As an unabashed promoter of standards, I realize their power, potential and limitations. They can only get us so far. Often we look at technology for technology’s sake. That is certainly responsible – and necessary – but it’s not the whole picture. Sometimes we have to go beyond standards and best practices. But how?

It’s not as hard as you may think.

Let’s look at how standards are developed, and how the documents themselves are organized. We tend to work with a combination of vertical and horizontal integration. Consider the different media and support systems as the “vertical”; then copper cabling, fiber cabling and the support systems for those media. When talking to clients and colleagues, I often refer to it as “copper,” “fiber” and “steel” (regardless of the actual material, whether it be metal or plastic). If the media and supports are the vertical integration, then the horizontal layers of the integration are the applications and topologies required to provide connectivity with additional layers, or variation within the layers, for various premises.

Industry (generic) standards documents from TIA, BICSI, ISO, IEEE and others tend to follow these lines of organization because that’s where the expertise lies and aligns. Further, and almost invariably, these documents follow a guideline of technical performance as the only criteria. Perhaps more accurately: Cost is not a consideration in the documents because it’s irrelevant. (We all know that’s not true – it is absolutely critical, but also very subjective.) Industry best practice documents, regardless of their source, are only so useful. They also presume a set of preconditions or assume a “typical” value proposition that may or may not be pertinent to specific needs.

We implement technology for the purpose of connecting people to achieve business, industrial, automation or social goals. Cost, or value, is very much subjective, depending on point of view. Direct financial metrics can include raw currency, time, availability, etc., and are often easily measured.

From an indirect point of view, however, factors like quality, usability, availability, sustainability and compatibility all come into play. So when architecting technology solutions, we need to consider performance from a technological point of view, as well as balance those considerations with direct and indirect financial factors to provide solutions that are right for the need.

We need to ask ourselves: “Is our solution purpose driven?” If so, then we’re probably making the right decisions. If, however, the “solution” is purely pro forma, then perhaps we might not be as effective as we had hoped (or as our shareholders, clients and partners expect).

To make these decisions, we can’t look at just one set of guidelines produced by a third party in isolation. That kind of linear decision making reduces effectiveness and efficiency, and puts our systems and organizations at risk. The reality is far more dynamic; where all of these vertical and horizontal integration layers intersect and interact.

So what’s the answer? Sometimes you need to create your own standards. In next week’s blog, we’ll talk about what that means – and walk through an example of where and how that might work. Subscribe to our blogs so you don’t miss it!

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