Managing the Project Manager

Nov. 3, 2009
Understanding and using a PM’s capabilities to the fullest is key to a successful project

You are a security manager and are responsible for the protection of your facility. You have had a few incidents that have put a spotlight on some vulnerabilities in your security program. Part of the solution is security staff training that you are well equipped to handle; however, the rest of the solution is an upgrade and enhancement of your current security systems.
Although this will be a capital-intensive project, your CEO has promised full financial support. You realize that your current workload keeps you too busy to give the time to directly manage the design and implementation of the new security system work. Nobody else on your staff has the time or skill set to manage the project, so you have decided to hire a Project Manager (PM) for the duration of the project.
The range of services that you require from the PM will vary depending the nature and complexity of the project. You may already have a security system contractor and you want to ensure that the contractor’s PM is adequate to the task; or you may need more extensive services that include design, procurement and construction administration, and you need an independent PM to manage the complete process. Although we will assume the latter, the selection of the contractor’s PM should be approached with essentially the same process.
It is very important to identify early in the process the scope of work (SOW) that the PM will be required to perform during the project. This should be quantitative as well as qualitative. For example, during the implementation phase, will the PM be required to be on the job site:
• Full time;
• Only when the security contractor is on site;
• One day per week to observe and report on progress (on a large project a Construction Manager may perform the day-to-day project management function); or
• Periodically “as required.”
Let’s look at the steps to identify, select and manage the PM.

Identifying the Skills
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, the PM’s skill set should include the following:
• An in-depth understanding of the appropriate security systems technology — including the cabling and network infrastructure required to ensure that the system components can talk to each other.
• The ability to communicate with the many members of the design team including architects, electrical engineers and IT, in addition to security systems designers.
• The skills to coordinate the installation work being performed by security system integrators, electricians, locksmiths and communications workers.
• The depth of expertise to resolve problems when they arise.
• Experience in your or similar industries or environments.
• The financial acuity to develop cost estimates, evaluate bid pricing and audit contractor payment requests.

Finding Candidates
You may have used a PM on a prior project and had a successful outcome, or through networking, you can get the names of other possible PMs from fellow security managers. Other sources of firms that provide project management services include:
• Directories of products and services in security publications — under consultants, installation management or project management.
• Directories of project managers and security consultants at relevant associations, such as:
§ The International Association of Professional Security Consultants (;
§ The Project Management Institute (; and
§ The ASIS Security Industry Buyers Guide (

Candidate Selection
Just as with hiring an employee, the selection process is important — you will be working closely with the PM and need to be confident the he or she has the required skills and will represent your needs. Prepare and send to the candidates a request for proposal (RFP) describing the project; the PM’s responsibilities (scope of work); performance and delivery schedule or timeline; required level of education, experience and certification; and corporate contract requirements, e.g., insurance.
You should request written proposals from the candidates. They should include:
• The PM’s approach to the project;
• Qualifications;
• Project references with contact information; and
• Pricing and payment details for the services.
From the candidate responses and your due diligence in contacting offered (and developed) references, you should be able to develop a short list of those that you want to interview. Schedule the interviews in order of the least likely last and the most likely in the middle; this allows you to get interview experience for the project up front and develop the hard questions by the time you get to the best candidate. After you have seen the best candidate, you tend compare the remainder to him or her.
Chemistry is very important; it is essential that you both speak the same language and be on the same wavelength. You have already seen the candidate’s written communication skills, now you should be assessing the verbal skills. How is the candidate’s manner and appearance? If selected, this candidate may need to represent you at meetings and to corporate management. Can you understand his or her techno-speak? If not, others won’t either.
Other questions to ask include: Does the candidate have the time available that is needed for your project? What other projects is he or she have scheduled? Will your deadlines be met? Is the candidate independent or does he or she have other allegiances, e.g., is an employee of your security contractor?

Managing the Project Management Process
You have selected the best candidate to perform the project management function, the scope of the project is clear, the scope of work is well defined, compensation terms have been agreed and agreements have been signed. Now you can just leave the project to the PM — right? Wrong!
Ultimately the responsibility for the security at the facility remains with you — you still need to “own” the project, and the coin of “ownership” is accountability and knowledge.
It is important that the PM understand the limits of his or her responsibility and authority. For day-to-day operations, the PM may be empowered to make technical and operational decisions, but above a certain level — and particularly when associated with the project budget — the PM needs to keep you apprised so that you can make informed decisions.
You may require from the PM detailed, written, weekly reports, or you may require informal meetings to discuss progress. If you have the time, you may schedule to attend all of the design and implementation team project meetings with the PM to ensure that you maintain a hands-on feel for the project, its challenges and their solutions. The depth of your involvement depends on the complexity of the project, how high its profile is within your organization, how much available time you have, and your management style. Whatever the level of your involvement, it is important to ensure that you are receiving sufficient, accurate information so that you cannot be blindsided by any problems that have mushroomed out of control.
As a minimum, the PM should provide you with frequent updates on the following topics:
• Project schedule — tasks that have fallen behind; tasks now lying on the critical path; delivery and installation status of major components; any impact on the overall project timeline.
• Project cost — details of any components whose price has changed; impending and submitted change orders with reasons; budgetary impact and resolution recommendations.
• Project payment — cash flow with deviations from the schedule and their impact on the budget.
• Technical status — coordination issues between trades; installation quality; data gathering and commissioning status; integration between system components; network communication issues; testing procedures and schedules.
In real estate, the mantra is “location, location, location.” One of the most important considerations for a successful security system implementation is “project manager, project manager, project manager.” Finding a good project manager is fundamental; understanding and using the PM’s capabilities to the fullest is the key to a successful project.

David G. Aggleton, CPP, CSC, is president and principal consultant of Aggleton & Associates, Inc., located on New York. He has been practicing in the security system design and implementation field for over 30 years and has performed project management services for more than 250 projects. He can be reached at [email protected].