How to Make or Break Your Project

A major security project for any size of facility often requires the skills of highly trained professionals. When the security director or CSO decides to work with a third-party professional on a major project, what can he or she do to help ensure the project's success? I asked several seasoned security integrators to discuss this question. Their responses offer some interesting food for thought.

Start Early
Many of the integrators I spoke with emphasized the importance of getting outside parties involved early in the process. This way, integrators and security consultants can work closely with the end user in determining the best approach to their security issues. Nick Zigayer, general manager with Frisco Bay Industries in St. Laurent, Quebec, said early communication is critical to a successful project. "The key in most successful projects is dealing with the end user at an early stage in their requirement-building process," Zigayer said. "We must develop a relationship in which our expertise can be used by the client to clearly understand what is and what is not feasible in a security project. In addition, we need to define what is a requirement and what is an added-but not absolutely vital-feature.

"If a clear performance outline or specification is obtained with absolute minimum requirements, a defined construction schedule and an approximate budget price, the end user has a clear expectation on paper that can be agreed upon between him and the security integrator." J. Matthew Ladd, president of The Protection Bureau in Exton, PA, stressed the importance of advance planning to smooth the entire installation process. It is important to know who has responsibility for what jobs, such as assigning IP addresses and port locations of network-based systems. "Regularly scheduled conference calls keep everyone on the same page," he said.

Another integrator, Lawrence Roy, manager of project coordinators in Frisco Bay's Central Canada region, added, "If the design is not well suited for the site or if the timing of the project is not realistic, then how can the project succeed? Lack of coordination on a construction project always leads to cost overruns and general dissatisfaction."

Speak Clearly
Christopher Wetzel, COO and co-founder of InterTECH Security in Warrendale, PA, said open and frequent communication between the integrator and the end user is another common thread in successful projects. "Jobs go smoothly when we have detailed drawings and a well-defined scope of work, shaped in coordination with the end users across the various business units involved and affected," he said. It's just as important for the end user to know and make clear which parties have responsibility for which aspect of the project, and to make sure all interested parties have the appropriate say in the process. Steve Morefield, president of First Line Security in Anaheim, CA, said he likes to see there is a buy-in and understanding from the company's IT department to avoid potential problems. "For instance, it's important that everyone has a clear understanding of how access systems and video affect the network," he said, explaining that these functions have bandwidth requirements that must be factored in to overall network usage.

Direct access to the decision makers is vital. "When you're not dealing directly with the decision makers and end users, everything gets filtered and edited by an intermediary," Morefield said. "Details get lost."

To ensure a successful project, Zigayer recommended having as few levels of intervention as possible. Requirements, expectations, communications and scheduling become next to impossible when several layers of intermediaries-such as general contractors and architects-are added between the end user and the integrator. The more levels of intervention, the harder communication becomes and the more difficult it is to meet the expectations of all parties involved.

Problems on projects can occur or become exaggerated when the chain of communication breaks down, he said. "Examples in the past have shown end users becoming upset that we have not completed required tasks-tasks they didn't realize were delayed because of another party in the project who did not communicate this information to everyone else," Zigayer said.

"For instance, an end user gets upset that we have not installed readers. We would have to explain to them that their building contractor had not actually put up any walls yet on which to install readers. A contractor gets upset that we have not put an access system in operation. We would have to explain that the end user had not given the database to us so that we could actually program the access system. The issue in these examples was lack of communication either up or down the proper chain of command and no direct link between the integrator and the end user. This results in frustration on all levels."

What to Look for in a Consultant
Many security directors hire an outside security consultant to serve as overall manager on their security system project. The integrators I interviewed said they are comfortable working with security consultants, but they urged end users to ensure they select a well-qualified individual.

Frisco Bay's Zigayer offered the following advice. "I believe companies should understand that the term 'security consultant' is not necessarily specific enough to decide on their exact needs," he said. "Many ex-policeman and ex-security guards refer to themselves as security consultants. They may be quite competent at defining exact physical security requirements, but they may not have the technical skills to fully understand implementing an electronic security system.

"The same can be said for ex-technicians or electricians who refer to themselves as consultants. Their forte may be in understanding all technical details of electronic security. However, this does not mean that they are able to build a document and define requirements that can answer the security needs of an end user."

Mark Ohno, marketing manager for MAC Systems in Canton, MA, said a superior consultant can match desires and needs to technology and financial abilities. "A good consultant should have the people skills and self confidence to manage a diverse group of people with passionately conflicting agendas and maneuver them into cooperating with a security implementation that is both practical and is designed to meet the goals of the institution," Ohno said.

In summary, Zigayer said, end users need to understand the person's exact background, his skill/competency set, and they need to examine references on similar projects previously handled by the consultant.

Security integrators' ultimate goal is customer satisfaction. By working closely with the client in an atmosphere marked by good communication, clear objectives and end user involvement, excellent project results can be achieved.

Ron Waxman is president of Montreal-based Frisco Bay Industries-a member of SecurityNet, a network of North America's top systems integrators. He has been in the industry for the past 28 years. He is a member of ASIS and Canasa, as well as a current member of the Pelco President's Dealer Advisory Council. Mr. Waxman has served on the Casi Rusco advisory board and was vice president of SecurityNet.