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Yearning for the good old days

There was a time when managing a project was far more succinct and easier. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.


July 1, 2004  


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I can remember when managing a telecommunications or structured cabling project was far easier. An end-user would have a request, whether it was a small project requiring a number of data drops and some electrical receptacle circuits or maybe a complete floor renovation or new construction.

The process always seemed to be the same and you always knew who was in charge of the project.

First, you would sit down with the user to determine requirements, review expectations, and discuss budget, deadlines and assuming there was capital left over once the project was complete, even a set of wish-list items.

If it was large enough to require consultants, a meeting would be set up in which all parties would meet to discuss everything from budget to overall design based on industry standards, code and building requirements as well as internal corporate design standards.

A tender would then be issued and awarded to the lowest bidder in most cases.

Boom then bust

It was this way up until the late 1980s, but much has changed since then.

It began with the boom days of the early 1990s with the development of LAN-based technologies, which saw hundreds of new businesses appear and the explosion of the computer industry as well.

There was more then enough work to keep everyone happy. Well, the 1990s have come and gone and with the new millennium, new challenges have emerged.

Free spending has been replaced by downsizing and outsourcing and everything, it seems, has slowed to a crawl.

The problem we now face is that there are so many companies vying for a piece of the technology construction market that everyone is tripping over each other.

With the shift away from the normal project hierarchy, projects can be driven from any level and in any direction.

For example, a specific product line can now drive the entire project if the manufacture, distributor or reseller is in direct contact with the customer’s management group.

The 1990s have come and gone and with the new millennium, new challenges have emerged.

The computer vendor or service provider can also dictate the direction of the project if they are the customer’s principal contact.

You can also have resellers, contractors or independent consultants determining the design and construction criteria for the project if they work closely with the customer.

I know there can be good arguments made for each of these situations particularly since each can help a customer when it comes to making a sound technology investment decision.

The problem arises when we let technology solutions drive the overall project design. Our industry has come so far in such a short time that along with our successes we have altered the natural project flow.

Time to persevere

That could mean a project will not succeed. I don’t mean that it will be a failure, only that the user may not have received the best design to carry their business forward over the next five or more years.

The failure of the project can mean many things. For example, it may not allow for proper contingency or growth, it could be over-designed with more data drops than required or it may not factor in bandwidth requirements to meet a company’s future needs.

During the past three years I’ve found that it’s more and more difficult to properly design and engineer projects now that the main driver of these projects can come from anywhere and the consultant can be taking directions from just about anyone.

For now, all we can do is persevere and hope that one day soon, the dust will settle and a project process will return that serves the customer best.

Ideally, that would mean that design and engineering rests with the consultant and everyone else finds their place again in the process. That includes manufactures continuing to develop high quality products, which are then distributed by knowledgeable companies and installed by qualified and highly trained professionals

When that happens, the customer will truly be the winner.

Keith Fortune, C.E.T., is Communications Facilities Manager with the Bank of Montreal and member of CNS Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board.


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