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In the digital age, surely time is up for the paper visitor log?

Paper records are no longer fit for purpose when it comes to efficient and secure visitor management, so what other options do organisations have?

When you think about it, your visitor management system (VMS) is a very important part of your operation. As well as being part of the first impression anybody visiting your business will get, it’s also your only way of controlling who is able to access your premises and knowing exactly who is on site at any given time.

Despite this, by far the most popular type of VMS remains the pen-and-paper sign-in book.

Given its importance, and the proliferation of technology being used by businesses to achieve quality and efficiency improvements, it is surprising that visitor management is something that is so often overlooked by organisations.

What could possibly go wrong?

A VMS serves several different key functions. Firstly, it should allow visitors to be identified as they arrive and then either sent to the right place or met by the right person at reception. As simple as this sounds, getting it wrong can have significant consequences.

A famous example of this was Guy Goma, an applicant for an IT position with the BBC who ended up being interviewed live on air in place of technology expert Guy Kewney on a subject he knew nothing about. Of course, it was unfortunate that two men with the same name arrived at the same time both expecting to be interviewed for different reasons, but this is the kind of error that a more sophisticated VMS could easily have avoided.

Secondly, they need to provide real-time visibility of exactly who is on site at any given time. The often illegible, error prone and non-digitised records provided by paper log books makes this very difficult to achieve, especially for premises with large numbers of visitors or multiple access points. There is a significant risk not only to site security but also to visitors’ safety if emergency services are unaware of their presence in the case of an evacuation.

An integrated solution that makes real-time information available remotely makes effective evacuation and assembly procedures much easier to achieve.

Finally, there is a need for any VMS to handle the data it contains sensitively. Paper records can make access to information difficult to control, as visitors are often able to see the names and details of others who have visited previously.

Illustrating the point, Daniel Jennings, marketing manager at VMS and sign-in solutions developer Inventry, said: “Having details of everyone who has signed in that day on display to all visitors can create real issues, as in the case of a school we consulted about an improved solution.

“A child had been behaving disruptively and their parents – who were no longer together – were called in for separate meetings to discuss the issue.

“Unfortunately, the parent attending the later meeting wasn’t aware the other had also been invited in, and noticed the name in the sign-in book. For want of a better phrase, all hell broke loose as they demanded to know why they weren’t the first person the school talked to.”

This issue will be well known to any salesperson who commonly checks into offices to present to potential business customers as a way of gathering intelligence on any competitors that might be pitching at the same time.

But obviously, while this has potential benefits for salespeople, it also carries significant risks for your business, and your visitor book could well be giving away information you really wouldn’t want to give away.

With a digital visitor management system, these unwanted information leaks are easily avoided, as visitors will see only a sign-in screen, rather than a list of everyone that has visited that day.

Towards better visitor management

So why is it that paper log books, with all of their disadvantages, are still seen in receptions up and down the country? Dan Harding, Creator of Sign-In App, said: “There are three reasons that the paper sign-in book has endured for such a long time – it’s quick, reliable and affordable.

“For an essential, everyday function, it’s hard to overstate the importance of these things. For the business community to be persuaded to move to a more sophisticated system, whatever other benefits might be on offer, these three properties are non-negotiable.

“In the relatively recent past, achieving this meant a significant investment in specialised hardware, and this always had to overcome the barrier of unfamiliarity among the visitors using it. However, the affordability of mobile devices today means that robust and intuitive systems are affordable for a much larger range of businesses and organisations.”

Another technological development that has made integrated VMS affordable for a much larger market of organisations is cloud computing. Michael Tagliaferri, head of customer success for the VMS Sine said: “Through cloud-managed services, like Sine, a centralised, helicopter view of a single site or a portfolio of sites separated geographically is now easier to implement and manage than ever.

“This means key operational staff and power users can have the tools required, wherever their workplace may be, to manage time and attendance of all people flows within their workplace.”

Yet another flaw in the paper-based approach to visitor management is its lack of flexibility when it comes to the information guests are asked to provide. Often, this varies from business to business and from visitor to visitor. Certain contractors may need to show an ID or their training credentials, where others don’t. Standard log books are unlikely to have the exact combination of columns any specific business needs, and obviously there’s no easy way to change what details are asked from one sign-in to the next, making it difficult to comply with data protection regulations.

Geoffrey Bressan head of marketing at VMS developer Proxyclick, said: “The flexibility that comes with digital VMS solutions is one of its great strengths, allowing each business to identify its own sweet spot between a smooth and fast sign in and collecting the right amount of data to be stored for the right length of time."

Integrated solutions

An effective VMS is made up of a front-desk sign-in and a photo-capture system – which can often be delivered by an app running on a mounted tablet – and an automated badge or label-printing solution, integrated with a cloud-based platform. The software solution should be able to handle host notifications, compliant record-keeping and delivery of real-time personnel information.

Today, many integrated, all-in-one solutions are available, making installation quick and easy. At Brother, we provide our high-performance QL Label Printers as part of solutions offered by all four of the leading visitor management system providers that contributed to this article.

So, if you want to make a more professional first impression on your visitors, while also improving safety and security, it’s well worth looking into which system would be best for your organisation.

After all, in this age of technological advances, can you afford to trust pen and paper with such a vital part of your business?

Learn more about Visitor Management Solutions from Brother.

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