The Security Buying Chain Explained

Chances are, if you’re involved in a security project, you are part of a team. And, like most teams, yours has its challenges. From people working at cross purposes, to folks who won’t listen — or won’t speak up — the roles and responsibilities of such a group can be difficult to navigate.

Owner (or end user)
Things all start with the owner, or end user. That’s the person who is supposed to know what he wants — if not technically, then at least operationally.

Even if it’s just what he wants to accomplish, without a clue as to the technology involved, the whole project is, and should be, contingent on his vision. The less clear he is, the murkier things get for all.

Next in line, the architect, designer, or other purveyor of aesthetics. What may seem like a barrier to success at the time often turns into the force behind creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

In the interest of keeping the system from being too ugly or making the environment more attractive, this person can say “No” without any responsibility for offering an alternative. Want to put ugly camera housings in the lobby? No. Need to optimize lighting for better images? No.

Since no one ever wins an argument with the aesthetics police, the team will need to take up the slack and come up with ways to make it work. And the project will be better for it.

The consultant really should be synonymous with the owner, but that is frequently not the case. His job is to take the vision and turn it into a reality. If the vision is foggy, he is to guide the owner into focus and clarity.

He should know what works, what doesn’t work, and what the cost is to make the inevitable incremental tweaks.

Often, however, the consultant overrides the owner’s vision, shaping it to fit the consultant’s past experience. Consultants stuck in the past may stamp out the same design long after technology has moved on.

Others may be too forward thinking, forcing projects into cutting-edge technologies where tried and true may be more appropriate. Many consultants are content with a “cookie cutter” philosophy of design, cutting and pasting to make specifications rather than listening and creating something that is appropriate for the project.

Integrators and installers
The integrator or installer that has won the project is supposed to implement the design or vision quickly, effectively, and professionally.

But this is a multi-headed beast: from salesmen bidding equipment that installers aren’t trained in, to installers who want to spend too much time on the job, to project managers who want things wrapped up as quickly as possible.

It is rare to find the integrator who is well trained in all aspects of the equipment in question; who installs, tests, and tunes the system properly; who trains the end user and documents the installation — and is a low bidder to boot!

The manufacturer is at the other end of the chain. It (or its representative) has read the specifications and tried to shape them to fit its particular product line.

It is out of business if it doesn’t get its products installed on projects, and it’s unusual to find one that will walk away from a project because it isn’t the right fit for its products.

In all fairness, it’s a technologically challenging industry, and the manufacturer may not have thought anyone would really use that specific feature. After all, there are plenty of other really useful features.

Linking the chain
While this may sound like a dysfunctional family on a poorly rated sitcom, making the team work like a well-oiled machine is really not so complicated. First, look at the top of the pyramid: the owner or end user.

Second, do everything possible to make them happy. Listen to them, understand what they want, and make sure that you are in a position to deliver for them.

If you don’t have the training, skills, resources, expertise, or inclination to follow their leadership and make their objectives a reality, get out of the way. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. And nobody stays in business very long by being part of the problem!

As someone who has made all of these mistakes at some point in my career — I’ve been an end user at casinos, a designer for an integrator, have worked for two manufacturers, and am now a consultant — I speak from experience!

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