This article originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.
Project management is critically important to the successful completion of any security project. Without the appropriate skills, a project could run completely over time and budget – or worse, derail totally.
It is only with the best security industry-specific training that you can ensure your projects will run smoothly. The following project management tips are excerpted from a new Frontline Project Management for Security and Systems Integrators training class delivered in a hybrid format through SecurityCEU.com, in partnership with Nadim Sawaya of Enterprise Performance Consulting (EPC) – further details on this course are provided at the end of this article.
Before diving into the tips, it is essential to understand that organizational culture shapes how people work together in pursuit of common goals. A culture that supports and actively works to improve project management processes will likely experience growth and success. If you need to change attitudes towards projects, focus on behaviors and actions that can be easily measured.
To increase project success, security and systems integrators must adopt a project management culture. They need to provide the infrastructure, including written procedures and training to allow the project manager to effectively manage.
According to Project Management Institute (PMI), organizations with a projectized culture increase their project success factor by 20% on average. PMI also reports that “high-performing organizations successfully meet goals 2.5 times more often, and these organizations waste 13 times less money than their low-performing counterparts.”
So, as it turns out, good project management ensures that the goals of projects closely align with the strategic goals of the business.
10 Steps to a Successful Project
1. Pre-planning:Planning is probably the most overlooked – yet most important – part of the entire construction process. Integrators who have participated in training say they received many compliments from customers about the responsiveness and professionalism of their project managers. Although creating a thorough schedule is a big part of project planning, there is more to it. It is your way to make sure you are not going to encounter unseen cost overruns as the job progresses. Proper planning limits liability and identifies the client’s fiscal goals, which reduces the chance for expensive change orders and gets your team and the client on the same page.
2. Conducta formal sales-to-operations turnover meeting:When starting the project, be sure to analyze everything, including timelines, possible risks, site plans, design specification and more. Be certain the contractor is not the only one in the loop. It is important to keep communication with your team open as well. So, be sure they are thoroughly familiar with these details as well.
One way to do this is by conducting a formal sales-to-operations turnover meeting on every project, where the salesperson turns a project over to the Project Manager. As part of the process, all project information, including verbal instructions, are discussed and a complete project plan is developed.
3. Conduct a project re-estimate:Project Managers should review the project documents, including the signed contract, the statement of work, and project cost estimates. Then, within two weeks of the sales-to-operations meeting, complete a project re-estimate. This is an important task to ensure that the project was bid correctly. Any cost discrepancies should be identified early, and a mitigation plan developed. This task will also help ensure the correct material will be ordered and the job does not have any hidden cost overrun which will affect the true gross margin on the job.
4. The kickoff meeting:This meeting with the client is critical. The Project Manager and key members of the project team should attend the meeting, along with key personnel on the client side. The goal of that meeting is to set expectations and validate the scope of work. The kick-off meeting is the best opportunity to put your project on the right track and to clarify the project scope. Its goals should be to: Ensure assumptions are met with customers’ expectations; ensure contractual obligations (signed contract) are matched by the customer expectations; and review the project in terms of scheduling, scope, and cost drivers with the project stakeholders.
5. The engineering submittal package: Construction submittals – also known as the engineering submittal package – are documents provided by a contractor to an architect for an approval of use. The submittal log includes information provided to the architect asking for approval for certain materials and equipment before they are fabricated and sent to the project site. The Project Manager should ensure that the company has an approved engineering submittal from the customer before doing any work on the project. This practice should be done on every project regardless of size or complexity. Treat your security project like any construction project. “Approved for Construction” should be stamped on every drawing. The other benefit of having a detailed “Installation Drawings” is to improve the field efficiency of the Installation Team.
6. Learn the Critical Path Method (CPM): Originally created to estimate task duration in projects and help behind-schedule projects get back on track, today, the CPM is used to identify the most important tasks and ensure a project does not fall behind schedule.
A critical path is a project flow technique where the sequence of dependent tasks that form the longest duration allow you to determine the most efficient timeline possible to complete a project. The Project Manager and entire project team should have a solid understanding of the concept and network diagram scheduling method of CPM. They should all be able to schedule the project’s resources following the CPM.
The Project Manager should also know how to communicate to the general contractors and other trades impacted by project constraints based on the critical activities of the project. Mastering CPM principles are essential in helping negotiate and win construction delay claims.
7. Read the project contract weekly:Project management is contract management. The Project Manager should review periodically the project contract terms and conditions, especially as it pertains to the General Conditions (Division 1). This will ensure that no work outside the contract scope is performed.General Conditions are the costs incurred during a project that generally do not involve swinging a hammer or installing something permanently.
General Conditions can account for 10% or more of the project cost – depending on the logistics, access, and complexity of the project – so they are a significant factor in a project’s budget. Understanding how much of the budget goes to General Conditions and which items are covered will provide a good indication of how the project will generally be run in terms of security, cleanliness, and oversight.
8. Document project activities and changes:Project Managers should use a daily logbook to document all relevant verbal instructions on the project (who said what, when and why). Project Managers should also know how to manage email protectively by confirming any verbal instruction in writing and responding to important emails – especially the ones you don’t agree with – promptly. As far as emails are concerned, silence in non-response implies consent.
9. Pursue all change orders:On average, security Integrators give away more than 10% of the project budget for free to customers. This free work might constituteall the project’s profits. Project Managers should know how to identify project changes or scope creep, especially the small ones. They should also know how to ask the customer for compensation for such changes. As the saying goes: If you don’t ask, you don’t get paid. Project Managers should know how to cover all costs associated with change orders, such as engineering, project management, redirecting the workforce, and extended warranty.
10. Get a signed Certificate of Completion: Project closing is the biggest challenge for security integrators. You may be 95% done on the project, the customer is making beneficial use of the system, few items are remaining to complete (punch list), and your team is reassigned to another project. Meanwhile, the customer is holding the final payment and getting a free warranty. With this situation, there is no big pressure from the customer to get the project formally closed out. It is important to implement a strict strategy to get a Certificate of Completion (COC) signed on every project. The COC is crucial in getting the customer to accept the project completion, getting paid in full, and initiating of the project warranty.
Nadim Sawaya is Principal at Enterprise Performance Consulting, and Connie Moorhead is CEO at SecurityCEU.com. This article is adapted from SecurityCEU’s Frontline Project Management hybrid training series, consisting of a 10-hour self-paced interactive eLearning course and a 2-hour instructor-led webinar focusing on the retention of the online lessons. For more details on the course, the cost of the program, and to register, go to: https://catalog.securityceu.com/frontline-project-management.html