How to benefit from post-installation opportunities

Post-installation opportunities represent, by far, the richest source of revenue for the contractor far more so than the primary function of installing the cabling.

Post-installation opportunities represent, by far, the richest source of revenue for the contractor far more so than the primary function of installing the cabling.

Jerry Owen, EXAN Technologies

Most installation contractors derive their revenue from designing cabling infrastructures and installing and documenting such systems. The nature of the data-communications business means that this work is often carried out in response to external influences such as invitations to tender or work orders from existing customers for moves, adds, and changes (MACs).

In a different approach to business, contractors can identify opportunities to increase their company`s bottom line by providing value-added services while exercising greater control over their own work schedule. These opportunities include but are not limited to providing quality, standards-based documentation by generating a "living" document, securing ongoing infrastructure-management agreements, maintaining network-asset records, and providing input to the end-user`s infrastructure growth and management strategy.

These represent, by far, the richest source of revenue for the contractor--far more so than the primary function of installing the cabling.

Since contractors often work closely with those responsible for their client`s network, they often occupy an extraordinary position of trust and influence. If they demonstrate integrity, ability, and a desire to help the end-user, there is every reason for the end-user to want to benefit from their experience and knowledge.

In the last couple of years, a contradictory set of circumstances has arisen. While more and more companies are accepting the necessity of implementing an effective cable-management strategy, they are, at the same time, reluctant to implement such a strategy.

Even after having acknowledged the requirement, gone through product evaluation, raised funds to purchase, and bought a cable-management system, some users don`t implement it. Usually, the reason they cite is: "We knew we had a problem so we bought a system, but no one here has the time to do anything with it!"

To installation contractors, this should be music to their ears. They can safely interpret the client`s statement as: "Here`s a need; here`s a solution; here`s the money we want to spend. Can you make the time to help us spend it?" There is enormous potential for the contractor who recognizes this situation and is prepared to do something about it.

At my firm, when customers are evaluating cable-management solutions, they often ask us to provide exactly this type of service. It used to be that cable-management documentation and maintenance were requested to round off an invitation to tender, as an optional extra. Increasingly, however, we are being asked by companies that have bought our systems to implement and provide the ongoing administration of them. Whenever possible, we work with our resellers to offer this service. Typically, this type of arrangement can encompass several areas:

Remote system maintenance, whereby the customer has a view-only copy of the system. He or she can interrogate and use this as part of the management toolset. The chosen partner maintains the "live" system, and a procedure is defined to handle the information flow between the two parties regarding macs and other modifications.

Network-asset management might be provided with mac management or as a separate service. It can embrace preventive maintenance and, in the United Kingdom, scheduled electrical safety testing or portable appliance testing.

Providing advice proactively, whereby the contractor assists the user with the development and implementation of cabling strategies.

Engaging in such a partnership provides the contractor with several benefits. It encourages the establishment of a long-term relationship between the contractor and that customer and also puts the contractor in the position of "preferred cabling supplier." Furthermore, the partnership lets the contractor fulfill the role of cabling guru, possibly becoming involved with all aspects of the customer`s network installation and support strategy.

For end-users, it provides a reliable solution to identified needs and probably does so more cost-effectively than if the users tried to do it themselves. In turn, the contractor can plan and use his own company`s resources far more effectively.

This article is based on a presentation at bicsi`s Winter Conference, held last January in Orlando, FL.

Jerry Owen is president of exan Technologies (Bournemouth, UK, and Sterling, VA), which develops software for cable documentation and management systems, as well as a Web-enabled cable-management system.

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