Jamie Smith – Why security project management matters

Most projects inevitably involve an element of security to protect people, assets, information and processes. Some projects require a light touch with some smart, low-level input whilst others prioritise security at their core. But what are benefits and challenges to applying security to a project? And how much is enough? Where do you apply it?

Jamie Smith – Director of Project Management at Tetra Tech – has many years of experience as a security project manager on civilian and military projects. With a background on a range of complex issues such as bomb disposal, Jamie brings a unique perspective on problem solving in the context of security challenges.

What is security project management and how does Tetra Tech support projects in this respect?

We provide professional and qualified security project managers who help our clients assess and define their security needs, develop operational requirements, and engage the security industry in the most economically advantageous way for their business.

Our approach follows that used by the UK Government’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure’s (CPNI). We start by identifying the operational requirements for security management in a very comprehensive way. We then align the security project requirements with the normal RIBA project delivery process or a client-specific delivery model. This ensures our client’s projects consider an appropriate threat spectrum and vulnerability assessment of their assets from the onset. Ultimately, that helps us deliver our client’s end goal in the most efficient and effective way.

How does security project management benefit projects? Why not just go directly to a security consultant and be done with it?

Security rarely exists in a vacuum. For instance, a developer might only need a snapshot assessment to see how a particular aspect of a building is secure. But on most refurbishments and new builds, security is intrinsic to all aspects of development, whether it’s data storage, movement of people, location of high-value assets, etc. One of the benefits we bring to our projects, such as on the Houses of Parliament, is a team who can identify the interlinkages between various elements of a development with security in mind.

What that ultimately achieves is to give our client a more realistic overview of the whole project from the very early stages. That then allows decisions to be made about what they want to achieve before engaging high-cost security industry consultants to develop detailed mitigation measures.

An example would be helping our clients procure a design team, making sure they get best value out of their commissions while achieving project aims in an effective and financially efficient manner.

What are some of the challenges of security project management?

Security can often be overlooked and misunderstood. Keeping the whole project team focused on the overarching security need and operational requirement can be a challenge.

As with most projects, scope change happens frequently. One of the main challenges is how to coordinate various considerations and input from different disciplines to reach a solution. Sometimes you will see many solutions presented that do not necessarily answer the fundamental question, “how does this reduce the threat to an acceptable level?”

Consequently, a large part of our role as security project managers is to pare back solutions to their core objective. When considering an overall security solution for a facility, for example, we will balance ‘active’ measures which might refer to a police or security guard response with ‘passive’ measures such as anti-climb fences, vehicle protection bollards, or blast resistant glazing.

Our overall responsibility is to make our client understand what the threat is and what the risks are in terms of likelihood and impact. If those are understood, then the design process will step off on the right foot and prevent expensive changes or re-designs further down the line.

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