Project management in a high security environment

December 2002 News & Events

Project management encompasses many elements such as building, refurbishment, re-design and workspace, and each of these has its own set of challenges. However, there are many considerations involved when managing a project in a high security area. Tony Bolton, project manager at Johnson Controls' project management division discusses the approach to project management in a high security environment and the considerations that are involved to prevent security breaches and violations.

One needs to establish the areas that are highly sensitive and what it is that needs to be protected. For example, computer rooms house company information and data, which is the lifeline of a business. Power would be a critical consideration for 24 x 7 operations with service level agreements. Or perhaps companies that operate within an airport with access to a runway could compromise the passengers' security.

To ensure these business critical operations or high security areas are not compromised, procedures need to be investigated to establish how the company conducts its business. Thereafter, the project manager creates a set of unique procedures that fit in with the way the company conducts its business to ensure minimal disruption and security breaches.


A fundamental aspect is to ensure that contractors are able to gain access to the area where 'construction' is required whilst adhering to the access control regulations in place. Pre-planning is essential as each contractor might require their identity document to receive temporary access control authorisation. These might need to be renewed every day thus necessitating the documents to be brought in each and every time the contractor enters the client's premises. If this is not adhered to, an unauthorised person might use the access control cards resulting in a security violation.

In fact, this could go one step further as some companies have been known to conduct background checks on the contractors, which would highlight existing criminal records. Cameras or articles perceived to be weapons are also often prohibited.

This might seem like a stringent procedure but in some instances the contractor may require an escort to reach their working area. It is this type of procedure that can create delays and incur additional time to complete the project. Therefore, prior to commencing the project, it should be established who is in a position to escort the contractors to site. More often than not this person has an existing set of duties and their workload in a supervisory/security capacity is in addition to this. Thus it is important to establish when security personnel are relatively free to fulfil their additional duties and to ensure the contractors utilise this time to access the site.

The object of this is to ensure the procedure is completed quickly and efficiently to minimise disruption to the business as well as the project.

Project manager

This is where the role of the project manager is critical to the project, as coordination and preparation is key to the success of an initiative. Investigating and understanding the client and especially how they operate are the factors that determine the success of a project. And of course a project management company that has experience behind its name.

Personnel are accounted for with the above procedures but the handling of materials is a different matter. In a world where commercial crime and industrial espionage is rife, the transportation of materials is a loophole that needs to be covered to prevent goods or information being stolen.

Cross-referencing should be employed. For example two signatures are required before a vehicle enters or leaves the premises and is allowed to continue on its journey. A thorough inspection of the vehicle and equipment taken in or out should be noted as a laptop under a seat can often go undetected.

For some, the adjustments and considerations involved with high security project management may seem arduous, yet can one attach a price to a business that is potentially threatened with loss of income caused by security breaches? A thorough investigation of existing procedures and adapting the project team to work with these processes in place results in a smooth, streamlined project that is not unnecessarily delayed, and therefore reduces additional often costly work.

For more information contact Tony Bolton, Johnson Controls, 011 886 8997,

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