Security integrators often believe that a new ERP system or a clearer scope of work can fix security installation challenges. It doesn’t. Here’s why.
When working through field installations on new security projects, integrators are always trying to overcome operational challenges.
At a high-level, this makes sense. An optimized workflow throughout the security installation process leads to greater profitability and better customer satisfaction while helping integrators avoid missed deadlines and penalty fees.
Just one problem: Most of the methods that security integrators implement to resolve field installation challenges and improve performance won’t work.
Let’s cover a few common solutions and take a look at the real problem that security integrators are trying to solve.
There are a ton of great reasons to implement an ERP system, including improved operational efficiency and better growth.
But the financial tracking that an ERP provides can’t provide insight into the exact amount of work that has been completed.
It’s true that, when implemented correctly, an ERP system can streamline your business workflow and provide deep insight into your installation process. But trying to use an ERP like a monitoring package for your metrics won’t help you resolve security installation challenges.
Often, ERP systems and field service modules become a manager for your project manager.
Executives hijack the project and begin implementing changes based on the integrator’s financial perspective rather than the customer’s point of view and delivering a system they can use effectively.
These modules often fail because they disassociate the end product from the customer. When executives and project managers are focused on company liability and project efficiency, it’s easy for the focus to shift away from customer satisfaction and usability.
While it’s true that ERPs can give access to more data, it’s still impossible for data-savvy users to keep track of everything that goes on inside a security project. For example, these systems won’t show your team what work has been completed and to what quality. Without that essential data, your team can’t plan correctly and has no choice but to guess when estimating deadlines.
Relying on these systems places your team in a very reactive mode, and it’s easy for projects to fall off track because the data that you’re using to make decisions won’t deliver the results you need.
During any installation process, maintaining an accurate and updated scope of work is always key. That, along with your bill of materials, can act as an installation guide for field technicians during the install process.
Unfortunately, maintaining a clear scope of work isn’t as simple as it seems because your project specifications are only as good as the individuals who provide them. A report by the Standish Group points out that the top challenges to any project are a lack of user input, incomplete requirements, or changing requirements and specifications.
Even if the person delivering your scope of work is reasonably qualified, it’s difficult to ensure that accurate drawings are matched with corresponding parts. This documentation is usually provided on multiple sheets of paper, making it confusing and difficult to follow for even the most experienced technician.
When technicians try to reconcile the parts with the locations, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Parts may end up installed in the wrong place or in the wrong manner because the instructions aren’t associated with the device when the technician actually performs the work.
It’s also impossible for the scope of work to remain static. It changes during the discovery phase, and even simple projects can quickly balloon into complex processes requiring more detailed instructions.
In addition to those basic problems, how will you keep everyone up to date on all the changes? An updated scope of work has to filter through different teams so that everyone understands the changes. That process takes time because it’s difficult to visualize any scope of work on paper.
Your scope of work doesn’t give technicians a visual representation of what should actually happen, and no technician will sit down and read a ten-page long document about changes in the scope of work just to complete a video surveillance project or a camera installation.
All of these issues combined means that integrators trying to solve inefficiencies in their security project with an improved scope of work documentation always fall short.
While encouraging field technicians to create more accurate daily job reports can provide limited operational insight into your security project, these reports are too varied and subjective to effectively solve field installation challenges.
Many technicians on your payroll may view the project differently. If you were to ask each of them to write a job report about a control panel installation, the details in each report would vary.
Determining the viability of a job report requires a judgment call and an assessment from the project manager. Did the technician writing the report give accurate details, or were they just trying to tell you what they thought you wanted to hear? How do you track progress from the reports? Who should you follow up with?
Managing daily job reports becomes tedious and time-consuming. What project manager has time to read through a job report for every tech (working around illegible handwriting and coffee stains) and then compile all of that information into an updated project file?
On top of that, field technicians don’t want to write reports; they’d rather just fix the problem in whatever manner they decide works best and move on.
Forcing technicians to produce these reports forces them into a 1-to-1 relationship with the project manager. It doesn’t provide visibility with other decision-makers, stakeholders, or technicians while keeping information siloed.
The reason none of these methods work is simple: Integrator project managers have no visibility on their security projects.
Project Managers are responsible for taking the scope of work and ensuring that the integrator’s team in the field executes that vision throughout the system installation. They also need to provide quality control oversight on all system components and understand the full status of the project in real time.
All that work is typically out in the field, but project managers are stuck behind their desk at the main office. They can’t personally check a smart lock or a control panel because they aren’t there. On top of that, they might even be working on different installations at the same time, all at varying phases of completion.
As projects get bigger, it’s harder to tell exactly what is going on — and it gets worse when new technicians and subcontractors have to be looped in. When that happens, they need to keep customers informed while helping new technicians get a quick start on the project.
Because of this, project managers get caught in the middle. The information coming in from the field doesn’t provide the visibility they need to address customer concerns or make changes to provide effective quality control throughout the installation process.
This issue is particularly troublesome because project managers are often the link between the project stakeholder and the integrator. Nearly 40% of project managers say that their ability to improve stakeholder engagement adds the most value to a project, followed closely by risk management at 35%.
Without that visibility, the project suffers — and none of the usual methods that integrators typically implement directly address this problem.
The real solution: A unified platform.
In a perfect world, field project managers wouldn’t need to fight with their own teams to maintain project visibility. Scope of work documentation would stay the same, and those daily job reports would be perfect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Most security projects will always have shifting needs, and technicians will continue to submit reports with varying levels of detail and accuracy.
But if you could streamline that information through a unified platform — where you were able to dictate what information a technician needed to submit, including images and critical security information — your project manager would be able to quality control the project by providing detailed instructions to field technicians.
Not only would this solve most installation challenges for a security project, it would also give customers a quick way to see exactly how the system installation is evolving and what it looks like before your team produces the final deliverable.
If you’re experiencing project inefficiencies, why not try something new? SiteOwl can help your team solve your field installation challenges and provide a better experience for your security customers.
Want to know more? Get in touch with our team for a free demo and learn how SiteOwl can change the way your team handles security projects.
About the Author:
Joseph Ndesandjo is the former CEO of 3Sixty Integrated, one of the fastest-growing security integration companies in the country. After 17 years on the forefront of industry battles around integration, Joseph built SiteOwl as an answer to the problems he and his team experienced on a daily basis.