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5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid for Reducing Security Project Failures

A career as a security project manager can be exciting and challenging. By taking a moment to devise strategies to avoid common missteps, you can reduce the risk of project failure.

The security industry demands that project managers be able to navigate challenging situations, changing technologies and complex issues.

More than just knowing the technology, a successful security project manager will understand the framework of clients’ and employers’ expectations and be involved in budgeting, client management, timeline execution and more.

Here are a few common pitfalls faced by security project managers — and how you can avoid them.

1) Focusing too soon on the HOW before clearly defining the WHAT

Often, a security installation project will follow a workflow that begins with the sales team informing a project manager of a new project. After a sales team to operation team turnover, you as the project manager will be asked to prepare a project schedule.

Too often security project managers rush into how the work will be performed (the schedule) before ensuring stakeholders have agreed on the what (project scope). Unresolved scope issues increase the risk that a project will fail. To avoid this, confirm requirements with stakeholders using a work breakdown structure before developing a schedule.

2) Allowing project schedules to control you instead of controlling the schedule

Another common reason security projects fail is at some point the project manager loses intellectual control over their project due to scope creep. There are many ways to define scope creep, but, simply stated, scope creep is a situation where uncontrolled changes cause the project to grow beyond its original boundaries (the scope).

It’s important to continuously and vigorously perform effective scope management throughout the project life cycle to prevent scope creep. This best practice will ensure approved changes stay within the established outer limits defined by the approved scope of work.

3) Missing the critical mark in communications management planning

Security project managers are center stage for project communications. To communicate effectively, you must know your audience. Audiences fall into three groups: stakeholders, supporters and spectators.

If communications are not carefully planned and executed, you can introduce confusion by communicating the wrong information to the wrong audience group at the wrong time. An audience list is a communications planning tool that can help you ensure you communicate to the right audience group at the right time in the most appropriate format.

4) Attempting to execute a project with insufficient people resources

Projects are executed in fixed time frames with finite resources. Resources required can include people, equipment, funding or space. It is common for security project managers to face projects that have become resource constrained, and people resource constraints are some of the most difficult obstacles to overcome on a project.

Creating a well-thought-out resource management plan, including a staffing plan, will go a long way toward helping you adequately staff projects and anticipate and mitigate labor shortages.

5) Relying on non-optimized reporting processes to monitor project execution

The sources, volumes and formats of information flowing to a security project manager during the execution phase of a project can easily become overwhelming. During the execution phase, you must have an organized approach to tracking developments; this will help you respond quickly to positive or negative events.

To keep projects on track, implement an efficient and streamlined process for receiving and processing information simultaneously from multiple sources, including the project team, stakeholders and supporters.

A career as a security project manager can be exciting and challenging. By taking a moment to devise strategies to avoid common missteps, you can reduce the risk of project failure. You can get training and additional information on improving your project management skills by attending the Security Industry Association’s (SIA’s) Security Project Management (SPM) Training Course, a 2.5-day, instructor-led program held several times a year.

In addition, the SIA Certified Security Project Manager (CSPM) and Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications are excellent programs that can help you grow professionally and offer industry-wide recognition of your level of professional accomplishment.


Fred Harris Project Management Fred Harris, PMPCSPMESS , is a security project manager at Convergint Technologies. Harris has extensive experience in security design and consulting, security systems integrations, IT operations and project management. He is a member of the ASIS Int’l Physical Security Council, the ASIS Int’l Architectural Engineering Council and the SIA CSPM Certification Committee.

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