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During a meeting

late last year to finalize the 2003 editorial schedule, members of Cabling Systems' advisory board and I discussed the pros and cons of running what has become the mainstay of many technical trade mag...


April 1, 2003  


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late last year to finalize the 2003 editorial schedule, members of Cabling Systems’ advisory board and I discussed the pros and cons of running what has become the mainstay of many technical trade magazines — the case study.

While examining how Company A installed a fiber optic backbone or state-of-the-art wireless infrastructure may have merit, it can be a risky assignment to tackle. After all, no spin-doctor is going to pitch a case study where technical troubles occurred, questionable decisions were made and budgets blown beyond belief.

The typical case study is one of those good news stories where deadlines are met, no challenge is insurmountable and all parties — from the consultant to the cable installation firm — operate beautifully in sync.

Everyone agreed that it might be time to add a different approach. One suggestion was to chronicle an installation from start to finish and run a series focusing on each phase of the project as events unfolded. While that would have been the logical route to go, it did present some challenges of its own.

Not only would it be time consuming, but virtually impossible to find an organization that might be willing to participate in such an exercise, especially if it was suddenly faced with cost overruns and other such problems.

In the end, it was decided to run a four-part series — entitled Anatomy of an Installation — which would examine the various components that make up a typical installation. It debuts this issue with the RFP Challenge and will be followed by installments that will examine the role of the consultant, tendering and warranty issues and finally, an installation checklist.

The intent is to provide advice and ideally, generate debate from both contractors and end user organizations, which collectively make up the bulk of this magazine’s readership.

If the first part is any indication, there should be a number of lessons to be learned. Chuck Siebuhr, senior technical editor with Cabling Business magazine and RFP expert has seen his share of structured cabling horror stories that could have been avoided with a well thought-out document.

“You get what you spec, not what you expect,” he says. “It’s a case of pay now or pay later and if it isn’t in writing it doesn’t exist. I’ve witnessed that on a number of projects.”

Jay Hollander, a New York City lawyer who specializes in real estate and computer and Internet law, calls it one of the most commonly used and misused corporate documents in existence today.

The misuse comes from the fact some organizations often squander the opportunity by not understanding their own needs clearly enough in the first place.

The bottom line is that while the process can be complex, according to Hollander, the RFP will pay for itself many times over when put together correctly.


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