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This article received contributions from Dave Main, Arnel Avila, Maria F. Gonzalez, and Jeff Smith.
All organizations with expanding real estate footprints, whether corporations, academic institutions, or transportation facilities, face the challenge of delivering consistent technology implementations across diverse geographic areas, with different and constrained resource pools, and ever more compressed schedules. Development of technology design guidelines and standards will provide a playbook for consistent implementation. In this article, we’ll explain three challenges that often arise in the absence of guidelines, followed by three advantages organizations see from having them in place.
Costly change orders can occur because equipment is always changing and added late and unvetted in the design process. This in turn impacts equipment selections for other trades, the architectural design, or the MEP design. Change orders also result from the lack of documentation identifying coordination requirements between telecom, security, and audiovisual (AV) systems, all of which touch the network. Late design direction typically requires re-work, which often delays occupancy or continues to occur post-occupancy, causing disruptions to the workplace.
We consistently see that organizations without well-defined standards are unable to hold contractors accountable for a high-quality implementation. The lack of comprehensive metrics to measure work allows the contractors to utilize their individual standards, which in most cases, do not deliver the functionality the owner desires. One example is the lack of a unified/consistent requirement regarding as-built documentation. Unless it is required by project documents and clearly defined as to the format, level of detail, and points of connectivity, it will be almost useless to the organization. As-built documentation is typically developed at below actual cost when procured through the competitive bid process, and if not done completely and accurately, it will not support future system upgrade programs, development of maintenance agreement bids, and allow first-time service staff to quickly locate equipment.
Inconsistent implementations ultimately mean lower quality and reliability for users of the systems and greater labor and cost for the IT team tasked with supporting and maintaining the systems. In the security realm, impaired functionality means increased risk of an incident and corresponding liability for the organization.
Whether it’s new internal team members or external contractors, design guidelines provide the playbook that puts everyone on the same page from day one. This means fewer meetings, saving significant time and headache for everyone involved. In the case of a merger or acquisition, this means a huge gain in efficiency.
Design guidelines provide the departments involved in implementing, operating, and maintaining technology systems — Real Estate, IT, Facilities, Operations, and Security — a basis upon which to communicate with one another, something that often does not happen in the absence of standards. During implementations, each team, as well as the external contractors, knows what it is responsible for, preventing scope gaps.
Technology systems function best when they have been designed and delivered in an integrated fashion. For instance, the increasing use of AV signals over the local area network (LAN) makes it important to closely coordinate telecom cabling, the locations for data outlets, and AV devices. This allows all the data cables to be pulled at once and ensures they are the same make/manufacturer, preventing the AV integrator from installing their own non-standard data cables to support network-connected AV devices.
Hiring a firm like TEECOM to develop comprehensive design guidelines and standards is an investment that will quickly pay for itself. We work with our clients to understand what functionality they want and then translate those needs into drawings that can be built correctly on a global scale. With all technology disciplines in house, we create multidisciplinary design guidelines that result in integrated technology systems.
Our former client at Dropbox and Aruba, James Copello, described the benefits of standards we prepared for these organization: “TEECOM has greatly helped streamline our overall project process. Their standards documentation have given our global team of designers, project managers, and installers a single blueprint to work off. As a result, our efficiency and overall organization significantly increased. We have also seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of change orders across our global portfolio, which has helped offset the initial cost of the documentation and will continue to pay for itself down the road.”
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