How to Become a Manager for All Projects

Security technicians and installers work on projects every day. It could be installing a residential alarm system, a larger CCTV system or a small security company taking its first shot at being a subcontractor on a large commercial access control system. In the latter situation, the company will face many meetings with the primary contractor and electrical contractor. Any way you look at it, these activities are all projects and deserve a plan of attack. 

As a technician, security dealer, engineer and manager, time and time again one of the most valuable tools I have used is understanding how a project evolves. Once you understand how the phases of a project work, you can apply that knowledge to the smallest and largest projects. And it will make you look more professional when proposing jobs to your customers. It will also allow you to work with support tools such as project management software. 

5 Phases of Project Management
The five phases of a project are: planning, design, implementation, testing and maintenance. As a dealer or integrator who wears many hats, you may come in on a project after the bid phase or you may be lucky enough to work with a customer from the inception of their security endeavors. Either way, you will fit somewhere into one of these five phases.

Planning is the most important step. Because of your subject matter expertise (SME) you may be called in at the very beginning of a project to give advice on what type of access control system to sell and install.

When all have agreed and signed off on a plan, then the design phase begins. Whether or not you did the planning, this is the phase where you and other companies may be asked to submit “design-bid-build” proposals. Also, remember that good communications are vital at all phases of a project. Again, this is very simple advice that is often overlooked. 

At the implementation phase, you have checked over all contract material, agreed to the legalese (you did have your lawyer look at it, right?) and committed to the project. Make sure there is a good schedule with milestones that all parties agree upon. Include a process to audit or inspect various implementation phases to make sure all work is per the project’s specifications. 

The project’s testing phase might be staggered as various parts of the implementation phase are completed. At some point, testing will often involve the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), particularly in the life-safety areas of your access control system. Testing should include checklists, be very methodical and all relevant parties should sign off on the results. Make sure to have copies for your records.

Tools, Software Can Help
It is safe to say all projects do not end or evolve exactly the way they were planned. Fortunately, there are tools available to deal with just about any eventuality. The critical path method (CPM) allows for continuous monitoring of a project schedule. If a task in a project is either added, changed or deleted, a complementary method called the program evaluation and review technique (PERT) will allow the man-hours to be recalculated. Project management software programs often come with these analytical tools. They can provide a very accurate analysis of the time needed to do virtually every task in the project. 

Gantt charts are bar charts that show the project schedule. They typically illustrate the start and finish dates of the elements of a project. However, Gantt charts should not be considered to present all breakdowns of a project. Rather, they should be thought of as a good tool to provide an overview of the project schedule.

Project management software has made life much easier for implementing the different phases of a project. Probably the most popular program used today is Microsoft’s Project™. I have heard it resides on up to 5 percent of all computers that have Microsoft™ Office® installed. While the program is very popular and widely supported, the cost can sometimes be enough to prohibit use by smaller companies. 

With the recent movement to open source software, a new free project management program has come from a company called Projity. OpenProj™ is currently being downloaded ( every 18 seconds. One of the nice things noted about the program is it can import mpx and mpp format project files a small dealer may need to comply with from a larger contractor. 

The Security Industry Association (SIA) has released an exciting educational program for those who not only want to further their education in project management but are also interested in becoming a certified project manager in the security industry. According to SIA, “The Certified Security Project Manager (CSPM) Program provides a nationally recognized professional accreditation for project managers involved in the design and installation of security systems. The goal of this program is to offer certification to individuals who have demonstrated their proficiency in every aspect of project management as it relates to security systems.” 

This program is not for newbies; one of the requirements is that an applicant must already be working in the security industry as a project manager. For more information, brochure and application forms, go to

Cover Your … Keep Good Records!
Remember projects have a lifecycle. Though many will say they have a start and an end, in our business, many projects seem to take a hiatus and then continue into another cycle as add-on projects. Many say these add-on projects are where the real profit is made. 

Monitoring a project is important. Conduct or participate in meetings on a regular basis. Try to coordinate schedules, electronically, if possible, with software. Make sure you keep a personal, bound notebook and record events daily, such as who called who about what and the results. Use documented correspondence, such as E-mail, as much as possible, and save all.

When you are a small contractor and things go bad on a project, you want to make sure you have all the details documented. It is a sad bit of reality that on large contracts the small specialty contractors are usually the ones that suffer since often they have limited resources. Make sure you have a final report so you and your company can reflect on the project and learn going forward.

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