Price vs quality

BSIA research examines the advantages of high-quality security solutions

When it comes to sourcing a security product or service, one of the key messages that needs to be conveyed is the importance of choosing a quality supplier who meets with the relevant British and European standards. However, in a world of economic uncertainty, financial pressures can mean key decision makers are letting price and cost savings dominate when procuring security solutions. Here, James Kelly, Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), explores the price versus quality debate.

It has become somewhat commonplace for businesses to make their security-related purchase decisions based on the initial purchase price, instead of the quality of the product. However, for businesses, the safety of employees, visitors and possessions should always be a top priority, and cutting corners on quality can put these factors at jeopardy. Recognising this fact, the BSIA recently commissioned a white paper titled: “The (Real) Price of Security Solutions – a white paper on the challenges of buying and selling high-quality security solutions”. The paper is authored by Dr Terence Tse, an Associate Professor of Finance at ESCP Europe Business School, and explores the price versus quality debate from the perspectives of both buyers and sellers of security solutions, in order to identify the relative advantages and disadvantages between low-priced and high-quality solutions. 

Unsurprisingly, one of the key findings of the paper suggests that end users would find it far more beneficial to invest in high-quality security solutions, with security providers being better off collaborating with their customers in order to develop a good understanding of buyers’ needs so that they may provide them with suitable solutions that not only meet the specifications, but perform well over time.  As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for” and low-cost solutions can often result in them being low-capacity, creating further unwanted costs down the line should an incident occur. Such costs can include direct losses, such as financial costs associated with the incident, and indirect losses, such as costs over and above the immediate costs resulting from the incident. Even if a major incident does not occur, other costs can arise, such as premature replacements where new systems are needed sooner than expected. 

The ‘real’ price of a security solution can come to light when something goes wrong, such as a failure in footage being recorded or an alarm not correctly alerting the right personnel to an incident. This compromises the reputation and safety of the business, and defeats the whole purpose of investing in a security solution in the first place. However, despite this notion, shrinking budgets can push these risks to the side-lines; but it is not just end-users that are putting price first, with many existing suppliers and new vendors responding to such budget constraints by offering lower-priced solutions that can be at the expense of standards and quality. 

“I have been in the industry some 16 years, and before that, in tech marketing across a broad spectrum of industries. During that time, I have watched and experienced the manufacturers race to the lowest selling price, compromising on materials and functionality to do so and often at the cost of UK jobs in the process” explained Pauline Norstrom, former Chairman of the BSIA who spearheaded the white paper. “I have seen the industry rush to the cheapest price to win the bid, with companies offering solutions at very low margins and being left with substantial additional costs they cannot cover. In addition, end users are often provided with an inferior solution which does not solve their problems.”

Discussing the value of the research, Pauline added: “I hope that the white paper will provide educational value to both industry players and security buyers. For the industry, I hope the white paper will enable us to communicate the valuable benefits of procuring solutions on the basis of quality. Especially when the cost of not paying for a service or extra warranty, or system design or customisation, is properly measured across the life of the system, and considered in terms of the whole cost, including the displaced cost to a business and its current operations.” In terms of end users, Pauline hopes that the research “will help end users to think in terms of the wider business impact of security purchase decisions, to challenge the brief and to consider the displaced costs which may arise.” 

“Especially, I hope that the paper will educate the security buyer as to the art of buying a specialised security solution, rather than a bunch of part numbers or just cost per hour; instead to consider the value of the sum of the parts bringing a larger benefit than those parts working in isolation. It is the concept of the whole system, whether a service or product offering that the security industry needs to explain to the security buyer, and I hope that this white paper achieves that,” she concluded. 

The results of the white paper showed the benefits of collaboration between the end user and the security supplier. It is not just crucial for the supplier to provide a high quality product, but also for the end user to be completely clear on their exact requirements and what they need from the solution. As such, before making an informed purchase decision, it can be worthwhile for the end user to work closely with the security supplier, as their extensive experience can help to identify and pinpoint all of the needs of the business. This is especially useful for technology-based solutions; with the fast paced evolution of technology, it can be difficult for end users to identify the best technological product to suit their needs. Collaboration can help with this challenge and enable the end user to extract the greatest value from a high-tech solution. Taking the time to work closely together can also result in a positive business relationship that may continue beyond the first purchase.

Discussing the value of collaboration, Simon Adcock, Chief Executive Officer of BSIA Member ATEC Fire and Security – one of the sponsors of the white paper – commented: “At ATEC Fire and Security, we only work with clients who are a good fit for us, and with whom we intend to work with for a long time. Because of this, we can invest a great deal of time understanding their organisation, their needs, their existing solutions and how we can help them create value. Secondly, our goal is not to sell technology, it’s to help the client create value. Often our contractual responsibilities reflect that, so we don’t get paid for say installing a camera, we get paid for achieving evidential video quality which, assuming we are the experts and not the customer, is exactly the way it should be.”

To aid in important purchasing decisions, the white paper sets out to make recommendations for both security providers and buyers through checklists that can help buyers make informed decisions and help security providers better demonstrate the true value of their offering, rather than pitching themselves on price alone. The full white paper can be downloaded here:

The BSIA would like to thank the sponsors of the white paper – Securitas and ATEC Fire and Security – for their valued support and contributions. To find out more about Securitas, please visit or for more information about ATEC Fire and Security, please visit: