The other way around

The relationship between standards and product development came up at a focus group we conducted at the BICSI show last fall.

George D. Miller

Group Editorial Director

The relationship between standards and product development came up at a focus group we conducted at the BICSI show last fall.

According to one of our focus group participants, "Our Category 5 wire wouldn`t be so susceptible to installation errors if we had better standards written regarding development of the product. We let the manufacturers develop the product and then we try and develop a standard to install a product."

There is something precise in the phrasing used by this member of our focus group. The perception is that manufacturers are leading the charge in product development--because designers and installers have allowed them to lead--and then designers and installers are left scurrying about with the manufacturers to develop standards regarding the use of those products. Also implied by his statement is the fact that developing those standards is not a sure thing: "We try," he says, but there are no guarantees.

This focus group member observed: "It should be the other way around. If we are going to develop a product to haul 150 megabits per second, a standard should be developed. The cable should be allowed to be hung in a certain fashion and it should be allowed to make a bend in a certain fashion. Then let the manufacturers develop a product for that standard."

His statement, without directly addressing such issues as cost and timeframe, implies a willingness to share some responsibility with manufacturers for product development, and not just standards development. But how do we get there from here? Designers and installers need to increase their presence on standards committees and develop closer relationships with manufacturers. Manufacturers need to solicit the ideas and perceived needs of designers and installers, and develop their products along those lines. Good intentions aside, such goals represent a great stretch for both sides: Designers and installers will be hard pressed to devote time to non-design and non-installation functions. For manufacturers that have market share to protect, any open forum can be perceived as a threat. But in the interest of industry credibility to end users, it is certainly a battle worth fighting.

Many thanks to all who participated in our marathon focus group. Your participation goes a long way toward helping us deliver useful information to the designers and installers of premises and campuswide communications systems.

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