The Straw That Stirs the Drink

Security consultants often are the glue binding systems projects together

You sometimes hear that if you consult enough experts, you can confirm any opinion. So as end users face the daunting task of keeping pace with evolving security technology, understanding the role of a consultant and what to expect once you choose one has never been more important.

At their annual conference in New Orleans recently, members of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC), the industry’s most respected consultant’s organization, wrestled with the complexities of their profession and how the landscape is changing with their various partners. The days when bringing in a consultant was regarded as a luxury is no longer the case. Securing a qualified consultant to oversee a project from bid to implementation is crucial to a successful outcome for the all parties concerned; from the vendor, to the systems integrator, and finally the client.

“A good relationship can help protect the integrator in many ways. For instance, owners (clients) can be very fickle. One day they want this and the next day they might want something different. If the consultant is there to police that and make sure the proper risk and regulatory requirements have been defined, and that the scope of the project remains within the parameters established at the outset, the vendor can have a successful install – get in and get out and remain profitable,” says Frank Pisciotta, president of Business Protection Specialists in Raleigh, N.C. and the current president of the IAPSC. “Harmony is required so everyone can make a profit and to have a good front-facing project for the owner. The fact is the consultant will eventually move away from that job, but the integrator and vendor will be servicing the client for another five to 10 years.”

One of the primary pitfalls consultants face when dealing with end user clients is a lack of expectation or perception of what they do. It is imperative that all project partners develop a consensus about why the consultant is needed, what the deliverables will be and what the project roadmap and timetable look like.

“I tell the integrator to try and avoid doing the consultant’s job for the client because they are overanxious to get the project started. As Frank said, if you’re an integrator acting as your own consultant and the project goes wrong, you have put your company in a bad position moving forward with this client,” warns Harold Gillens, president of Quintech, a security consulting firm our of Summerville, S.C. “ If you act as your own consultant, there is no buffer. We want the integrator to know how to use us. We want them to recommend us to the clients versus them taking on that role. There is a role for all of us in a successful project – the end user, the consultant and the integrator.”

Pisciotta echoes Gillens’ assessment, saying that a qualified technical design consultant, who is non-product vested and independent, is better able to bring all the right parties and technologies together.

“This entire conversation really strikes to the heart of procurement and the issues surrounding it. In fact, the reason why it’s not in the best interest of the owner to have the integrator acting in the consultant’s role is that there is an inherent conflict of interest – I’m recommending something I sell. That can be perceived or it can be real,” continues Pisciotta. “Also, as an integrator, I’m usually going to have a limited amount of product selection in my line, so I can’t afford to have every product represented.

But the consultant can step back and look at the entire landscape, assesses the requirements, and then match the owner with the right product with no vested interest in any of that. You lose that benefit when you go directly to the integrator or a manufacturer’s rep.”

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