Getting the Most from a Security Consultant

Five tips to ensure the best possible results

Hiring a security consultant must involve a specific action plan to best ensure maximum results. Using the following five fundamental tips from an insider can help.

Tip 1: Confirm what you need a consultant to do. Some clients believe they need a consultant, but some stakeholders may not be clear about why a consultant is needed and what they are expected to do.
Before you hire a consultant, develop consensus within your organization about why you need a consultant, what the end-result (often called deliverables) will be and what the path to completion (schedule) looks like.

It is true that many specifics about what a report should contain or the level of detail an engineering package might provide will be developed as a project moves forward. From the outset, however, it is important for every stakeholder to be clear on what the expectations of the consultant will be in order to create a success pathway before work commences.

One successful method used by clients involves creating a detailed scope of work. If you are not clear on what your security consultant might do for you, compare the scope of work others have developed for similar projects. Open source, readily available information about past and current projects like yours should be consulted. Do not reinvent the wheel if you do not have to.

In today’s more security conscious landscape, almost every security project has been done before by a similarly situated entity. Previously used proposals, request for quotes and project scopes of work serve as a great starting template ready to be customized for your project. Ultimately, a thorough and clear scope of work along with project stakeholders consensus are critical first steps toward ensuring the successful use of a security consultant.

Tip 2: Use peer review to enhance your consultant’s work. One reason to hire a consultant might have been their expert security knowledge; however, project stakeholders often do not have the ability to thoroughly review specialty security consultants’ work.

Set aside a portion of your budget for peer review by another similarly qualified consultant. Inform prospective consultants from the outset that their work products will be subject to peer review, which should be performed at every practical stage of your consultant engagement.

Assessment reports, master plans, engineering studies and construction documents (plans and specifications) are excellent candidates for this process. Include the peer review firm in your process from the outset and have them participate throughout for maximum benefit. Peer review consultants will bring another critical eye with their comments and suggestions leading to better overall project results.

Some firms may argue that they do not want a competitor to have access to their professional work products. This is a selfish argument that puts the consultants’ interests above their client’s and hurts both the individual project and casts the industry in a poor light. In reality, more experienced consultants have already seen each others work many times over the years. Professional consultants should not oppose this process, and in fact should welcome the resulting benefits to their clients.

The International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC) code of conduct includes rules that consultants must follow when performing peer review services. A legitimate consultant objecting to this process raises a red flag about their real dedication to their client.

One approach I have seen used effectively during competitive solicitations is to announce that the highest scoring firm will receive the primary contract with the next highest scoring firm engaged for peer review services.

Ultimately, peer review can make a significant difference in the success or failure of the primary consultants work. Each and every review comment or suggestion should not be taken as gospel of course, and there may very well be different opinions about any given issue that clients may need to participate in resolving. The net result of expert review and responses to those reviews will provide critical insight into your project and result directly in a better end-result.

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