Why ‘Construction-Minded Procurement’ Undermines Security Deployment

Inclusion in new construction specs shows that appreciation of the need for security has increased. However, the failure to treat it differently than traditional construction trades can be a major cause for end-user dissatisfaction with system functionality.

The recent 10th anniversary of 9/11 prompted much discussion about how our country’s and the public’s opinion of security changed on that fateful day. Those of us in the security industry before 9/11 already had a keen awareness of the determination of criminals and terrorists to circumvent security processes and systems to achieve their objectives. That day the gap between our industry’s reality and public comprehension of the seriousness of threats we all face narrowed dramatically.

The 9/11 tragedy radically raised the urgency to develop, enact and adhere to countermeasures. It also triggered demand for electronic security systems (ESS) to protect our vast infrastructure. That demand has driven a decade of development of technologies resulting in new and improved security products. Today, specifiers and integrators can design and implement ESS with much greater detection sensitivity, lower false alarm rates, greater availability of intelligent information, and detailed archived data for forensic analysis.

Although positive indicators of security industry stability and growth, there is one change increasingly counterproductive to performance and end-user satisfaction. As the capital budget dollars appropriated for ESS rose, constructive collaboration on ESS design, deployment and commissioning by the consultant/specifier, integrator and end user was weakened by a “construction-minded procurement process” developed for civil projects. Although this has effectively served the construction and real estate industry for more than a century, it is not well suited for systems where configuration and programming have a material effect on functionality.

It is very understandable how and why this problem has evolved. Prior to 9/11, a common frustration of security systems integrators was, “Security is underappreciated. It is the last system to be deployed and the first to be cut. It is too often sacrificed by end users to free up funds to satisfy compliance and/or invest in areas with a more defined ROI.” Inclusion of ESS in new construction specs shows that appreciation of the need for security has increased. That is very positive and I believe a direct consequence of 9/11. However, the failure (in most cases) to treat ESS differently than traditional construction trades can be a major cause for end-user dissatisfaction with functionality.

Granted, security as an afterthought (pre-9/11) was frustrating. However, in cases where integrators and specifiers were recognized by owners and end users as trusted advisors with subject matter expertise, collaboration on ESS design and deployment resulted in higher end-user satisfaction than systems today! In spite of today’s products being more accurate and stable, when they get “bundled,” installed and commissioned with little or no specifier or end-user involvement in the award and execution phase, the ESS falls short.

Fixing this problem does not mean excluding ESS from construction specs. It incumbent upon key stakeholders of security systems to recognize new technologies and products are increasingly software-based with great capability and flexibility. Those advancements can exacerbate end-user dissatisfaction when the procurement process treats ESS as a construction trade.

Others have also noticed this problem. Ray Coulombe formed SecuritySpecifiers to help provide specifiers with resources for inclusion in construction specifications with importance equal to system functionality. When projects are awarded based on that balanced consideration, constructive collaboration is possible and end-user satisfaction is enhanced.

Jim Henry is Executive Vice President of KRATOS|HBE.


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