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Standardize the VMS approach, customize the site

Standardize the VMS approach, customize the site Photo

No matter how deliberately designed processes are, tension always exists between the enterprise as a whole and each specific site when it comes to how those processes are executed. The reason is obvious: it’s impossible to account for each site-level nuance and idiosyncrasy in one overarching plan. The greater the scale of the enterprise, the truer this is.

One focal point of this tension is visitor management processes and the configuration of visitor management systems (VMS). The tension between enterprise and site is exacerbated by the way VMS use typically proliferates throughout the enterprise. Here’s what that proliferation looks like: VMS is implemented at one site after another, configured to each’s specific needs, until it hits critical mass and catches the attention of enterprise management. At that point, an improvised discussion occurs about what functionality needs to be standardized across sites and what can be bespoke. We’ve written in depth about how this plays out and the hidden pitfalls when enterprises let VMS use organically expand and later try to rein it in.

A way to reduce the tension that arises from this course of action and to avoid associated pitfalls can be summed up in one short sentence:

Standardize the approach, customize the site.

This means starting with enterprise needs in mind from the first implementation and then determining how to drill down to the specifics of the site. Taking this approach, an enterprise can:

  • Ensure branding, compliance, IT, and security are consistent
    across all facilities and sites
  • Save time and attention down the road
  • Be confident that the organization — along with each site — is leveraging maximum functionality from their VMS

Enterprises employing VMS do best when they standardize elements upfront but maintain the flexibility required to optimize for specific local needs. Here we discuss what VMS elements companies may want to standardize from the start.

Starting with the end in mind: 4 major elements suited to standardization

There are four elements that should be guided from the top. The reason: they are important to each site, but may not be obvious to the people on the ground there. The four elements are:


Traction Guest functionality includes custom watchlists and integrations that allow organizations to screen against hundreds of official external lists, including those related to finance, politically-exposed persons, and international terrorism. This is particularly useful for organizations whose compliance requirements include performing some level of background check on guests. Which watchlists guests should be screened against, when exceptions apply, and what processes are used to add people — including terminated employees — to internal lists should be determined centrally to maximize the security coverage a VMS affords. Read more about watchlists here.

Permission bundles

Permission bundles let administrators organize who can access particular VMS features and data. Careful thought should be given to how permissions are provided to different users. The enterprise may want to have the top administrator role centralized, so that one site administrator can’t see data from another site. Also, some functions related to permission bundles should be standardized. One example is related to safety. In an emergency, approved users can access notification features that let them communicate directly with guests and the employees accompanying them, providing alerts and instructions. The group of people who have permissions to access these alerts and the standard operating procedure for using them may be best delineated by upper management. Read more on permission bundles here.

Documents and training

Enterprise legal, compliance, and safety managers may want to ensure that the documents viewed and signed by guests at each facility are standard and appropriate considering the site. These documents could include waivers, safety instructions, confidentiality agreements, or permissions to record and use personal data. Not only does addressing this from the top ensure uniformity, it means that there is a complete digital record of important documents starting from the first use of VMS in the enterprise.

The visitor experience

Management may want to make sure that some elements of the visitor experience are consistent across facilities. These elements may include branding and communications, for example. Will the graphics and language on sign-in templates be universal? Does language change if the guest is a contractor or a customer? To keep on-brand, the answers to these questions should come from the top.

Standardizing the approach, and customizing the site is a VMS implementation strategy that will help the enterprise leverage the most value from their VMS investment and reduce the tension that arises between enterprise management and site-specific staff. Starting VMS use with the end in mind will help the enterprise reap maximum benefit from their system while saving time down the line.