One of the struggles we often hear from business and facility managers is that they have a project they know needs to be done, but they are not quite sure on how to get the ball rolling or they have low-confidence that the project may actually meet all of their needs. It can be very frustrating to be stuck in this spot, but this should help. There are a few directions to go from here. Most obviously, you could simply call three contractors, take them on a walkthrough and show them what you want done, and then get quotes from them. This path usually leads to the lowest bidder performing the work and will often fall short of your goal. A better option would be to develop your project, from the ground up, with a few professionals. “Why the extra work?” you may ask. Let’s discuss…
Meeting with an industry profession and having a real discussion about your issues, project intent, and goals will help them understand what your issues and priorities are and, in turn, provide a solid solution. In my years in security sales, I would meet with a potential customer who would automatically escort me around the property and point to locations where they wanted security cameras mounted and what they expected to see. It’s easy to get lost in the conversation about the different types of cameras and what kind of mounting methods we could use and even how we get the cable to that location. Most sales people love hearing that the customer knows what they want and thought it through already, but did they, really? I had to get them to step back for a minute to ask “Why?” Why would you need cameras to look at that? Someone keeps breaking in? Well why just watch them steal your stuff through a CCTV system a few weeks from now? Wouldn’t you want to just stop them at the door with a good lock and an alarm system? How many times have you made a purchase just to be disappointed that it didn’t meet all of your expectations?
The following process tends to yield the most successful projects. The drawback is that it takes more time to work through, but the results are arguably much better than the typical approach.
Develop the Solution
Hire an independent consultant who specializes in the field of work required and have them perform a thorough assessment - OR – bring in three reputable contractors and meet with them to identify and discuss your issues. Stick to the issues and let them develop the solution. This may require several meetings and interviews. I, personally, like to have a talk with the primary decision makers to get an executive summary, then perform individual interviews with each other stakeholders to get their point of view or needs. These eliminates bias and vying for “control positions” amongst the group and I tend to get more open and honest responses, which in turn, allows me to develop better solutions.
Ask for a report based on their findings from your meeting. The report should include their discoveries and proposed solutions (conceptual, at this point) with a budgetary number. The discoveries should be a compilation of the interviews and any trends uncovered through the process. The solution should be a very apparent fit.
Review the report with the stakeholders. This will likely raise more questions, which is expected. But overall, your issues should be addressed and the solution should be a good fit for you and your operation. With a couple of answers, and maybe a few more meetings to resolve anything missed, you should be able to develop architectural or engineered drawings, as well as a Request for Proposal from here.
Create the Project
I would highly encourage involving the industry expert in the final design of the system; I would define that as the entity that has installed and implemented these systems. You could opt to hire one of the groups from step one since they gave you a conceptual solution and can likely engineer it to fit your application. They can also support developing the RFP docs to match the engineered solution.
The RFP should start with the intent – why you are doing this. What were your issues (in general) and what you intend to accomplish. Specifications and drawings are great for the installation, but those don’t necessarily tailor the solution to your exact needs. Operability, interface, flow, and other nuances are what make THAT solution YOUR solution. For example, a specified laptop for office work is just a laptop until it’s set up and customized for the particular user; then it’s the solution.
Define any safety protocols, communication, work hours, and timeline factors that may impact the project. Some of these need to be spelled out in the RFP to prevent change orders.
The RFP could also contain a number of “golden spikes” to ensure you are getting a qualified contractor. Developing a point system based on a technical narrative (how they will install and implement the solution), references, work history, certifications, and finally (but not always most important), price.
It is also not uncommon to perform contractor interviews as part of the RFP process to review the technical proposal and their understanding of your intent. I would recommend this for the top two or three that scored the highest within your point system. These interviews can be very telling about who you will likely partner with the best.
Execute and Implement
Once you award your contract, it’s imperative that that communication happens often and regularly. I always recommend a preconstruction meeting to discuss reporting, safety, work flow, and hours, as well as defining the project schedule and its benchmarks. Assign one main point of contact from your team with a backup. Nothing can make a project go awry faster than having too many hands in the pot. This person should know and understand the intent and the contract.
Again, progress reports are critical to ensure the path to success is being followed. Weekly meetings between your Project Manger and the contractor’s PM can ensure that any collisions or delays are minimized. Implementation/commissioning of the system needs to be an ongoing conversation with the appropriate stakeholders to ensure that Operations, IT, Maintenance, HR, and anyone else involved can plan ahead and ensure they have what they need to be successful.
Substantial completion. Almost there. The solution should be looking pretty good by now. In a system solution, the system should be operational, but not quite tailored yet. Punch list items that need to be corrected and/or addressed needs to be developed and reviewed. Accountability for the contractor and owner are critical at this point.
Implementation/commissioning of the system brings the solution into fruition. This part can be a struggle at times because certain processes or operations that may have not been considered at the beginning can be obstacles. A good contractor can help you foresee most of these and help smooth this process out in advance.
Training on any system solution(s) needs to be in-depth, and in small groups. Make sure you get a broad overview and any specific training for each stakeholder such as Operations, IT, HR, or other standard users. Recording the training sessions can be helpful for future reference.
Completion! You have operations manuals, engineered drawings, and so on. Get the warranty letter in hand and know what is covered and what is not.
Understand that any solution with moving parts or that runs on electricity is going to require maintenance. I highly encourage an active Service Maintenance Agreement be established prior to completion and started as soon as possible. No different than a car, it requires regular upkeep to ensure it runs at peak efficiency for years to come.
Every bit of this process can be intimidating, but partnering with right contractor(s) will ensure that the solution is delivered according to your intent. If you have questions about this process or would like to inquire about partnering with LONG for your security solutions, contact us today.