Professional Development: Effective Tech Infrastructure
By John Persuitte, RCDD
From the November 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Network infrastructure corporate standards are a critical, yet often overlooked, component of successful technology installations and maintenance, national rollouts, and upgrades. The network infrastructure is the technology backbone that supports nearly all aspects of daily business operations, including everything from data centers to phone systems, Internet access, building automation systems, HVAC controls, lighting and power systems, and security technologies. Yet, despite the critical nature of the network infrastructure, many facility managers (fms) operate with outdated infrastructure corporate standards or none at all.
Historically, the IT department developed network infrastructure standards, and fms would implement and maintain. As more facilities move toward IP based systems, and as one cabling system increasingly serves subsystems (such as building operations systems), fms need to be involved in the creation of these standards
Unlike industry standards and building codes, which dictate requirements, corporate standards define the preferred processes organizations use to meet the needs of the enterprise. Industry standards and building codes are developed by industry associations and government agencies, but corporate standards can be changed and adapted as needed. These standards are shaped by an organization’s preferences and culture, budget, and goals.
There are numerous benefits to developing sound corporate standards. From a facilities management (FM) standpoint, these help to standardize technology and its configuration at each site. From a support perspective, corporate standards streamline troubleshooting, maintenance, and upgrades for individual fms. With such standards in place, projects are also more scalable and repeatable for new facilities. Throughout the life cycle of the standards, companies can also pick up new efficiencies, reduce time spent troubleshooting, and streamline the process of designing future facilities.
With the widespread impact corporate standards have on an organization, fms need to ask, “How is our organization doing when it comes to developing and managing our network infrastructure corporate standards?” Below are five common mistakes as well as insight into how fms can help avoid these mistakes.
Mistake 1: Outdated. Technology changes rapidly, which means corporate standards must also change to keep pace. Corporate standards should be considered a living document. Fms do not benefit from a binder full of standards addressing technology that no longer exists within an organization, while failing to address new technology. For instance, a company might migrate to a voice over IP (VoIP) system, and still have corporate standards centered on voice cables. It is important that corporate standards are reviewed and updated at least yearly, or any time new technology is introduced.
Mistake 2: Brand Specific. If corporate standards are built upon brand names instead of product specifications, an organization can be at risk for overpaying for technology and missing out on industry advancements available from other manufacturers. Cabling technologies are designed to be used in interoperable, open systems, which means corporate standards can include any brand of technology as long as it complies with cabling standards from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek Group (ETL), and National Electrical Code (NEC). There should also be compliance with the design and engineering standards of the EIA/TIA Commercial Building Wiring Standards.
Manufacturers that write corporate standards for free often hard specify their own products into the standards. If a product is hard specified into a corporate standards document, manufacturers are often less willing to offer pricing discounts. However, if the documents are based on performance specifications, multiple manufacturers compete for the business. Instead of specifying by brand, fms should state device requirements and choose the products that most closely match company objectives.
Mistake 3: Individualistic. If standards are written to reflect the needs of an individual facility or department and projected onto the rest of the organization without further evaluation, the overall health of a corporation will likely suffer. To avoid this, it is critical that corporate standards are based on the needs of multiple stakeholders and departments. Writing the standards should be a collaborative process that balances the needs of the overall organization with the needs of individual business units.
Mistake 4: Unapproved. Whether a network infrastructure corporate standards document is developed internally or by an outside provider, it should be reviewed and approved by a registered communications distribution designer (RCDD). An RCDD assists in the design, implementation, and integration of IT systems and related infrastructure. They are trained to provide the initial planning and design of network infrastructures to ensure industry standards are met and to minimize change orders.
Mistake 5: Buried. A corporate standards document does not provide any long-term benefit when buried in a folder. Organizations often invest a significant amount of time and resources developing the standards, only to fail to make them available to those who need them. Once the document is created, it should be published internally and promoted. An adoption strategy is also critical to the success and continued use of the standards. Organizations are no better off if the standards are communicated and initially adopted, but then later not followed. Training employees on the use of the standards is also key to adoption.
As an increasing number of building related systems are migrated to organizations’ network infrastructures, fms and the IT people they work with need to be on same page. It becomes crucial to the long-term success and efficiency of their buildings.
Persuitte is a national service consultant for Automated Systems Design. The Alpharetta, GA-based company manufactures, manages, and maintains nationwide custom turnkey information transport systems.