What Makes a Good Integrator?

Professionalism and teamwork are key to successful projects

As security consultants, we are tasked with everything from creating a security program to recommending an integrator with whom clients can form a good relationship for all their security equipment needs.

This article is written specifically from the viewpoint of how to suggest a good integrator. Security consultants must ask themselves this basic question:

“Is this integrator going to perform professionally?” In this case, professionally means quite a few things. It breaks down the integrator’s competency into several key parts:

  • Can the integrator appreciate the consultant’s role, work as a team member to execute this project efficiently and be ready for the next one?
  • Can the integrator keep the scope, schedule and budget in focus?
  • Can the integrator communicate appropriately with the client?
  • At the end of the job, what will the client tell me about this integrator?

I have gathered these criteria from two sources: My 22 years in the industry, and direct experience working with good and bad integrators. I was an integrator for 12 years before becoming a consultant 10 years ago. When all of the above questions were answered with a yes and the last one with a thank you, my experience with the integrator was good. My experiences with bad integrators went like this: They couldn’t keep a schedule to save their lives; they couldn’t perform the work without whining about having to do each task or about having a consultant design the installation differently than they would have done it, regardless of the enhancement to the system’s serviceability; and they completely down-talked and badmouthed the consultant to the client as an unnecessary role.

Only one of these bad experiences resulted in a client discontinuing the use of the consultant (though the client later realized the specific, necessary role of the consultant), while all the other times the client did not want to use the integrator either to finish the project or for any future work in the agency/organization.

There are three mandatory roles in a security installation project: The consultant has to design the system or the criteria appropriately to the client’s needs, calling out specific security equipment and installation methodologies. The manufacturer must provide a support role to the integrator in a presales, during-sales and during-project process.

The integrator must install the security system(s) as designed in a neat, clean, trouble-free atmosphere, remembering that the key phrase to a successful project is smooth and easy.

If unforeseen problems arise warranting change orders, then put the information forth as soon as possible with a cause-and-effect statement. This makes any transition smooth and easy. If problems arise and something goes wrong (damage to a facility, complaints from client staff), own it -- and bring it to the consultant and client as soon as possible, explaining what happened and the remedy you took. The examples could go on and on, but you should get the point by these few.

It is easy to perform a project as an integrator working with a consultant from the client side if you can answer positively to all of the bullet points above and if you handle things with a smooth and easy approach throughout the project.

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Charlie Howell is an independent security consultant in Northern California.

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