A radio system implementation is an enormous undertaking that requires months, sometime years, of planning followed by years of deployment. The process starts with development of technical specifications and creation of procurement documents, usually in the form of a request for proposals. Vendor responses then must be scored and evaluated. A vendor must be selected, and a contract negotiated, including performance requirements. The system then must be designed, staged, built, and tested to ensure that it is performing as designed. Finally, the system goes live.
And that’s when the real work begins.
Once the new system is operating, it must be managed and maintained, which requires a considerable time investment and an equally considerable amount of expertise and experience. Mission Critical Partners has developed a checklist of 67 tasks that must be performed to effectively manage and maintain a radio system, with most of these tasks falling to the agency to perform.
Key tasks that fall to the agency include the following:
- Monitor maintenance contracts pertaining to system performance
- Manage contracts and leases, including vendor contracts, radio system facilities maintenance contracts, and tower leases
- Manage Federal Communications Commission licenses
- Manage agency-owned tower management leases
- Track subscriber radio inventory
- Track inventory and location of spare parts, and procure when needed
- Coordinate system updates
- Identify needed system upgrades and feature enhancements
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to effectively managing a radio system after it is implemented. However, what we have learned over the years is that most public safety agencies are ill-equipped to take on this vital task. Most agencies have just one or two people responsible for radio system management — if they have any at all — but performing all the essential tasks we’ve identified can take a dozen people or more — depending on the size of the system — who have the requisite skill sets, expertise, and experience.
Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Complicating the challenge is that it doesn’t make sense to outsource many of these agency-centered tasks to the radio vendor or its local radio shop because of the conflict-of-interest potential. Even if there was no conflict of interest, relying on the vendor to fulfill these tasks generally is a bad idea due to exorbitant fees that often are charged to do this work.
Most activities associated with radio system maintenance will, of course, still be contracted with a radio vendor or local radio shop. These are services like providing onsite response when equipment breaks, providing system preventive maintenance, and providing system software updates. However, it falls to the agency to monitor that radio vendor to ensure that it is meeting all of its contractual commitments — and most agencies simply don’t have the time or expertise to provide this level of oversight.
A lot can go wrong is a radio system isn’t managed and maintained properly — and it can go wrong in a big way. For example, we know of one large agency that loses 300 radios each year simply because they have no asset management/inventory system in place. Other significant problems include performance degradation and system outages that can have a serious negative impact on emergency response — both are bad outcomes for organizations whose reason for being is to save lives and property. And no agency official wants to stand at a podium to explain that lives were lost due to a poorly managed and/or maintained radio system.
With all of this in mind, MCP has launched a new radio system management service designed to help agencies plan for radio system management activities to ensure that all of the aforementioned 67 tasks are accounted for. Our goal with this service is to take the burden off our clients in terms of ensuring that:
- Their radio systems are performing optimally
- Their vendors are fulfilling their contractual obligations
- Routine and preventive maintenance is well planned and executed
- System upgrades and replacements are well planned and executed
- Overall radio system management is performed flawlessly and cost effectively
We would welcome the opportunity to tell you more about this service — please reach out.
Nick Falgiatore is an MCP senior technology specialist. He can be emailed at NickFalgiatore@MissionCriticalPartners.com.