Did you say contracting, or contracting?

It's fair to say that not 100% of my mental energy has been given to the cabling industry in the past couple weeks.

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It's fair to say that not 100% of my mental energy has been given to the cabling industry in the past couple weeks.

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As I sometimes do, I will start this month's column with a couple disclaimers. First, I don't intend any of the information in here as a plug for any company, or its products or services. I simply call 'em as I see 'em, and sometimes I see 'em with company names attached. The second disclaimer is that as I sit at the keyboard, my wife is one day past her due date with our first child. So, it's fair to say that not 100% of my mental energy has been given to the cabling industry in the past couple weeks. And I have been told that every now and then I unconsciously insert neonatal talk into my professional conversations.

But there are cabling issues to discuss here, so I will get started.

Recently, executives from IMAP, a division of Tempo and a provider of cable-management software, visited our offices. When I greeted them, they told me a horror story about flying in from the West Coast, getting stuck in Chicago because of bad weather, and arriving at their hotel at about 5:30 AM-three hours before our meeting time.

That's exactly what it will be like for me when the baby arrives. I will be a zombie and will end up sleeping at my desk most of the day. I will probably get fired before he is a month old.

Despite their lack of sleep, the folks from IMAP gave a thorough and interesting explanation of their newest software product, the enhancements made to the previous release, and their plans for the product's future. A fact that really caught my attention-even though it was not necessarily the focus of our discussion-was that the product was conceived when IMAP's manager Steve Vallejos worked for a cabling-installation firm. After about six months of development, the firm had invested approximately $100,000 into the endeavor.

In 18 years, $100,000 should pay for about 6 months worth of college, I figure.

In January 1998, IMAP Corp. was formed, and in March 2000, Textron acquired the company. So now, Steve Vallejos is a vendor in the cabling industry, but just like he did when he worked for a contractor, he spends a lot of time with end-user organizations. He educates some of them on the merits of plant documentation and administration, and helps others meet their recognized needs. Indeed, when IMAP visited our offices, our IT manager and Steve Vallejos had a lengthy, and I'm told productive, conversation about that very topic. While they talked, I read the newspaper.

The last time I will ever read a newspaper, so I have been warned.

Earlier this year, I met with representatives of Network Dynamics Cabling, a West Chester, PA cabling-contracting firm that also has developed a plant-documentation system. Their creation, NetTrax, is a bar-code-based technology that lets users document and track their cabling systems via attachments to personal digital assistants. Network Dynamics offers this value-add package to all its clients. I honestly have not explored the level at which NetTrax is in sync with the forthcoming TIA/EIA-606A standard.

606A... if only I could sleep until 6:06 AM... that would be great.

Perhaps these two examples do not exactly constitute a trend. But I found it telling that these cabling-installation organizations sought to set themselves and their services apart from others, and opted to do so by providing products and services in the cable-management realm. I see two industry issues merging here: the increasingly competitive nature of contracting, and the growing need on the part of end users for a practical, affordable means of managing their ever-growing, and ever-changing, cabling systems.

A friend of mine who is a cabling-industry graybeard put it to me this way once: "If you can't adjust, you can't manage." To those who do adjust and manage, winning customers may be like taking candy from a baby.

Just make sure it's somebody else's baby.

Patrick McLaughlin is Chief Editor of Cabling Installation & Maninenance.

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