What to Include in Pre-Implementation Planning (1st in a Series of 3)

I am starting a large district wide implementation of our Xirrus arrays.  This particular deployment is 150+ arrays.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Xirrus, we aggregate from 4-24 radios (we call them integrated access points) in every device along with a non-blocking Layer 2 switch, WLAN controller, integrated threat sensor and spectrum analyzer.  Our integrated access points utilize directional antennas, which allow us to cover more area using 75% less devices than our competitors.

This is helpful to understand the scope of the project.  While we have 150+ arrays, the competing bids were for approximately 600 access points.   It is certainly not the largest WLAN rollout I have worked on, but larger than most.  My question today is “How do you plan/prepare for large deployments of new technology?”

My personal philosophy goes back to an adage that my father taught me, which was “Measure twice.  Cut once.” There are certain processes that I have used over the years.  These include both a pre-implementation call and a pre-implementation checklist.

The pre-implementation call seems more useful when I have not been involved in the sales effort and the project is being passed to me as an engineer for integration into the customer’s network.  Normally, the sales team, project manager, and implementation team get on the phone to restate the technical and business requirements of the project to ensure everyone is on the same page.  In my opinion, one of the frequently overlooked areas on this type of phone call is a definition of the project’s success criteria.

The pre-implementation checklist has been more useful to me in situations where I have been a part of the sales cycle and know the account history and requirements. What I am looking for then are the technical details – the IP addressing scheme, the naming convention, the authentication methods, the encryption schemes, etc.

I have used several different forms and versions of pre-implementation checklists.  What format do you prefer – Excel Spreadsheets or Word documents?  Ones with a higher number of detailed questions or ones with a few number of high level questions?  What area(s) do you think are often missed during the planning stage of a new project?

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