One concern that I’ve heard repeatedly from security integrator representatives is a fear of appearing to add extras to drive up their commissions and company profit margins by suggesting changes and additions to a customer specification or RFP. These are often options that, based on their experience, will enhance the overall solution sought by you, the security director. They’re even more leery to suggest additional hardware or labor now when bottom line prices are more attractive than ever and our thinking is becoming increasingly myopic toward short-term goals based on lean budgets.
Be up front with your integrator competing for your business. Encourage open dialogue early on, as you are engaging in important discussions at this point. Let them know that alternates to their base bid with justifications to provide a user friendly, reliable, secure and robust access control and identity management solution will be welcomed. You don’t want to discover later that the fifty dollars per door you saved today results in a very costly change order during installation, or worse, a pricey “remodel” of the installation later on. Yet, you still have the ability to easily tailor the solution by accepting or rejecting alternates versus starting the procurement process over because no response falls into your budget. Accept a rough-in for proposed alternates so you can add them later, when your budget allows, without having additional cables pulled.

Best Practices Could Mean Best Service

Ask your integrator for a copy of their best practices for access control and integrated security system software, programming, photography, badging and hardware installations. Some integrators may be parties to a manufacturer’s agreement to hold these as proprietary – that doesn’t necessarily trigger a red flag, and it is likely based on the specific nature of a particular brand or line of access control solutions. Yet, remain assertive – you have the right to understand what you may be purchasing.
Often, the integrator with the longest list of best practices will submit the highest quotation. Those costly or value-added practices may benefit your operation considerably and their ROI recouped promptly. Alternatively, there may be practices and standards in that list that do not benefit you at all. Discuss these with your integrator. It will be worth your time as well as theirs.
Review best practices of various integrators, solicit your colleague’s best practices and highlight those that are applicable to your operation or particular installation. Meet with your maintenance and repair staffs and solicit their input. If you rely on your integrator for maintenance and repair, ask that they bring along their project manager, service manager, installers and repair technicians when presenting their proposals to you – or at least enough representation from such a group as is practical. Conference calls or Web meetings can accomplish the same end result. Gather the data and then develop your own best practices based on those highlighted and presented line items, or incorporate them into your own existing standards and practices boilerplate.

Keep Your Best Practices Live

Your best practices and standards should be living documents. I keep a folder on my desk labeled, “Best Practices/Standards” for each system that I manage. I fill folders with clippings from trade magazines, pages from industry standard publications. I include standards and practices that I’ve obtained from integrators and I write my own. I’ll gather them electronically so I can cut and paste them into specifications. I’ll toss in some repair tickets that resulted in a critical failure and write in a solution to add in the future.      

For example, an early entry into my folder was caused by more than one instance of access control cables being burned through by a plumber’s torch in mechanical equipment spaces. New best practice: Cables/fiber traversing designated mechanical spaces shall be protected in four inch diameter EMT (conduit).
Due to frequent remodeling on my campus, I specify that all door controllers be housed in a heavy duty enclosure, placed in a data closet on each floor of a building and all access control cables on that level shall be homeruns to that enclosure. In smaller buildings, the main controller and door controllers are housed in one location and all cables are homeruns to that room. That way, a door controller board isn’t mounted in what is a ceiling today and may become tomorrow’s wall.
Do cable homeruns cost more? Absolutely! Do they save hours of fruitless labor searching for a failed controller that is now encased in some concrete tomb? Absolutely! Downtime is reduced. Total cost of ownership is reduced. This practice simplifies troubleshooting failures for your in-house techs or your integrator’s technicians, thus saving downtime and labor costs and increasing your satisfaction. Your system documentation and CAD drawings will be simple and more understandable as well.
Now more than ever, you are partners with your integrator. Their reputation is in your keeping and your reputation is in theirs.