Managing a fiber optic project can be the easiest part of the installation if the design and planning is thorough and complete. If not, it can be the hardest. But even assuming everything has been done right, things still may go wrong, so planning for the unexpected also is important. Here are some project-management guidelines that can minimize problems and lead to a speedy solution.

First, someone has to be in charge, and everyone must know who is the boss. During the project, the boss must be readily available for consultation and updates. While this may sound obvious, sometimes the network user’s representative has other responsibilities (such as managing the IT department) and may not be able or willing to direct full attention to the project. Whoever is managing the project must be involved and available—preferably on the job site—full time. If necessary, delegate responsibility to the construction supervisor with requirements for daily reports and updates.

Make certain that everyone responsible for parts of the project has appropriate documentation and has reviewed the installation plan. Everyone should have toured the relevant job sites and should be familiar with locations. They also must know whom to contact about questions on the sites, including from the network user, the contractor and any outside organizations, such as local governments or utilities.

Everyone needs to share contact information—usually cell phone numbers, since e-mail may be too slow, and instant messaging will probably not be available to field workers. The on-site supervisor should have a digital camera and take plenty of photos of the installation to be filed with the documentation for future reference and restoration.

All personnel should know the location of components, tools and supplies. On larger jobs, managing equipment and materials may be a full-time job. Special equipment, such as splicing trailers or bucket trucks, should be scheduled as needed. Rental equipment should be double checked with the suppliers to ensure delivery to the job site on time. Contacts for vendor technical support should be noted on documentation for the inevitable questions that arise during installation.

Outside plant installations may require local authorities to provide personnel for supervision or police for protection or traffic management on public job sites, so they also must become involved in the scheduling. If job inspections are required, arrangements should be made, so the job interruptions for inspections are minimized. Supervisory personnel must be responsible for job site safety and have appropriate contact information, that includes public services, such as police, fire and ambulance.

If the project is large enough to last several days or more, daily meetings to review the day’s progress are advisable. At a minimum, it should involve the on-site construction supervisor and the network user’s project manager. As long as things are going well, such a meeting should be short. On longer projects, overnight security personnel at job sites should have contact information for the job manager, who must be available 24/7, as well as public service contacts.

Testing of the installed cable plant should not be left until after the job is completed. Testing continually during installation can find and fix problems, such as cable stresses or high termination losses, before they become widespread. Each installer conducting tests should have documentation with loss budget calculations and acceptable losses to use for evaluating the test results.

What if things go bad? Here, judgment calls are important. If (or when) something happens, obviously it is the responsibility of the on-site supervisor to decide quickly if he or she can take care of it. If not, the supervisor must know who needs to be brought in and who needs to be notified. By reviewing progress regularly, disruptions can be minimized. Equipment failures—for example, a fusion splicer—can slow progress, but other parts of the project, such as cable laying, can continue, with splicing resumed as soon as replacement equipment is available. An experienced installer should review problems with termination, and the cure may require new supplies or turning termination over to more experienced personnel. Never hesitate to call vendor support when these kinds of questions or problems arise.

Following the completion of the installation, all relevant personnel should meet, review the project results, update the documentation and decide if anything else needs to be done before closing the project.

This concludes the series on designing fiber optic networks. Next month, this column will begin a series on the next step after project design: installation.

HAYES is a VDV writer and educator and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at www.jimhayes.com.