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Trying Your Consultant on for Size

Selecting the right partners for your cabling needs is a process that requires a thorough understanding of your company's needs -- both now and in the future.As a builder, owner or owner's representat...

July 1, 2002  

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Selecting the right partners for your cabling needs is a process that requires a thorough understanding of your company’s needs — both now and in the future.

As a builder, owner or owner’s representative, you must make sure to select the right partners for you and your business. And while I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I have been involved in data cabling from both the consultant’s and the customer’s perspective for the last 27 years.

The all-important first step is to make sure you understand your corporate requirements, both from a user requirement and a project management perspective. I know that may sound strange at first but, if you think about it, how can you expect a consultant to understand your current and future requirements if you don’t understand them yourself?


Here are some questions you will need to consider:

What is the business plan for the site you are looking at building or renovating?

Do you own the building or have a short or long term lease on the premise?

Do you want to go to the expense of installing a manufacturers highest grade of cabling system or installing one that meets only the current industry standards?

Do you want to use the existing cabling pathways or do you have a need to upgrade and increase the infrastructure pathways to include cable trays or new conduit systems?

Is your existing infrastructure adequate for you or should it be increased?

Do you have a back up site as a contingency plan in case of a disaster?

The answer to these questions may determine the type of wiring installation and pathways you are looking for. You must also have an understanding of the type of network you need to support as well as your user’s individual requirements. And you must make sure you have a good understanding of your corporate requirements so they can be passed onto the consultant you select.

Some owners will select an architect and let that person choose the other consultants required for the project. I would recommend you ask your architect for a list of consultants if you are not already working with one that suits your needs and the needs of the project. This way you can interview them and see what projects they have worked on recently that are similar to yours. As the saying goes: “not all data consultants are created equal”.


When you have chosen a consultant, the next step is to select a group of data contractors for your project. Choosing a contractor should be a similar process to choosing a consultant.

As with a consultant, you should pay special attention when selecting a data contractor and make sure they are suited to your corporate structure. For example, if you are a large company with offices across the country, you may want a national contractor. Another thing you may want to consider is whether or not you can use this contractor as your base building contractor when it comes to moves, adds and changes (MACs).

Another consideration to take into account is whether you want one contractor for both the data and electrical portions of the project. The main advantage of going this route is that you do not have to split the premises work during MAC projects, and this will reduce cross impacts between two contractors (i.e., management, “as-builts”, invoicing, etc.) and in-house staff.


Once you are comfortable that you have your business plan in order, your user requirements identified, your data consultant selected and a list of qualified contractors for your project, it is time to start the design process.

This part of the project can be relatively simple if you have done your homework. It is important to ensure that you and your consultant make the critical project decisions together, such as project timeframes, high level planning, design, the scope of work. It is also important for the two of you to define the user requirements and expectations.

You must ensure that you are on top of the client requirements, and make sure that all requirements are delivered on time. In addition, you must be aware of the critical interdependent activities and ensure that all user representatives provide their requirements accurately, complete with user sign-off authorization on the design and freeze date for any changes at the proper time during the design. This will allow the consultant to stay focused on the project and not get side-tracked by user wishes rather than requirements.

If you keep the users’ expectations under control, you will have a smoothly running project, a content consultant and a happy customer.

Keith Fortune, C.E.T., is Communications Facilities Manager at the Bank of Montreal and a member of Cabling Systems’ Editorial Advisory Board.

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