Houston Shares P25 Procurement Success Factors
March 05, 2012
By Greg Munchrath and Tom Sorley
Developing and implementing the world’s largest municipal Project 25 (P25) Phase 2 radio system is no easy task. The city of Houston is leveraging market competition and innovative approaches to acquire a high-quality system configuration, strong system performance guarantees and some of the best pricing ever seen in a project of this nature.
When the city’s original project plan was developed, a number of critical success factors were identified. These factors are applicable to most radio communications projects and can serve as a useful guide for other cities, counties and states planning to upgrade or replace their systems. All of these factors are incorporated into the city’s project plan and are used on a daily basis. The following list includes some of the key factors:
• Establishing a project team with representatives from each department that will use the system
• Clearly identifying and articulating user agencies’ needs and requirements
• Managing system expectations from day one
• Keeping elected officials, the project sponsor and stakeholders well informed
• Involving representatives from the city’s purchasing and legal departments in the project team
• Monitoring vendor politics and lobbying
• Including independent and objective technical expertise in the project team
• Developing an appropriate system approach and procurement documents that clearly articulate the scope of work and reflect user requirements
• Including strong grant funding expertise in the project team
• Leveraging market competition
• Objectively evaluating vendor proposals to select the best offering and avoid protests
• Developing a system contract that protects the buyer, includes a clear division of responsibilities and contains a stringent, well-defined acceptance testing plan
• Addressing critical site development and radio spectrum issues as early as possible
• Aggressively managing system implementation and the change order process
• Keeping a watchful eye on the old systems to make sure they continue to operate through system cutover
• Thoroughly testing the new system’s performance following system implementation
• Providing timely, high-quality training for technical support personnel, dispatchers and radio users
• Carefully planning and coordinating the system cutover to help provide a smooth transition
Houston’s Unique Make Up
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the nation and relies heavily on radio communications to dispatch and deliver both day-to-day and emergency services. These services are provided around the clock to more than 2 million residents.
As one of the nation’s largest urban centers, Houston has a number of vulnerabilities in common with other large metropolitan areas. These include critical infrastructures such as roads and bridges, water supply, banking and commercial centers, educational, religious and cultural facilities, and government and public-safety operations. The urban infrastructures combined with Houston’s unique assets make the city especially dependent on reliable radio communications. These unique assets include:
• The port of Houston, one of the nation’s largest deep-water ports, linked to the Gulf of Mexico by the 50-mile Houston Ship Channel. Of U.S. ports, Houston ranks first in foreign tonnage, with public and private maritime terminals that annually generate $11 billion in revenue;
• The largest petrochemical complex in the United States and one of the largest in the world, refining 2.2 million barrels of oil each day and generating one-eighth of the nation’s capacity;
• Fourteen of the nation’s top 20 natural gas transmission companies have corporate or divisional headquarters in Houston, controlling two-thirds of the U.S. capacity, as do 11 of the nation’s top 20 petroleum pipelines, controlling one-third of U.S. capacity;
• Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, composed of 42 member organizations and world-renowned hospitals that serve an international constituency; and
• NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which served as mission control for space shuttle flights and International Space Station operations.
Greg Munchrath is senior vice president and western division manager for RCC Consultants. With 30 years of experience, he has assisted more than 100 cities and counties in their radio system projects. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Sorley is the deputy director radio communications services for the city of Houston. Sorley has more than 25 years of experience in many facets of the field. Sorley serves on several national and international committees including the governing board vice chair of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP), the FCC Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) public-safety advisory committee and as the chair of the Technology Committee for the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).