Setting up your data cabling contractor for failure

Setting up your data cabling contractor for failure

It is unfortunately common to unintentionally set up your data cabling contractor for failure. This process typically begins at the client level and cascades down to the installing contractor, who often ends up unfairly bearing the brunt of the blame.

Successfully completing a data cabling project requires a high level of precision and attention to detail in all aspects of the project, including scheduling, installation methods, procedural steps, and maintenance. Each of these elements play a crucial role in the success of the project and must be carefully planned and executed to ensure an efficient installation process.

Another critical but often overlooked element arises in certain scenarios. For example, consider a manufacturer selling a product to an end user, the client. The client comes with specific business practices and expectations that they require from the manufacturer. To secure the sale, the manufacturer tends to accommodate the client's demands significantly. However, if the manufacturer then decides to subcontract the installation labor, various mistakes can emerge. This situation is not exclusive to manufacturers but also applies to general contractors who subcontract installation work. In essence, whenever three companies are involved, the complexity of the process intensifies beyond just the client and contractor, necessitating comprehensive understanding from each party involved

Although the majority of our projects involve direct-to-client (DTC) services, we also work with several national manufacturers who either lack installation departments or restrict their services to local areas, relying on NDC as their national vendor. This situation is mirrored by some general contractors who engage us at multiple locations for recurring projects. While we appreciate and thrive as a national vendor for manufacturers and general contractors, they may not always recognize that with three project leads involved, alignment among all parties is crucial for the successful completion of a project.

Before committing to their client, the manufacturer or general contractor must thoroughly grasp the qualifications, strengths, and weaknesses of the subcontractor. It is essential that they have a comprehensive understanding of the subcontractor's pricing structure and the complexities associated with project work. Any oversight in fully understanding the subcontractor's workflow process is likely to result in frustration at some point during the project.


Let's begin with scheduling, as it is arguably the most crucial aspect of any project. The manufacturer or general contractor should first collaborate with the subcontractor to outline a comprehensive scope of work. It is imperative that there are no unknowns in this process, as small uncertainties can snowball into significant issues later on. Once the subcontractor fully comprehends the project requirements, an accurate timeline can be established, accounting for the appropriate amount of labor, which we will discuss further. In many cases, manufacturers or general contractors struggle to provide clear information but are pressured to meet their client's deadlines, even when crucial details have not been provided by the client.

When it comes to finalizing the sale between the manufacturer and the client, or the general contractor securing the project, many individuals tend to lack the necessary assertiveness and transparency. They often shift blame onto the client when certain aspects of the project are unclear. As the final decision-makers within our own organization, we are unable to escalate our concerns upwards and must rely on the client to effectively communicate these issues, which unfortunately rarely occurs. Consequently, we are compelled to navigate the situation in an unconventional manner, deviating from our standard practices in order to find a workaround solution.

I recognize that adaptability is essential for every company during a project. However, this does not mean that a subcontractor should completely abandon their established operating procedures to cope with a disorganized and poorly planned process. Adapting to fluctuating requirements, especially across multiple locations with strict deadlines, can be extremely challenging. It often involves prioritizing certain aspects of the project, setting aside others to be completed later, and revisiting tasks that were already in progress. When combined with long hours, chaotic requests, last-minute changes, and a lack of collaboration among those involved, the likelihood of failure or unnecessary frustration significantly increases.

Our Bidding Process:

When it comes to bidding on national projects that require travel and overnight stays, we follow a meticulous process to ensure both financial success and project advancement. It is crucial for us to have a comprehensive understanding of the project, encompassing timelines, phases, expectations, payment schedules, responsibilities, procurement and delivery of products, and more. Any misinterpretation at this stage could result in significant financial losses for the subcontractor.

Let's consider an example of bidding on a project involving the completion of five cabled buildings in a different county. The first step is to establish clear start and end dates for the project. Next, we carefully assess the scope of work, consult with our vendors to align delivery schedules with our requirements, and determine the necessary number of technicians based on the provided information. Factors such as access times and site conditions (active or inactive) are also taken into account.

Upon completing these evaluations, our bid is finalized, and we can proceed with confidence, barring unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.

If the manufacturer or general contractor is responsible for supplying materials and has hired us solely for labor, any lack of organization on their end can significantly disrupt the project. Delays in material availability can force subcontractors to adjust their work schedules and move between locations where materials are accessible. While such challenges are common in well-organized projects, they have the potential to quickly derail a project by deviating from standard procedures. Errors become more prevalent, with technicians possibly overlooking locations they thought were already completed. Even with a capable project manager present, excessive movement can overwhelm both the crew and its managers.

Labor Costs

In terms of labor, each technician who stays out of town necessitates a daily pay schedule, in addition to expenses like accommodation, per diem, transportation rentals, airfare, etc. For lengthier projects, technicians are typically rotated to allow them to return to their home state and spend time with their families. This aspect is taken into consideration during the bidding process. A minor setback from the client can lead to significant financial losses, as daily expenses continue to accumulate. While it may appear straightforward for the client to request a delay until the following week when materials are available, the associated expenses and financial implications must be carefully deliberated. Such situations often result in frustration for the manufacturer or general contractor who failed to factor these considerations into their initial bid.

Site Access

The availability of site access hours plays a critical role in the bidding process for this type of project. Our entire bid is predicated on the allocated hours, whether the site is live or inactive. Challenges arise when there are alterations to these factors. For instance, if a previously inactive site transitions to a live site, the pace at which we were progressing with the project slows down, resulting in increased expenses for our company. Similarly, if a building maintenance staff member falls ill and there is no one available to secure the site, leading to an early departure for us, it prolongs our out-of-town stay and adds to our expenses. Any unforeseen delays that set us back and compel us to work on a live site will incur costs for the company. In brief, strict adherence and enforcement of site access hours must be maintained throughout the entire chain of command.

Project Phases:

This scenario is frequently encountered in our line of work. A project that was initially planned as a single phase often morphs into multiple phases, typically due to delays or factors beyond our influence such as material availability or other trades. We have consistently met our timelines without fail, and no project has ever exceeded its timeline due to any action within our control. When a single-phase project evolves into multiple phases, we must recoup expenses related to travel and other costs associated with additional trips. In certain instances, we may have rented a residence for the project's duration, and any delays outside of our control render these expenses non-refundable. Should the extension of the project lead to the booked residence being unavailable, technicians might be compelled to stay in a hotel exceeding the allocated budget. It is imperative that these incurred fees are recuperated accordingly.

On-Site Client Changes:

As contractors, we understand that modifications to the site are bound to happen, especially on large-scale projects. We strongly dislike the notion of change orders, and for minor adjustments that can be swiftly addressed while we are already on-site and require minimal time, such as adding a few extra cables, we opt not to implement formal change orders. Typically, these changes are requested after our technicians have wrapped up work at the location or have moved on to the next site, creating challenges when working against a deadline. These adjustments are often deferred until the project's completion, and if we finish ahead of schedule, there are no additional charges beyond our agreed-upon daily rate. However, if these changes necessitate our technicians to stay beyond the contracted timeframe, our daily rates for accommodation, travel adjustments, etc., must be factored in. It may come as a surprise to some clients, but in reality, this should not come as a shock at all.