Be careful what you ask for

I came across this story today, which is your basic local-paper coverage of a new security system that's going to be installed over the summer in the Nashua, NH, school system, assuming city officials approve the proposal (which will happen, I'm sure). So, why is it interesting? Well, a couple things really. The first has to do with the role of consultants in the industry. There are some who'd argue they work against integrators, as consultants puff up their own importance at the expense of the eventually installer, while integrators always grumble to me that they have to completely re-jigger the security plans once they actually wrest them away from the consultant. But, in this case at least, it seems like the consultant did pretty well for everyone. Check this out:
In 2007, school district officials went before the aldermen’s budget committee to request $554,00 for security upgrades. But the aldermen asked the school district to hire a consultant.
Okay, that makes sense, I guess. I mean, they could have just put out for bids at that point and seen what an integrator would tell them about their plans, but I understand the desire for a professional's opinion at the starting point. Let's see what happened:
“That’s what has happened and this is what they’re coming back with,” Jim Mealey, the school district’s chief operating officer, told members of the Board of Education on Tuesday night. At the meeting, board members voted in favor of asking the Board of Aldermen to take the $2.21 million out of the city’s school district capital reserve fund, which has about $7.3 million in it.
Thank you, consultant (or, in this case, W.L. Bliss)! The job just went from a little over half a million to more than $2.2 million. Brilliant! That's the kind of consulting this industry needs, I'd say. So, who's going to get the installation gig? Surveillance Specialties (they go by Surv, we wrote about them here). Why did they win the gig?
According to a memo from Smith, the district received 11 bids for the work, ranging in cost from $1.7 million to $2.9 million. Smith wrote that Surveillance Systems was chosen because it was the lowest bidder to provide a Web-based system, which allows access to the system from remote sites, such as the police department.
So, here's point number two: I hear over and over about schools being a great vertical right now, and I can certainly see why. I see stories like this at least once a week, and there's stimulus money still to be spent. But if you're not putting in IP-based systems, wireless locks, and the newest technology in general, good luck. The ROI and increased utility of these new technologies is extremely attractive to the education vertical and I'm not surprised SURV, which clearly gets the web and IT-based security architecture, got the job. But maybe the schools could have saved themselves some money. SURV offers a free consultation service, after all. But maybe SURV wouldn't haven't made the job quite so big...