Selecting a Quality Security Integrator

Published Jun 05, 2012 00:00 AM
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A number of end users and consultant members asked us the best way to select quality security integrator, following our manufacturer survey results listing lacks of skills as the most critical problem they find in integrators.

Often, and especially for larger scale projects, specific qualifications need to be listed in the bid / RFP documents. In this note, we provide recommendations on how to specify qualifications and what issues to avoid.

Person vs Company Qualifications

Ensure that the specific techs assigned to your project possess the qualifications submitted. This is the most important tactic in ensuring quality qualifications. For instance, a big integrator could have a handful of people with high end networking or manufacturer certifications but none of them may ever work on your project. As a number of manufacturer complained, often a 'bait and switch' occurs. Integrator's best techs are showcased in the bid response but that person rarely or ever works on your project. To prevent this, make sure the specification clearly requires that the qualifications submitted are for people who will work specifically on your project. If they 'switch' to an unqualified person, you can force them to switch back, pay a penalty etc.

Allow for Multiple Certifications or Approved Exceptions

While certifications can ensure a minimal level of knowledge, often very experienced techs will either not have or not renewed basic certifications. For instance, Network+ is a good entry level networking certification but experienced techs generally will not have it. Requiring only Network+ will block them. As an alternative, allow for multiple specifications for a certain category. For instance, if you want to ensure networking expertise, allow for any certification in the following group - Network+, CCNA, MCITP [link no longer available], etc. as well as an experience exception that allows techs to document previous network based projects. For most surveillance projects, specific vendor specific network certification is not as critical as having proved fundamental expertise.

Be Careful About Too Narrow Certifications

Sometimes integrators will propose certifications that rarely anyone has. While they may be relevant, the lack of certification holders could unknowingly and unfairly limit competition. This is another reason why qualifications should include multiple options so that qualified respondents are not blocked simply because they lack a specific piece of paper.

Specific Certification Recommendations

To conclude, here are our recommendations of specific certifications:

  • Manufacturer Certifications: Make sure that the specific techs who will work on your project are certified by that manufacturer of the products being deployed. One trick to stop opportunistic integrators who have no experience is to require the manufacturer certification was achieved more than X months before the date of the RFP release. Having an integrator who was just certified / trained a week before your project is a risk.
  • Network+ / CCNA: The two best general networking certifications that are probably good enough for most surveillance projects.
  • A+: This cert covers the guts of using PCs and is very helpful to ensure techs now computer fundamentals. The main downside is that this is fairly elementary certification typically only pursued by junior techs. It could be worth including it as an option - i.e., either A+ or Network+.
  • CCNP [link no longer available] / CCIE: Typically overkill for surveillance, unless you will have hundreds of cameras going over a Cisco network. That said, those certifications are typically a good sign that a tech is smart and committed to the field.
  • PSP: This is ASIS's closest certification relative to surveillance. However, it is fairly useless for deploying or optimizing surveillance systems. Be careful to block integrators because of this certification.

If you want us to offer an opinion on other certifications, just leave a comment and we will add.