Physical Security and Datacom Projects: Considerations for Every Customer

Stay Informed

We live in a hyper-competitive business world. And no business is more competitive these days than physical security and data communications, especially in a post-COVID environment with pent-up demand. You know that pre-project planning decisions can have significant economic impacts and you want to be sure those impacts are on the positive side of the ledger. Some of those planning decisions can include sourcing your solutions from the right manufacturers, hiring the best integrators and contractors, and determining the most impactful distribution partners from which your solutions will come.

Talking about the core components of your external project team is nothing new. That said, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Think about the image of a three-legged stool as you think about your external project team and its core components. In this case, the distributor, manufacturer, and integrator or contractor – three legs of the project stool, so to speak – work together to create a stable project support platform. By working together, your external project team helps to ensure that your project comes in on time and on budget.

Sounds good, right? But, how does that actually happen? And, as a customer, what are some key issues you need to consider?

Business people and manufacturer discussing project at facility

Key Consideration: Relationships

Does your integrator or contractor have trusted relationships with the core manufacturers needed to support your project? If so, this can often result in a lower overall project cost, since the right manufacturer will want to win your project and, therefore, will go above and beyond with its distribution and integrator partners to help bring down costs. If your integrator and/or distributor do NOT have these types of relationships with core manufacturers, then costs can remain higher than they need to be and you may have to revisit/rework your project plan, which no integrator ever wants to do.

Make sure you ask questions about with whom the integrator has existing, long-term relationships, including both distributors and manufacturers. Trusted partnerships like these are worth their weight in gold…and in lower total project costs.

Financial graphs and analytic comparisons

Key Consideration: Total Cost Versus Product Cost

As you further explore these relationships and compare project costs between competing integrator or contractor, distributor, and manufacturer teams, don’t be misled by what might initially seem to be an impressive low-cost project bid – always think total cost vs. product cost. What seems like a great bid can quickly become unmanageable due to multiple change orders made necessary to make up for lower quality products or lack of supplemental solutions that somehow never made it into the low-cost project bid. What starts out as the low-cost winning project bid could even become the most expensive option.

Comprehensive pre-project planning can pay positive dividends, reducing the potential for change orders and other out-of-scope situations once a project begins. As you evaluate your potential external project teams, the right project team should be coming to you with cost-saving ideas upfront, before any bid is made for your project. These ideas can and should include creating internal standards to protect your organization’s design intent as well as a comprehensive review of all project steps to identify and plan for deploying time-saving efficiencies that can have a positive impact on your bottom line.

As an educated customer, you need to be asking your potential external project teams about how they plan to increase efficiencies to bring down your total project costs. And if they don’t have good, reasonable answers, it may be time to look elsewhere.

As a further example of exactly what we are talking about, let’s assume your project budget is $5 million and one external project team you are considering comes to you with what initially appears to be the low-cost option – $4.8 million, including cable, cameras, switches and all other components that are less expensive than other teams. This could be the real deal or a red flag – how can you tell the difference? You can ask the following questions:

Are product warranties industry standard?
Compare warranties on the cable, cameras or other project elements.

How many years has the integrator or contractor been in business?
While a Private Security Contractor license requires that the applicant possess a minimum of three years (out of the last five years) of qualifying full-time experience, ideally, you would want to be working with a security contractor that more than meets the minimum experience requirement.

Manufactured Products – cabling and electronics: Cost vs. Quality?
Like anything else, you typically get what you pay for – before accepting any product cost that is significantly less than another, make sure your Project Team has thoroughly vetted the “lower-cost” product, making sure that all product specs are what your project requires.

Can the integrator or contractor provide at least three references for similar projects whom you can call?
All reputable integrators and contractors should be able to provide this.

Does your project plan account for pre-IP addressing of cameras, switches or other IP components?
If your integrator/contractor cannot offer this, steer clear!

If pre-IP addressing is NOT part of the project plan, then what happens if, say, a portion of your cameras come to the job site DOA?
Costs can increase! Pre-IP addressing virtually eliminates camera DOAs, potentially saving significant time and money.

Group of businesspeople having a project discussion

Coming Together

If you select the right external project team, as their project plan comes together, they should be coming to you with efficiency-enhancing ideas, such as component and subassembly kitting and or preassembly, switch, camera or other IP pre-addressing and pre-staging of larger project elements to create a plug-and-play solution. While only a representative sample of what can be done, these types of efficiencies can bring down your total cost by up to 20% or more.

Remember our $5M project? If your external project team knows what they are doing, you just might end up with $500K to $1M in savings. Remember, what starts out as the low-cost bid can quickly become a budgeting nightmare if your selected project team is not ready and able to offer up these labor-, time- and cost-saving services.

Learn how WESCO | Anixter can help you with datacom and security project consideration best practices.