Step it up, one project at a time

Integrators share their tips, tricks and tools in a how-to guide to effective project management

In the installation community today, it is not uncommon to find an integrator who has a team of design consultants or a project manager on board to help aid in the process even before the job gets under way. And while having such members on board for these larger integrators may be beneficial to their value-added service offering in providing the customer with more return on investment (ROI) others may argue that the design and specification skill sets of an integrator may not be as thorough as necessary for a complex project, as compared to a design consultant who works directly with the end-user.

"There are integrators who have that design and specification capability but they are not in the majority," said Benjamin Butchko, president and chief executive officer, Butchko Security Solutions, Cypress, Texas. "There are a number of low-voltage cabling firms or audiovisual design firms that are looking for new business on the consulting side and so they are offering security design services where they don't have as much experience in doing so."

For Butchko, the differentiator that he provides, as a security consultant offering design services to the end-user directly, is not selling any equipment or product, eliminating some of the business pressure that integrators may be more accustomed to.

"In your ethical, honorable integrators, they are going to provide the best product and solution they can for the owner but they have some extra constraints that they have to deal with internally that a consultant like myself doesn't have," Butchko continued. "I can recommend a product that these folks would not be able to offer."

Tracking the progress

For Stanley Convergint Security Solutions (SCSS), their Convergence Center of Excellence (CCE) only enhanced their approach to the integration space and provides an added benefit for those customers looking for an integrator to guide them through every step of the installation process.

"We offer our turnkey solution from the design and consultation piece of it to the installation, commissioning and testing so it really is ensuring that we are meeting our customers' requirements and delivering to them," said Damon Kanzler, vice president of National Account Operations, Naperville, Ill. Being able to track their progress has allowed Stanley CSS to ensure that their mid- to large-sized projects are being designed correctly. "Teaming with our CCE, we're minimizing types of change orders to our customers and capturing all the customer requirements upfront during the design phase," Kanzler continued.

As project timelines can extend from as short as 12 months up to 36 months, integrators are using other software tools and resources as well, specifically for those who do not have CE's in place, to guide them in effectively managing a project from start to finish.

Microsoft Project, (MSP) a software tool common to the integrator community, is designed to track project progress, assist project managers in developing plans and managing budgets and workloads.

"We use Microsoft Project for our timelines and our management and then we have a whole myriad of internal processes and procedures and toolsets that our project management staff and project development people are given and trained on," explained Richard Seferian, regional major project sales manager, Johnson Controls, Glendale, Wis.

The AIM Toolbox from Johnson Controls has an estimating tool in it and features Visio engineering tools that allow us to do control drawings; stencils for all the different types of points, on everything from RFPs to RFI documents, Seferian continued.

SimplexGrinnell continues to update their customers on new technologies in the industry through their "Learn from the Leader" program, a webinar series they have been conducting for the past one and a half years, which pulls all SimplexGrinnell customers together to talk about key topics of interest.

"The other benefit of this program is we do issue a certificate of participation to all who attend and a lot of folks use that as leverage to get CEU credit," added Chris Woodcock, director of Communications, SimplexGrinnell.

The Primavera Enterprise Project Portfolio Management from Oracle is another software tool focused exclusively on helping project-intensive businesses manage their entire project portfolio lifecycle, including projects of all sizes.

Many integrators continue to offer their own internal tools and resources to an end-user during the installation phase, from standard pricing to comprehensive tools for designing and distributing electronic drawings to in-house guides for developing proposals, yet for others it is as simple as using everyday communications available.