BUILDINGS - Smarter Facilities Management


No More Schmoozing

Protecting yourself from the telecom fall-out


Words to the Wise

Here's some good advice from the experts that will help get you back on track when it comes to evaluating your telecommunications needs:

• Don't be in a hurry to jump on the wireless office bandwagon. Just because the technology exists doesn't mean that it's perfected. Give the market some time to mature before considering the switch over to wireless.
• Follow the merger and acquisition trail. A significant number of good companies have merged together to make greater companies within the telecom industry - and they're not done yet.
• Building owner liability is shifting back to the service provider. Cleaning up the mess isn't always the responsibility of the building owner. If a provider puts cable in, they better be prepared to literally pull it back out if they are unable to fulfill tenant expectations.
• The person with the best sales pitch doesn't necessarily have the best product. Look at who has survived the slaughter and examine why. How has each business plan changed to adapt to the changing market? To what degree did these companies cut their losses? Have their losses leveled off, or are they continuing to increase and grow?
• Ask all the questions and don't stop until you are satisfied that the answers you are getting are the truth - good or bad.

So let go a little. Step back away from all the world's tragedies for a bit and really look at where things are. Cutbacks in staffing, corporate reorganizations, and mergers historically lead to a stronger, healthier economy - one based on the real value of stock, as opposed to the over-inflated values that we saw at this time last year. Don't be afraid to invest in an industry that has suffered its share of indignities. Technology is here to stay, and that's a very good thing.

If you missed this year's Broadband Building & Technology Show held in November in Atlanta, you missed more than great weather in the Southeast. This year's show offered building owners and facilities professionals two days of some of the best available forecasting and in-depth analyses of the telecom industry.

I was particularly impressed to no longer hear that tiring drivel of how amazing and wonderful and glorious the world of telecommunications is … Blah! My reaction to all of that was "I see your lips moving, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah." Call me a cynic, but, personally, I was sick of the Tony Little-style sales pitch we were getting a year ago about how we need to jump on board now or be left in the dust - all fat and flabby.

Here we are, one year later, burnt, beaten, and a bit embarrassed - but much wiser for having survived the battle of the Computer Age. What we learned is abundantly clear as panelist after panelist and keynote speaker after keynote speaker talked about the market as it really is, which is right where it should be.

My opinion is that we're not in a recession as much as we are back to where we were before the Big Boom - before everyone wanted to get rich quick; before we all started drinking over-priced cups of coffee just to feel like we fit in; like we, too, were running with the Big Dogs.

A year ago, the topics of discussion where about how to increase your revenue by offering tenants super-speed bandwidth. Today, we are talking about attracting and retaining tenants by addressing their specific broadband needs.

Twelve months ago, we had the choice of an infinite number of service providers, all promising to install their services within 30 days - who never showed up or shut down their service with or without notice. Now, we hold a handful of service providers accountable and ask for verification of installation time.

This time last year, we believed that the only way to achieve super-speed bandwidth was with fiber-optic cable. The current market offers us a variety of scalable options that respond to the needs of our building occupants.

What we learned from it all was that a sound business plan is still the foundation for a successful business; that addressing tenant needs is just part of the deal; that you can't afford to promise or deliver services to buildings and tenants that can't afford to pay the bills; and that speed is best saved for Internet access rather than in investment decisions. Granted, these were hard and painful lessons to relearn, but we're better business people today for having relearned them.

Clara M.W. Vangen ( is technologies editor at Buildings magazine.


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