How to Maximize Cloud VMS Rollouts

Oct. 12, 2022
A step-by-step guide to ensuring financial success for integrators while delivering functional success to customers (Security Business October 2022 cover story)

This article originally appeared as the cover story in the October 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

Many integrators find themselves facing new opportunities for multi-site cloud-based VMS rollouts, which can be done faster and more simply than on-premises deployments for multi-site customers.

Well-engineered cloud-based video management systems eliminate many drawbacks of on-premises system deployment and maximize system accessibility and usefulness for customers. That is why it is important to understand the specific business challenges that can arise when engaging in such deployments.

Insightful planning for cloud VMS rollout projects makes it possible to have smooth customer collaboration, timely deployment, and positive cash-flow circumstances throughout. Those results enable maximally embracing and performing well on the new business possibilities.

Success Factors

Whether an integrator is executing a large cloud-based video surveillance deployment at a single site or executing a project to roll out cloud-based video surveillance for multiple sites, there are many variables to consider. These are not just project factors but are also business considerations, including customers, products, financial costs, project cash flow, vendor relationships, labor, project schedules, quality of service and importantly, project and business risks.

Several aspects of customer engagement and project management that most integrators are already familiar with require special attention for large rollouts – so projects are completed timely and as efficiently and profitably as possible.

This is not a complete project management guide, but an outline of project elements that require special attention for large cloud VMS video rollout projects. Consider these steps as good business due diligence that enables optimal project execution, respects vendor relationships, ensures an outstanding customer experience and best of all, protects project profitability.

Step 1: Understand the Scope of Work (SOW)

The SOW is the project vision shared between the customer and the integrator outlining the end-result to be delivered to the customer, as well as what is required from the customer, such as provision of power, internet service, access to restricted areas, customer personnel training, and collaboration on installation inspecting and acceptance testing. It includes understanding of the system equipment and applications being provided (some on-premises, some in the cloud), equipment warranties, project overall schedule, key deployment tasks and payment milestones.

For a multi-site or large-scale cloud VMS rollout, develop an initial SOW that includes all the elements that must be agreed with the customer, using preliminary expectations for tasks, labor and schedule elements.

Step 2: Create a Schedule of Values and Work Breakdown Structure

A critical part of understanding all that the SOW covers is creating an initial Schedule of Values (SOV). An SOV is a breakdown of values that are associated with a project’s subcategories of activities. As work progresses, the integrator is entitled to payment for work that has progressed, or specific subcategories of work that have been completed, such as wire pulling, device installations, materials delivered to site, etc.

Not only will an SOV help in the planning and scheduling of the project, but it will also help anticipate the costs associated with remaining billing periods. Integrators must plan a strategy when building the SOV to ensure billings are always ahead of the project’s costs, and this includes accounting for schedule and cost risk factors. This ensures that vendor relationships are not strained, by enabling timely payment for shipped product.

The simplest type of SOV is based on the percentage completion of the entire project; however, initial estimates of percentages may not accurately reflect an integrator’s actual work activity and costs. For large single-site projects, most of a project’s visible work occurs at the later stages of the project. For multi-site projects, work can be disproportional across sites due to site-specific conditions; thus, labor and other project costs may not be evenly divisible on a per-site or per-camera basis.

For these reasons, prepare an SOV that accurately reflects the costs that will be incurred as the project progresses. It will be very helpful to create an initial Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as a guide in developing a project’s SOV.

Step 3: Create a Work Breakdown Structure

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a detailed task-by-task requirement of the cloud VMS project. It is used to identify and consider what needs to be done to meet the requirements of the project and in which order actions should be done. Each of a WBS’s three phases (engineering, installation and commissioning) should be broken down into smaller subtasks and laid out in a logical order. By breaking down the project into a WBS you can clearly identify items that require attention as work progresses.

Project planning is the project manager’s most difficult and important responsibility. The Project Plan, WBS, and Project Schedule are the roadmaps that guide the entire project team. Without them, the integration team, and therefore the project, will be at risk.

Once the initial SOW, SOV, and WBS are developed, it is important to refine them based on site conditions and project-specific real-world risk factors.

Step 4: Site Conditions Evaluation

Perform a site conditions evaluation for each site, or for an appropriate sampling of sites, to determine the suitability of cabling pathways and accessibility to them, work areas, equipment installation locations, availability of power, work area hazards, area noise constraints, and possible interruptions to normal business operations and pedestrian or vehicle traffic. Determine if any work-related signage and temporary screening of work areas will be required or desired by either integrator or customer.

There can be unseen labor and schedule factors that add up over multiple sites. Camera network cabling and power provisioning reuse are site condition factors that should be quantified and addressed as a risk factor. When only a sampling of site conditions is used for project planning and costing, contract documents – actual conditions may not match expectations. Contract documents must provide for adjusting project scope of work, schedules, and costs to account for actual site conditions. Failing to include contract terms that cover payment and schedule changes for unforeseeable labor and other cost factors can turn an otherwise profitable project into a business nightmare.

Step 5: Rollout-Specific Project Planning

Multi-site cloud-based deployments are usually simpler than on-premises deployments, but they do have factors that can differ from single-site project planning, including training, testing and acceptance, and vendor support requirements.

Multi-site installations may require per-site personnel training – required because sites come online progressively, not all at once. This is a customer collaboration and labor scheduling factor. With single-site large deployments, typically training and acceptance occur near the end of the project. For multi-site projects, the SOV must reflect progressive delivery and account for the costs that begin occurring early in the project.

Consider allowing flexibility in project execution so that parallel site deployment can be utilized and offset potentially negative schedule impacts of a few troublesome site deployments. The SOV’s project Mobilization value can be used to capture all the site individual mobilization costs up front, which simplifies the SOV and supports scheduling flexibility.

Step 6: Project Risk Identification and Mitigation Planning

In addition to site condition risk factors, today there are supply chain risks impacting product availability, as well as pricing-related risks. Where typically in a rollout project, scheduled product delivery timing is based on the project work schedule, it may be prudent to order all products up front, to account for ongoing supply chain and price inflation risks (Read more in the Security Business September cover story: When cameras and other equipment will be delivered progressively per the rollout schedule, ensure that lead times required for scheduled delivery changes support the desired flexibility in site work scheduling.

There can also be unforeseeable customer-specific cost and schedule risk factors. Utilization of customer networks has risks and often brings specific cybersecurity requirements. Integrations with customer business systems is a growing trend, especially where AI-based computer vision plays a big role, such as modern video analytics for retail stores and service centers.

Step 7: Finalize Project Contract and Planning Documents

After all the schedule, cost and risk variables have been accounted for, the Scope of Work, Work Breakdown Structure, and Schedule of Values can be finalized. At that point, the project’s Terms and Conditions (T&C) can be reviewed and adjusted as needed to account for project risk factors that are outside the control of the integrator – especially when they impact product costs or schedule.