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Inside the VMS Center of Excellence

Inside the VMS Center of Excellence Photo

When integrating VMS across the enterprise, some decisions should be made by participants in a VMS Center of Excellence. This is a steering committee of executive stakeholders that drive communication, training, and standardization so that VMS functionality is maximized for compliance, security, and safety. This can help to ensure that important VMS features are consistent across the enterprise and account for the needs of all crucial VMS stakeholders

What is the VMS Center of Excellence and who should be in it?

A defining aspect of VMS is that it doesn’t fit neatly under only one department’s purview. VMS solves issues related to security, compliance, legal, and safety departments. While initial procurement and implementation may be initiated by only one of these departments, a well-configured VMS will execute important processes for each, and they should have input into how that’s done.

Here’s an illustration: A VMS implementation is initiated by a compliance officer in order to make the switch from paper logbooks to digitized guest records, which will simplify audit processes. VMS satisfies that need by recording relevant guest details, visit timing and purpose, and details about the employee that sends the invitation. However, recording guest identity information is only one aspect of a site’s check-in process. Waivers and confidentiality agreements may need to be signed. Safety documents may need to be read and acknowledged. These are the domains of legal and EHS departments, and their requirements should also be configured into the VMS guest check-in workflows. We’ve gone into depth about the various stakeholders and their common needs before.

Stakeholders from each impacted department should have a say when it comes to VMS configuration and operation, especially when deployment is happening at scale and some elements need to be consistent enterprise-wide. The steering group in which decisions about these elements are made can be called the VMS Center of Excellence.

What’s on the agenda?

The VMS Center of Excellence steers implementation across the enterprise into its final state — one that accounts for enterprise and local-level concerns and maximizes functionality to enhance compliance, security, and productivity at scale.

However, unlike most steering committees, this group’s tasks don’t focus on overseeing project management, but on ensuring that 1) the VMS meets the needs of the enterprise as a whole, and that 2) users at each site understand the role that their guest management actions play in enterprise priorities.

Here are three things the VMS Center of Excellence should focus on: 

Documentation requirements by site

Each department has requirements related to guest visits that VMS can help to digitize and automate. Sales and marketing may need certain text fields, language, or branding elements to be consistent in the sign-in process. EHS may want guests to sign off on safety awareness documentation. Legal may need non-disclosure contracts to be signed. The VMS Center of Excellence ensures that each of these are accounted for so that no documentation needs get overlooked at any site throughout the enterprise.

Universal versus localized feature sets

Some VMS features may need to be consistent across the entire enterprise. Others can be unique to each specific site. There is no universal rule for which features belong in which bucket. That determination is highly dependent on an organization’s industry, regulatory regime, and idiosyncratic needs. However, there are general guidelines about what VMS elements should be the same across the enterprise, and the VMS Center of Excellence should determine whether these apply, and then communicate instructions to all deployment sites.

Features that are commonly suitable for configuration at the enterprise level include watchlists and permission bundles. Watchlists are a key security tool that allow organizations to screen visitors against official lists of people to flag for financial, criminal, or other significant reasons. Permission bundles let administrators organize who can access specific VMS features and data. The VMS Center of Excellence may want to maintain some permission bundles at the uppermost level of the organization to ensure that individuals at one site cannot inadvertently access information and features at another. At a certain level of granularity — for instance, when determining who can print guest badges at a facility — it may be more efficient to let specific site administrators determine which permissions should go to which users. The VMS Center of Excellence should take the recommendations of IT and compliance stakeholders to calibrate the level at which this handoff from corporate-level authority to site-level authority takes place.

Communication strategies for users

In our piece on VMS stakeholders, we talked about three main categories of stakeholders. One of these groups is comprised of VMS users. Implementation success hinges upon their understanding, adoption, and acceptance of the system and related activities. It’s critical to get buy in from two user types in particular. These are a) security managers — those responsible for monitoring the guestbook, reports, and arriving guests, and b) hosts — those who invite, meet, and escort guests. It’s crucial that employees occupying these roles understand the implementation, buy into its purpose, and are well-trained to execute processes related to it.

Achieving this requires a well-designed communication and knowledge-transfer strategy that comes from the top. The VMS will impact high-stakes business elements including security and documentation, and a plan should be designed that emphasizes early, clear, and frequent communication of roles and purposes. It should also include ways to monitor user attitudes and follow-up to track uptake and retention. 

Getting the enterprise-level use of VMS right

Because VMS impacts so many stakeholders, affects compliance, and may be deployed across sites while retaining some universal aspects, stakeholders at the enterprise level should convene in a VMS Center of Excellence to guide the system’s implementation. This will help to ensure that management has the control necessary to maximize VMS value at scale, ensure consistent quality of training, and feel confident that each guest sign-in activity that needs to happen — including document signing and background screening — does happen at each site.