Infrastructure is a component of a business that is rarely seen or thought about by employees or customers. However, it is the backbone of the entire organization and if it isn’t working properly, the pain will be felt throughout the entire facility. It is extremely important to ask the correct questions when deciding between low voltage cabling providers for this reason. In most cases, a decision maker has a set budget and an idea of the ideal result, but zero idea how to design or implement the required cabling to make it happen. In this case they would reach out to a couple of providers and see which company comes back with the best way to help them.
Too frequently we have customers who come to us after a project was completely botched, or they aren’t receiving maintenance support. Now, we aren’t saying the original providers are incapable of providing great implementations, but it is important to know how to fully vet a provider before signing a contract with them. This will help you receive services that match your goals and help the provider of your choosing to smoothly complete the project for you. Every project is completely unique when it comes to low voltage cabling, but we have compiled a list of the top 10 questions we believe customers should ask us when exploring a potential fit.
- Do you offer design services to help me make decisions?
The first step in any implementation is the design of the space. You should ask them if they have Registered Communications Distributions Designers (RCDD certified person) on staff that can assist in the design of the project. The provider you choose should have the capability of professionally designing a space WITH you that will be up to industry compliance as well as your personal standards. You should not need to design an infrastructure project on your own.
When a customer comes to us with a project, our first step is to listen to them. We want to hear every goal, concern and restriction you have about upgrading or outfitting a new space. Our RCDD certified account managers will remain involved in your project from start to finish.
- Are you capable of doing site surveys? Which technologies do you use?
A site survey is important because a provider needs to see what exists in your space. This can save you money by identifying things that are functioning well and don’t need modification, as well as finding things that could potentially cause large problems down the road. The site survey helps create accurate and updated floorplans so that the project starts off correctly from the beginning. There are a ton of different site survey technologies out there and they produce different types of documentation. You should always discuss the options and the pros and cons of each type. Your company may even require specific types of documentation during a project.
If a provider won’t provide a site survey or pushes back upon the request of one, you may want to rethink signing a contract with them.
- Which manufacturers do you provide? Can you help me decide which would fit my needs?
As with most things, there are a lot of different brands and manufacturers offering low voltage products. The provider that you are discussing a project with should help you decide which products will work best in your space. It is important for you to get a product that will work well in your facility, but also stay within budget. If a provider is only focusing on the most expensive products and ignoring the concerns you have, they might not have your best interest in mind. Remember when I mentioned listening being the first step when helping a customer with a project? It applies here as well. Your provider should listen to your needs before they start throwing products at you.
- Do you have project managers who will be assigned to my installation?
Once your project has been designed and planned with a provider, the implementation will begin. In most cases you have a few people on your team who will be involved in the project to work with the provider with access to the building, tracking of the progress, and organization of documentation. Who will they be working with from the provider? There needs to be a designated project manager from the providers side to ensure that the field technicians are scheduled, up to date on project details (and changes that may arise), as well as packaging all documentation for the customer. This is a paramount component to a successful install. If they do not have a person who will be dedicated to your project, how is it supposed to run smoothly?
- Will my account manager/sales representative remain involved in my project?
We see it all too frequently that a salesperson sells a product or service and disappears immediately after the paperwork is signed. You should never feel as though you are being passed around repeating yourself to a bunch of different people. Your account manager should remain involved in your project for its entirety supplementing project managers and technicians to perform the installs. If an account manager or sales rep for a provider cannot tell you what their role will be in the project, you may want to consider taking your project elsewhere.
- Do you have the ability to complete installations at all my locations, even if they are in multiple states?
If you have multiple locations around the country (or world) you will need to choose a provider that has the capacity to serve every region. This is especially important for businesses who have uniform designs at each of their locations (think chain restaurants or financial branches). It is important to have a single provider who can ensure that each location is uniform. You will want to find out if they have local technicians available in other places, if their technicians travel, how they vet their subcontractors, and if they are able to do business outside of their state or country.
- Are you able to abide by my industry compliance standards?
Every industry has different compliance standards depending on the nature of the business and location. This can include fire codes, OSHA, HIPPA, BICSI certification, and many others depending on your industry or location. You should ask the provider for examples of work they have completed within your industry and learn more about how they follow these guidelines.
- During the installation, what will be required of my team?
Regardless of the size of the project, your team will need to be involved in the implementation. Whether that is for allowing technicians to access high security zones within the building, or to access the facility after hours. You will want to know what is needed from your team during the planning process so that you are able to put a plan together internally. Some customer sites require badging, background checks or special clearance status for technicians to enter the facility. Keep this in mind while discussing the project with a provider. If the project is scheduled to start and the technician cannot enter the site, the project will be delayed.
- My company requires specific documentation for infrastructure projects, can you provide these documents?
Documentation of a project is important for a multitude of things. Firstly, how will you know if the project is on track or finished if you have nothing to reference? Secondly, you may need to fix or upgrade later and need to understand where everything is. You are spending money for a project to be designed and implemented. You should own the documents that outline what was done, and where it is located.
- What happens when something goes wrong or needs to be updated down the road?
This might be one of the most important questions to ask a provider during the vetting stages. Will the provider continue to support you after the project is completed? Will they provide day 1 support to get your team familiar with the new functionality? What about warranty on hardware from certain manufacturers? Technology is ever evolving and will need to be maintained, make sure the provider you choose is going to be your partner for the long run. Choose someone who can continue to support you year after year, not someone who just wants to take your money and send you off with a thumbs up.
Low Voltage and infrastructure projects are very complex and unique to each business. This question list barely grazes the surface of the things you should be asking before choosing a provider, but we hope that it helps you start a conversation. At Matrix-NDI we pride ourselves on being our customer’s partner in completing projects. Remember: the number one thing a provider should do is listen to you.
We want to help all of you (whether you are a current customer of ours or not), make the best decisions for your business. We are here to answer your questions and help you with any infrastructure needs you have.
You can reach us by emailing ContactUs@Matrix-NDI.com or call 763-475-5500