failing in its core objectives here, and not every customer can call in the army.

Sign up to our email digest

Click to subscribe or manage your email preferences.

SUBSCRIBE