The Barriers to Effective Buyer-Supplier Relationships in the Security Sector

The aim of the research was to identify and discuss the factors in the buyer-supplier relationship that can impact negatively on the relationship, and ultimately on the success of the contract. The research is based on examination of existing literature, survey responses from 502 security professionals, and 40 interviews (20 buyers and 20 suppliers).

Desired Characteristics

Acknowledging that there is no ‘best’ type of relationship (context is key) respondents on both sides (buyers of security and security suppliers) were committed to the principal of working closely and collaboratively. Key components (in an ideal world) are: trust, good communication, aligned aims, objectives and ethos, and affording appropriate priority to security. There were many examples of how the relationship worked well but it was evident that difficulties are not unusual.


Buyers and suppliers were candid in interviews and often reflective on the shortcomings of their own peers. Buyers for example admitted that they sometimes lack insight on their own needs, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the complexity of security (there are many available solutions). The lack of status experienced by some meant that they can lack control over security spend, and have limited input into the procurement process. Meanwhile suppliers face real pressures in a competitive market which can lead to cutting costs, to the point it can compromise quality and lead to under-delivery. There is a lack of understanding about these ‘realities’ often driven because those bidding for contracts are sometimes managed separately from those who deliver. Difficulties arise when there is a lack of communication and a failure to invest time. There is no shortcut to recognising and committing to overcoming these issues, easy to say, a challenge in practice to do.

Professor Martin Gill who led the research noted:

The Buyer-Supplier relationship is absolutely crucial to the way that security operates and yet in the security sector this area has been largely unexamined, perhaps inevitably so given the somewhat sensitive nature of the issues. Hopefully the findings will provide readers with an insight to the issues to be overcome in order to reach a win win situation – something that our research suggests the sector is striving for.

To view a copy of the full findings click here: 2018-10 Security Buyer Supplier Relationships

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.