January 18, 2005, 1:20 AM — We're going to do something a little different this week, and provide what amounts to a checklist for the deployment of wireless systems and services within the enterprise. I've been at this for a long time now, and what follows distills a lot that I've learned over the years about the best way to deploy wireless, and new technologies in general, in most businesses. It should go without saying, of course, that no plan is going to be appropriate in every case. You mileage, as they say, may vary, and what follows will undoubtedly need to be adapted to your particular way of doing things.
I tend to take a very conservative approach to integrating any new technologies. I usually assume that the product or service I'm using will not, in fact, work as advertised. I tend to de-rate performance specifications to make sure that what I'm deploying will work, at least to an acceptable degree. While I do run pure experiments from time to time, I do not try to push the envelope in production situations, especially when performing an initial deployment. Indeed, as you'll see below, I always build in some time to prototype the solution and gain experience in both how the technology works and how the users will respond to it.
The first step in any wireless deployment is to establish a need. There is, of course, no point in implementing a wireless solution just to do it. It's important to consider what business problem or solution is to be addressed. The next step is to establish quantifiable goals for the implementation, so as to measure the result. Functional performance is defined at this stage, and we also begin the process of developing a functional specification here. This document contains quantifiable performance for the proposed system, with numbers as specific as possible. We usually staple this document to any purchase orders issued, and include wording in the contract to the effect that the solution either meets this specification or we get our money back. (I'm not kidding!)