Defining BICSI

For almost a decade now, I have been watching the BICSI not-for-profit organization grow and prosper. My personal interest has come, not just from my involvement in the cabling industry, but also from stints earlier in my career on the staffs of a non-profit outdoor organization and a scientific society

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For almost a decade now, I have been watching the BICSI not-for-profit organization grow and prosper. My personal interest has come, not just from my involvement in the cabling industry, but also from stints earlier in my career on the staffs of a non-profit outdoor organization and a scientific society.

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I once heard a cynic quip that the only difference between a non-profit organization and a for-profit corporation was 10%, referring, humorously, to the need to make a reasonable profit versus the need just to break even. My own combined total of seven years working for non-profits has convinced me that the money issue is important, but it is far from a full definition of the success of any organization-not-for-profit or profit-making.

The acronym BICSI stands for Building Industry Consulting Services International. The organization now goes simply by BICSI, perhaps because the association with the title of the Building Industry Consultants (BICs) who worked for the old Bell telephone system implies too narrow a focus for the organization.

Its focus, in fact, has rapidly grown to encompass far more than just in-building telecommunications. Early on, a specialization in local-area networking was added, to be followed by a recent specialization in outside-plant cabling and one in the works covering residential cabling.

Initially, BICSI's thrust was toward the design of premises communications infrastructure, as exemplified by its prestigious Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) designation and its encyclopedic, two-volume Tele communications Distribution Methods Manual (TDMM).

About five years ago, however, the organization added a training program in the actual practice of cabling installation, a program which, ac- cording to those inside the organization, has been wildly successful even by BICSI's ambitious standards. It now has its own training manuals, accreditation process, and workshop schedule.

BICSI's most dramatic venture, though, has been into the international arena. Until a few years ago, the only country outside the United States represented as a BICSI region and entitled to a seat on its board of directors was Canada. Today, BICSI's presence can be felt in Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil and the Far East.

All of these undertakings have not gone off without a hitch. The organization's international expansion, especially, has run up against hurdles-differing standards, varying design and installation practices, multiple languages and, perhaps most of all, the suspicion occasioned by the outsider coming in and telling the local "how to do it right." In Europe, especially, with its high level of technical development, along with its many cultures, languages, and viewpoints, the obstacles have been formidable.

Has BICSI succeeded with its ambitious program? I think that, by almost any metric you care to apply, it has.

  • BICSI's name and presence are at the heart of the communications-cabling industry, and they have remained there through a decade of tumultuous growth. This cannot be said of any competing training or professional organization.
  • The RCDD designation is the accepted credential in the industry for infrastructure design, and today appears in many requests for proposals or quotations.
  • The TDMM and other BICSI publications are the accepted benchmarks for infrastructure design and installation in North America.
  • BICSI's international expansion, although not without hiccups, is helping to create a body of harmonized cabling standards, design concepts, and installation practices that is in the best interest of the much-touted global information infrastructure.

BICSI has done all this by astutely observing the trends in the cabling industry, carefully planning its own program to dovetail with them, and managing its finances wisely. Its success was by no means easy to achieve. I have, for instance, seen a non-profit organization for which I worked founder on its own ambitious growth plan, becoming a staff of fund-raisers as a result. I have seen another so myopic and hidebound that it failed to take a stand on an international crisis within its area of expertise.

BICSI has not been myopic; it has responded appropriately to the concerns of its members and its industry. In the boldness of its program, however, it has also avoided the financial and programmatic recklessness that might have toppled it.

In addition to avoiding these two reefs upon which I have seen other not-for-profits wrecked, I have seen BICSI maintain its vision and purpose. It is a training organization. All of its programs-conferences, publications, work shops, registration, standards, and even lobbying-are aimed at providing more knowledgeable, proficient technicians and designers for the cabling industry.

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