Managing the whole project, not just the install
By Vanessa Chris
With security system projects becoming increasingly complex, it’s tough to find project managers with the appropriate technical knowledge and management background to ensure everything is delivered on time, on budget and without a hitch.
By Vanessa Chris
Part of the problem stems from the fact that, unlike other industries
such as construction and software development, the security industry
has not yet embraced project management as the structured discipline it
is known for in other sectors such as information technology.
To effectively groom security-focused project managers, the industry
must promote and support the necessary training requirements, and
companies must devise formal project management systems.
As it stands, most members of the industry manage projects in an ad-hoc
fashion, and managers are promoted via the ‘halo effect’, says Kevin
Parisien, project manager of the security and IT systems group for MMM
Group based in Toronto. Basically, if someone has paid their dues and
excels at installing complex security systems, they’re often considered
project management material.
The problem with this method, says Parisien who spent years as an
installer before being promoted to his current title, is that
installers and project managers require completely different skill sets.
“When you’re an installer, it’s all cables and wires. There’s no
paperwork,” he says. “In project management, it’s all paperwork.”
And by ‘paperwork’, Parisien isn’t referring to a one-page parts list.
Since most of his projects are large, complex airport installations,
Parisien must prepare reports and contracts to prevent any
miscommunication between his company and the client.
This often involves a project charter which outlines exactly what he
will be providing including details of the integration process,
contractors involved, members of the project team and what is expected
from the client. The original project charter also includes a high
level schedule, which highlights such items as the completion date of
After issuing the charter, Parisien also compiles a detailed schedule, a resource plan and a procurement plan.
“Basically, there’s a plan for everything you can think of,” he says.
“You have to be able to track approvals and submissions. The last thing
you want is for the client to be mad at the end of the project because
they received something they didn’t expect.”
While not every implementation project requires this vast amount of
documentation, Parisien believes every project must have some formal
systems in place to prevent this type of miscommunication.
Before he was introduced to the formulaic processes of project
management, he ran projects the way many security project managers do –
he did what he could to please the customer. But with no formal
processes in place, anything done after the original quote often
resulted in lost money. That’s when he decided to boost his project
management skills and become certified under the
internationally-renowned Project Management Institute (PMI) in
Parisien obtained his Project Management Professional (PMP) designation
through the institute by first taking a course at Durham College in
Whitby, Ont., entitled, ‘The fundamentals of project management’.
Parisien was required to take a 35-hour project management course, hold
a high school diploma and five years of project management experience,
and pass the institute’s four-hour exam.
While elements of the program can be applied to project management in
the security industry, it primarily focuses on the discipline of
project management in general and is not security-specific. For a more
focused course, potential project managers looking to update their
skills would have to take the Certified Security Project Manager
program available through the US-based Security Industry Association (SIA) based in Alexandria, VA.
The CSPM program is specifically designed to meet the practical aspects
of managing security projects, and focuses on helping security
integrators reduce their project cost slippage and increase customer
satisfaction. The program consists of a self-study component, classroom
training and recertification.
“On average, security integrators have 10 per cent gross margin
slippages on their projects,” says Nadim Sawaya, Principal, Enterprise
Performance Consulting in California, which specializes in training
security integrators. He is a CSPM program developer and trainer who
was instrumental in developing the CSPM course content. “CSPM could
help them reduce this slippage by more than 50 per cent. The future
trend of security projects is on managing projects with lower margins
and more complexity and tighter deadlines.”
Although the course was once offered to Canadians through the Canadian Security Association (CANASA), that
is no longer the case. Canadians interested in taking the program can
hire SIA to teach the program on-site – if a number of employees
require training – or they can take the course at one of the
association’s U.S. facilities.
Walter Chan, supervisor of corporate security for the City of Toronto,
took the course when it was offered through CANASA back in 2005. With
the vast number of security projects in the City of Toronto, the
organization decided to implement measures that would allow the
security management department to manage them more efficiently.
Part of the overhaul involved creating a project management office, and
when Chan was put in charge of it he decided to take a course to update
his skills and allow him to effectively manage the workload.
“The question became, do I go out and get my PMP, which is globally
recognized, or look at something industry-specific?” he recalls.
He chose the newly-launched CSPM program because it was based on PMI’s
project management methods but focused on industrial security
management. While Chan said the program was great in terms of teaching
the fundamentals of project management for the security industry, he
felt that it was too slanted towards the private sector – namely
private installation companies – and somewhat excluded the owners of
buildings, including public sector entities such as the City of Toronto.
CSPM has a self-study component that everyone has to take before
attending the course. The course is five days, and with all the fees
(application fee, self-study fee and course fee) it turns out to be US
“CSPM has its advantages, but it could be better if it injected the
owner’s perspective,” he says. “As a person who represents the owner of
the building, I have to know what my responsibilities are during each
stage of the project. I have to define what I want each camera to do
and what my responsibilities in the project will be.”
Chan says any owner or landlord that is hiring a company to install a
security system in its building must be properly trained to ensure the
project is executed efficiently and all possibility of miscommunication
Overall, he believes this is one component in creating
efficiently-managed security installations. A properly-educated client
must work with a trained security project manager and security
companies must also play their part by implementing internal project
While it’s unclear whether the shortage of qualified security project
managers and the disappearance of the CSPM program in Canada could both
be due to a lack of interest on behalf of the Canadian security
industry, Chan believes it’s likely the case – and it’s something that
needs to change.
“Some organizations aren’t doing a proper cost/benefit analysis of
project management certification – people aren’t aware of the
opportunities it provides,” he says. “I think in this economic climate
there will definitely be an increase in demand for this type of
certification – customers are going to expect projects to be on time,
at cost and at a high level of quality.”