G4S and (un)trusted computers

By the time you read it, the Olympics 2012 will be over (and we will be allowed again to actually say ‘Olympics 2012′ without being harassed by the brand police). Hopefully there were no security incidents, despite G4S inability to deliver as many security personnel as they were supposed to.

As usual, the computer has been blamed for all that mess. Apparently the software that they use cannot work into the future so tat they were not able to anticipate the correct number of people that they needed. We are talking of an error of a magnitude of about 10 thousand people and of about a year. For the world-size company it should not be an issue. Apparently it was.

So, we have a culprit: software. Computers. Arrest them. Fine them. Break them into pieces. They are not worthy our trust. We, on the other hand, did no mistake. Only the computer is wrong. D’oh.

There is a couple of interesting problems worth discussing here. It is, of example, apparent that so called trusted computing will not deliver computing that is trusted. That means: the most reliable and secure hardware and software will not deliver the experience of trust and trustworthiness if the company failed to have a foresight of what is actually needed from the software. Chips do not think.

As we routinely transfer our expertise into computers, and then mindlessly follow its judgement, this may be something of a challenge. Or a danger. Specifically, that software developers routinely disclaim any responsibility for the quality of their work. It is not surprising, as everybody does if only can, but it worrying from the perspective of trust. It is as if nobody wants to be trustworthy anymore.

From the perspective of Trust Governance, there is a more interesting question: what is the likely future of G4S? The company that deals with security cannot operate without trust of its customers, and apparently this particular trust is in a short supply. G4S has been already punished with contractual fines and it is about to lose some large contracts. It also made some concessionary gestures to satisfy the press.

While I cannot anticipate what G4S will do, I can anticipate what it can do. Trust Journey, one of tools of Trust Governance caters for the breach of trust, as well as for the growth of trust. Such a breach of trust does not always end up in a disaster, but it requires efforts that not every company is able to commit to.

Companies tend to react with some concessionary gestures. They say ‘sorry’ (which I hate, as I know that this is just a pre-recorder stunt). If that does not do the trick, they find a scapegoat and let us tear it into pieces. They may also contribute to some charitable cause. None of it prevents them from seeking legal protection and collecting all the contractual payments that they believe they are entitled to.

If that is not working, companies tend to abandon the tainted brand, retain the executive team (and the sales team) and start anew, under a new name. As our collective attention span is relatively short, it works quite well.

There are not that many brave companies that actually embrace the five-step process prescribed by Trust Governance. Probably the main reason is that it is to expensive to repair the relationship than cut and run. We will see which which way G4S will take.

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One Response to G4S and (un)trusted computers

  1. Pingback: Reputation does not mean trust | Risk and Trust Governance

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