A Flexible Approach to Communication System Design (Connection 9)

System Designer Barry Crates paints a colorful metaphor, comparing a flexible approach to communications system design to the proverbial Swiss Army knife. A unique insight into the process behind designing the perfect solution for both client and vendor.

Imagine a simple knife; sharp, finely-honed, feeling just right in your hand, and perfect for slicing into a sun-ripened tomato. That’s great if that is all you ever want to do, but if you also want to slice crusty fresh bread, snip open the cheese wrapping, de-bone a piece of fresh salmon and remove the cork from the wine that will accompany your picnic, your beautiful knife is not enough.

If your core business is providing a service or product that you produce, it’s easy to try and force a generic ‘tool’ on your customers, and no matter how well-designed it may be, that single tool is unlikely to actually meet complex and nuanced customer need. And so their expectations are not met.

The situation changes, however, if your knife gets some close neighbors – a bigger knife, can opener, tweezers, corkscrew and many more – all tucked away, but ready for action when you need them. All manner of devices are at hand, each addressing a specific need, although not all tools are required at all times.

Now imagine that your Swiss Army Knife is your communications vendor, and the various tools within the device are the products, processes, solutions, services and technical partnerships that they provide, as well as the engineering resources to develop new, customer-specific tools for problems that current offerings can’t quite meet. Other tools include partner companies and suppliers – specialist providers whose product and service tools can meet the most specific requirements.

The first and most important tool that Tait unfolds is ‘conversation’ – open, frank, and honest discussions with your technical staff, end users and key stakeholders. To understand precisely what you need from a communications solution, we must first become very familiar with your current operational environment, constraints and limitations, and understand what has driven you to seek a new communication solution.

To develop a complete and comprehensive requirements specification, we will continue to ask ‘why’ as many times as necessary, to get a really clear understanding of your communication challenges and opportunities. Just as the perfect knife for a ripe tomato will fail to open a bottle of wine, what good is a solution if it fails to deliver precisely what you need?

Unique problems require unique solutions, like this radio site in Antarctica.

That’s why the next tool to reach for is the ‘agreement’ tool. This tool reassures both parties that we both completely understand and agree on what ‘done’ will look like. It is important that each individual client requirement is specific enough to be measured, verified, and validated. That means, for example, your test documentation—plans, procedures, and responsibilities—are all agreed and understood well before the new solution is provided.

Once the requirements are all agreed, we can then start looking at the various other tools that we can use to design the best solution. These tools can include products, solutions, services, third-party products, even the customization of existing tools.

The Swiss Army Knife approach means we can provide a perfect, tailored solution. Our sales engineers and system design engineers are not limited to a specific tool set, because there are many other tools just waiting to be unfolded.

This article was first published in issue 9 of Connection Magazine. Subscribe to this free digital magazine here.

Learn about optimizing your communications network with Design Services from Tait.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *