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It’s Time to Simplify the Complex

Oct. 1, 2021
Help Your Teams Embrace New Technologies and Succeed Amid High-Pressure Broadband Deployment Projects —  Think about the various technologies your company has invested in to get better at what you […]

Help Your Teams Embrace New Technologies and Succeed Amid High-Pressure Broadband Deployment Projects — 

Think about the various technologies your company has invested in to get better at what you do. If by some miracle the technology works as-is out of the box, you still have a team of people who don’t know how to use it yet, which is to be expected. Fast forward weeks and months, and you still have a technology that no one understands how to use and, therefore, doesn’t use it. This is when things get challenging and downright frustrating. A significant investment is made in a solution or process that is supposed to make things easier, yet nothing is easier. No one is happy — plus productivity can grind to a halt. 

In our industry, this is an all too common theme as companies navigate the incredibly busy waters of rolling out higher speed broadband across the country. As an industry, we are up against deadlines like we’ve never experienced before. There is an unprecedented number of miles that need to be engineered to meet not only the public demand but also grants and loans that have been distributed to assist in pulling off this herculean effort. 

The only way to meet the demands and deadlines in today’s marketplace is to get more efficient. The way to get more efficient is to leverage technology and empower people to utilize what’s available to them so they can do more in the same amount of time and still derive satisfaction from the work they do and the impact they are making.

"When it comes to planning and implementing in the ICT landscape, leaders who plan for the future will be ready for success when that future arrives."

GIS and data analytics play a significant role in helping projects be engineered more efficiently. They also aid in greater accuracy and better records on the back end of the project, which can help greatly with maintenance costs and projections, sales, marketing, and prospecting new revenues. 

But GIS is a technology that no one is born knowing how to use. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of those leading and implementing the project to design with the end user in mind. This is often easier said than done. 

That’s why as a leader, you should help your team members "simplify the complex" as you drive GIS technology adoption in your telecom projects. There are 3 key steps to do this. (And not surprisingly, those steps are more about leadership and culture than they are about technology adoption.)

3 Key Steps

Step 1. Get Clear On What You Need. It’s Not Always What You Think.

When a company is challenged with building fiber for a community, many questions must be answered before the project starts:

  • How many miles of plant do I need to build?
  • How many households per mile of build?
  • What architecture (GPON, Active Ethernet, etc.) should I use?
  • Aerial or buried?
  • What are the lead times on permits and materials?

Beyond these, it’s important to get answers to other questions that may not seem as critical initially. But, digging deeper into these details sooner than later creates efficiencies, and saves time, energy, and frustration, down the road. So, be sure to get these questions answered before your team bites off more than it can chew.

  • How will the project’s progress be tracked and managed?
  • What will the fiber management and final records look like, in what systems, etc.?
  • Is there competition in the marketplace now?
  • Will there be competition in the future?
  • Are there any grants or other financing that may be available to other providers in my geography?
  • Are there growth and development trends that I should consider in the next 10-15 years?

Finally, it’s important for you to ask questions about the short-term and long-term success of the project, such as: 

  • Are you building and planning and investing for right now or for where the marketplace is headed? The answer is hopefully both.
  • Turning up customers is really just Phase One of a perpetual process. What’s next? Are you prepared with the data and infrastructure needed to stay competitive in your marketplace for years to come?
  • Do you currently have a team in place to carry out the vision long term?

When it comes to planning and implementing in the ICT landscape, leaders who plan for the future are ready for success when that future arrives.

Step 2. Make Time to Communicate the Vision to Your Team

Once your company is clear on what’s needed to make a fiber initiative successful for the long term, it’s critical to convey the vision to your team. Why? Because GIS technology requires team members to change the typical processes they’ve followed in the past — especially if GIS is being introduced into projects for the first time or it’s being used to a greater degree. 

As a leader, you must remind yourself and others that they are working with people who want to
succeed. But…

  • People typically are uncomfortable with change, potential change, and the unknown.
  • Using big data sets and technology is fairly new to the broadband industry.
  • Team members who tend to embrace new technology also tend to lack industry experience.
  • Team members who are experienced in the industry are often not experienced in GIS or analytics.

There are so many moving parts to these deployment projects and things move at a breakneck pace. That’s why team members must know what the plan is and why the plan is. It’s also important that both the experienced and the inexperienced team members collaborate and learn from one another. 

When leaders take time to communicate clearly about what they need, it makes it much easier to communicate the vision to the team.

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries

Step 3. Stay on Top of the Data to Drive Accountability

The beauty of GIS is that it allows access to more project data than ever before. But, like anything, data is useful only if it’s reviewed regularly, acted upon, and improved upon when needed. 

In terms of your company’s culture, data can help drive accountability if a cooperative and collaborative approach is taken. Consider these positive outcomes for your team members as they adopt a new technology like GIS:

  • Using data to drive decisions can help expose GIS/analytics team members to the field.
  • Adhering to the data creates opportunity for experienced team members to embrace the technology over time.
  • Acting on data-driven decisions can reduce the likelihood for people to pocket veto things or revert to older, unproductive processes.

Truth be told, infusing GIS into the telecom industry is a huge change. And it can be difficult for some people to embrace with open arms. Therefore, company leaders who have done the work of clarifying the What and Why to the team must stay in tune with the results and strive to maintain and/or improve upon those results. This is the secret sauce that keeps a company on top.

Sure, it would be nice if technologies like GIS were plug-and-play and never rocked the boat of "how we’ve always done things". But the reality is there are more moving parts than ever to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in the broadband deployment industry. Driving efficiency is the best favor a leader can do for his/her teams, customers, and the organization they represent.

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About the Author

Kevin Maes

Kevin Maes is VP of Engineering, Millennium Geospatial. For more than 25 years, Kevin continues to design and engineer networks on a national footprint, and building FTTH for 20+ years across Rural America. Kevin leads Millennium Geospatial’s strategic initiatives that are resulting in data-driven solutions throughout the country. Kevin spent time in the US Army (Infantry). He has a BS in Geography from the University of Minnesota. He earned his Executive Leadership Certificate from the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development. He is married with a son, and is an avid fly fisherman. For more information, visit Follow Millennium Geospatial on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.