The Best Advice When Starting a Network Site Build

by David Alicea

Last month I wrote about “Top 5 Tips to Consider When Planning a Network Site Build.”

When it comes to different projects network engineers might work on, a site build requires plenty of attention. There are many moving parts. If one of those parts falls out of place, it is possible for the entire project to collapse. This can lead to costly issues for your company. Whether it is a team of people working on a project or whether it is a single engineer, special attention is needed. If a site is expected to begin producing at the start of March, but you did not order the internet or private circuits in time, you have introduced risk to the goal of producing at the start of March.

No one wants to be that person who forgot to order the circuits. The five tips I wrote about earlier are the columns to a project. Success in a site build comes down to Proper Planning, Configuring Early, Being Prepared, Cleanup, and Documentation. These columns serve to help administrators and members of the project team have a successful project with completed deliverables. However, these columns all sit on top of a foundation called Timing. Timing takes our other tips and ensures proper execution at the right time. Timing weaves into projects like a site build or even a switch upgrade. If your timing is correct, project performance and delivery can be predicted.

A train leaves the station at …

Let’s look at a train traveling along its track to the next station. The speed the train is traveling on is the right speed to reach that station on time and pick up and drop off passengers. Then the train moves on to the next station. This can be predicted. If the speed the train travels on is too slow, it will lead to delays and angry customers. There were many times I had to drive miles out of the way to pick up my wife after she left work. It was always at some random train station. Something happened on the track and the train could not proceed. I was my wife’s plan B when it came to her commute. We rely on timing to ensure we reach a project closure full of claps and smiles.

However, if your “project train” is stuck somewhere, make sure there is a plan B. If plan B costs more or pushes out the timeline, everyone who has a part in the project needs to be made aware. If the speed the train travels on is too fast, a curve can derail the train. During a project there are many curves. Planning prior to reaching those curves will ensure a smooth journey. Moving too fast might be seen when you do not order the correct type of fiber connectors or did not realize you needed an extra 48 switch ports. Those curves require the train to slow down. There are times in our projects where you need to slow down and double-check your details before you move on. If your timing is correct, everything will fall into place. You will continue to arrive and depart each station on time.

In a site build, everything revolves around timing. This timing is not just yours, but other teams involved in the project as well. You might say something like: “But I am only responsible for my tasks. It’s not my problem if the other team was a little late.” Of course it’s your problem. Their delays will impact your tasks and can delay you as well. Therefore, it is wise to follow up with other teams and see where they are. You might be waiting on a server to be built before you can install some services. No server, no services. With multiple teams in play there is always room for the occasional issue to come up.

Don’t Forget The Milestones

Let’s think about milestones related to a site build. You will need to order equipment. A delay in obtaining the equipment can lead engineers into situations where equipment must be borrowed, or old/spare equipment temporarily used. Some of my orders earlier this year were impacted by the pandemic. There are many outside factors that can slip in and derail your timing. If you are dealing with a move, will the old location and the new location need to be up at the same time? That is a complicated scenario that forces you to look for temp equipment. It might also be a great opportunity to work in some upgrades. Work with your partners as they might have ideas for these scenarios.

Another big area that lives in the world of timing is WAN or internet connectivity. The process of bringing up new circuits can take a few months. You are dealing with partners and providers who might also be dealing with partners and other providers and vendors. Will the location be ready for the installation of new circuits? I am currently working on a project for a new location that is opening overseas. Because of the pandemic I cannot travel to the site. This makes communicating with local support much more essential. They have to keep me up-to-date on the ongoing construction for the building. If time passes by and I do not see info, I must send them reminders. If you have a project manager organizing and orchestration sections of the project, you probably already have a weekly meeting on big projects. If you are the one and only doing everything, I suggest you schedule a meeting with all the right people.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Communication is key to proper timing. I need to know when the site is expected to be operational and in use. I will time the order of the circuits so that equipment is sent to another nearby site if the new site is not ready to receive equipment. Providers might need to bring in connectivity to one part of the new building, but your network closet sits on the other side. Who will be extending the circuit into the correct space? That might be another party that you (or the project manager) must schedule. If you are leasing space, the landlord might have requirements to use their own teams to run cabling in the building. Those things all take time.

Two things are usually certain in a project, the start date and the end date. Everything that happens in between can be a bit blurry and out of focus. Knowing when certain tasks and deliverables are needed is an important part in bringing some clarity to a project. As a network engineer working on these tasks and deliverables, don’t forget to step back and look at the bigger picture. Missing information can lead to delays.

Ask questions and keep asking until you get answers. Even if things seem to be going smoothly, look forward and anticipate those curves coming up. Proper timing will ensure your train reaches the end of the line as expected.

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