Standardizing Integrators: Program Organizers Speak Out

SIA staff and committee members explain the proposed security systems integration training and certification program


Nuffer explains that it’s his personal opinion that the CSPM program has seen slow adoption partly because applicants are required to take the entire training program before they can take the test to earn the designation. That kind of testing requirement doesn't account, he says, for those who already know the material.

The proposed SSDS program has been designed specifically to avoid that kind of pitfall. Nuffer explains that training is modular and the full training pogram isn’t required to take the test. From an integrator’s perspective, he notes, a full training requirement would mean losing an employee for a length of time -- meaning also that the company loses income based on that designer’s work. With this system, designers will be able simply to take the test to prove their knowledge, or can brush up on a specific training module before taking the certification test.

“The SSDS is structured so that people who already know this stuff don’t have to go through the training program just to take the test,” Nuffer reiterates.

It’s important they avoid that hurdle, says Nuffer, because he says there have already been some hiccups with the program from integrators’ perspectives. There’s the concern that once becoming certified, trained designers could be stolen away by another company. Company owners worry that the new certification will mean they have to pay their certified designers and certified technicians more to keep them, and there are even concerns of duplicated training. Some say that the lowest level of the SSDS program –- the “installer” level -– might inadvertently compete with the NICET certification programs.

Why we need it

SIA’s Holly Wells explains that the program is patterned somewhat off the IT world, where skills and technical knowledge are codified by a number of certifications. She notes that, in terms of certifications, the there will be similarities with the CSPM (Certified Security Project Manager) designation, and that while the two certifications will be “in the same world, they’ll exist for different reasons.”

Nuffer adds that there’s a strong tendency in the IT world – a world integrators are more and more involved with – to look for certifications before hiring. Being able to prove you have the knowledge, he says, means that integrators can access new jobs.

And while much of the standardization of integrators is coming from directly within the integration and manufacturer communities, end-users will likely smile at the possibility of seeing their integrators standardized. At the SecureWorld Expo, where Security Technology & Design magazine offered a convergence education track for end-users, a number of top end-users expressed their frustration in working with integrators. The comments varied widely, but themes included that their experience with integrators was one sometimes of just “smoke and mirrors”; others said that the IT skills and knowledge they needed from an integrator often vanished from the hired company if a particular employee departed.

And while there are some early cries for standardization from the end-user community, in order to really get the program adopted, it’s going to take a pattern of adoption from industry security consultants.

“They are the ones who can write it in their RFP that ‘SSDS certification will be a plus,’” explains Nuffer. “There will be some enlightened integrators who will jump on this as soon as it's available, but we’ll probably have to rely on the consultants. They are the ones who could force the adoption of SSDS.”

Learn more:
SIA's Doug Wright can provide additional information about this proposed SSDS training and certification program. He can be reached via email at dwright@siaonline.org.