Not a wedding proposal, unless you already had that in mind. Last year I discussed the additional services many security integrators are adding in response to changes in the economy. Those service offerings continue to increase in variety and creativity, especially at the enterprise level.

OK, so you’re perfectly satisfied with your current integrator and/or in-house software administrators and field technicians. Perhaps you are facing some budget reduction efforts that are affecting your ability to retain an in-house staff. Well, whatever your situation, I would recommend that you invite different security integrators and vendors, door hardware manufacturers representatives, identification and visitor management specialists and perhaps even extended warranty providers – typically insurance companies, to stop by and let you know what they have to offer. There are varying reasons for doing so and approaches to accomplishing part or all of the above.

First, let your existing integrator and in-house personnel know that you are going to embark on the search I am suggesting. If you’re satisfied with you are working with – let them know that. In that case, explain that you are just gathering information and aren’t planning changes without considerable discussion with them. If you aren’t quite sure about your existing relationships, let them know that as well. It’s an obvious way to encourage improvement. We’re busy people as leaders in the enterprise. I’m rereading what I am suggesting and I know that I wouldn’t have the time to accomplish all of that work.

First, select which of your partners you want to compare, integrators or door hardware representatives for example, maybe more than one or two. There are many of the organizational, logistics and research tasks that can be delegated. Next step: perform or delegate the research. A great launching pad for research is to hand a designee a stack of current and past issues of this magazine, for example. 

Request an executive summary of the research, select a few integrators to invite based on that research and your personal choices, and have an administrative assistant schedule the meetings and organize the logistics. This is one approach.

Another approach is to generate an RFP, a Request for Proposal. For this type of project, one form of RFP to generate would be one of a broad and open format. Include a list of your challenges and be clear that you are seeking solutions from the responders. On the other hand, if you have a very specific challenge, for example, costs, a more comprehensive and detailed RFP would be in order. I encourage you to include language in your RFP that, in addition to a written proposal, on-site interviews may be conducted.

The third approach I’ll offer is to hire a security consultant. You may already have a relationship with or know a trusted colleague who would perform this work. I’ve been involved with using an RFP process to select consultants. One very effective RFP for this type of review that I was involved included seeking an architectural firm to select a security consulting partner who would provide suggestions and solutions. 

Ultimately, these results could be incorporated into building and remodeling standards. Of course, that will be the most costly approach; however, it may be what you need. It’s never a bad idea, in my opinion, to seek someone outside of your organization who has the proper credentials and background to review any or all of your practices. What may be unusual in what I’m proposing is using an outside source to essentially review the success of your existing purchasing practices and integrator relationships. 

Whatever method you choose, if you decide to move forward, be certain to include your existing standards and best practices in the information that you provide. That information can be considered and reviewed as well, and no one will know better than you and your staff as to which of those practices cannot be disregarded.

The bottom line before embarking on anything I’m suggesting is to respect people’s time – your time, your staff’s time, and that of the integrators and your vendors. If you are not going to be able to make changes, the work I’m suggesting would be pointless. That being said, I know I am not alone in recognizing that recommendations that are made from an “expert” outside of one’s own organization, especially those in writing, tend to increase the funding priority of the proposed solutions.