The Physical Access Control Project Planner
A well planned access control project provides appropriate protection at a reasonable cost with minimum disruption. And if it's poorly run? Expect cost overruns, permitting delays, and a very, very annoyed workforce. An experienced system designer's guide to avoiding common access control errors.
By Jason Cowling
April 14, 2008 —
This primer provides fundamental information on the planning, implementation, and ongoing management of physical access control systems. Looking especially at the full cycle of implementation from the end-user's standpoint, the article highlights important and often unforeseen issues that frequently accompany access control projects. Planning for these common issues frequently translates into saved time, resources, and investment, whereas a lack of awareness can lead cost overruns, lost time, and ultimately an unreliable system.
Access control projects should occur in four stages:
Training and Ongoing System Management
Stage One: Planning
Here are the aspects of planning that project planners and end-users often overlook.
To begin the planning stage start by asking the fundamental question:
"What am I looking to accomplish with this system?"
Are you a security manager looking to protect your facility from intruders? Or a human resources manager looking to integrate your time and attendance system with access control? Or looking to achieve regulatory compliance with HIPAA>, SOX, FIPS-201 or numerous others? Or did your organization recently have an incident that an access control system may have prevented?
Security projects are frequently reactive. I receive many calls from businesses seeking to implement security systems resulting from a singular and isolated incident. Before making the final decision to implement access control be sure you have weighed the cost/benefits ratio for your organization. Seeking solutions that employ access control requires significant resource coordination. A properly planned and implemented access control system can significantly mitigate risk and potentially improve efficiencies to the bottom line—unless the system is either overkill or insufficient for the specific needs it is intended to address.
Planning Stage Project Improvement Questions and Considerations:
1. Who will oversee the project in all of its phases?
Trying to delegate out the necessary walk-throughs, interactions with contractors, contract negotiations, project oversight, and planning is a frequent and big mistake. Even in small office environments, access control projects will touch many departments and systems: building/facilities, the fire alarm system, various contractors, human resources and a host of other examples. These aspects of the project should be handled by an individual or by a coordinated team if practical. Poor project oversight will result in misinformation and wasted time.
2. Who will need to be involved?
Access control project require coordinated efforts of numerous individuals and departments. An individual knowledgeable about your facility layout will play a critical role. This person will need to conduct walk-throughs with the access control system integrator and should be familiar with your fire alarm system, electrical systems and general building systems. In specialized environments, other individuals must also take part in the walkthrough, such as building management personnel in leased environments or the Human Resources department when integration with time and attendance systems is on tap. A missed walkthrough by a crucial individual or department can easily cost weeks of time to reschedule.