The winners of this year’s fibre broadband race will share a culture of innovation
When the coronavirus pandemic hit a few years ago it fundamentally changed the way people will live and work for decades to come. One of these changes was that many workplaces moved to a remote working model, in some cases, permanently. As such, there is now a bigger reliance on the internet than there ever has been, and an even stronger link between internet access and economic prosperity. The UK government has recognised this link and has introduced the UK Gigabit Programme to ensure all UK residents have access to high-speed internet, says Wade Anderson, vice president of SME, IQGeo.
This programme, and similar initiatives by other governmental bodies, have further accelerated the already active race in the telecoms industry. Operators are focused on meeting the demands set out by these initiatives, but simply meeting these demands is not enough. Operators are in direct competition, and they need to rapidly deliver high quality fibre broadband service to ensure they are not overtaken by others, losing market share and revenue opportunity.
Operators need to focus on smaller, manageable goals
How telecoms operators tackle the demands set out in high-speed internet initiatives will dictate the winners of the fibre broadband race this year and beyond. Investing in new technology has a number of advantages and it’s a proven approach that many organisations are taking. This is also supported by McKinsey, who noted in their Rethinking strategy for the postpandemic era study that “bolder, at-scale investments in technology are significantly more likely to support a successful transformation than those that are smaller in scope.”
While this is a sensible move backed by evidence, the execution of this strategy is key. Growing the network is a huge undertaking and operators should think carefully about how to take on this challenge. To reduce time to revenue, operators should consistently deliver value to customers through smaller initiatives that map to an overarching innovation plan. They need to create a culture of innovation made up of smaller, more manageable targets not one “big bang” goal.
Considering the entire organisation in the planning process
To maximise success, operators should consider how new technology will benefit multiple departments, and the positive impact it can have when rolled out across the entire business. This can start with identifying a single pain point within a group or department. Once the technology has proven its effectiveness, it can be reliably and efficiently applied across the organisation.
Businesses that start at one vertical point, demonstrate the performance of that solution, and then expand across the lifecycle reap the rewards of these smaller steps but also benefit from the exponential impact from a collection of smaller, lower-risk, incremental gains.
Deploying technology incrementally also allows organisations room to assess the effectiveness of the technology on an ongoing basis and refine the approach with each new deployment. Organisations can create an “innovation blueprint” that meets the needs of the business.
As the whole lifecycle process is interconnected, it’s important to ensure that the foundations laid can be used across different operational areas of the business. This flexible and agile strategy supports the different priorities of individual departments and operational areas while drawing together the full network lifecycle.
This approach also helps to mitigate the risk and impact of potential project failure. Focusing on smaller goals will allow operators to find out if a solution isn’t working early in the innovation plan. Deploying a new “big bang” technology can take between 12 – 18 months, and an organisation will not be able to properly measure success until full deployment, which can be too late for course corrections. Focusing on a series of incremental technology goals is lower risk and enables the organisation to understand its effectiveness much earlier so it can move forward with confidence or change tack as appropriate.
Demonstrating immediate value
The demand for high-speed internet fuelled by the pandemic has created a huge opportunity for telecom operators to secure new customers. To get ahead of the competition, operators cannot stand still – they need to continually demonstrate their value to potential and current customers.
Operators that develop a long-term culture of innovation made up of smaller, more manageable gains will consistently demonstrate value to customers. On top of this, they will prove the value of technology solutions internally by consistently highlighting the success through cost saving and efficiency gains.
To draw on an example from the other side of the pond, the City of Westerville in Ohio is an exemplary organisation when it comes to using an incremental innovation approach. As the municipality to own its own data centre and fibre network, they serve residential users and businesses, attracting large companies with affordable, high-performance broadband. The city has ambitious growth plans and are consistently upgrading their technology to improve network reliability and support new services. Examples include the deployment of network troubleshooting that rapidly identifies the location of fibre faults, speeding repair with greater field crew efficiency.
They have also rolled out fibre planning and development tools to optimise the use of expensive fibre resources and are continually streamlining their recordkeeping process, enabling field technicians to capture network status anywhere in the field on mobile devices. The Westerville team’s philosophy of constant technology innovation is delivering better services to their customers, consistent operational improvements, and impressive cost saving.
Operators who are open to new technology are already beginning to see benefits. Many operators are moving away from paper maps to digital solutions that can function online and offline, capturing real time network changes and sharing valuable network data across the organisation. Nurturing a culture of innovation is good business and is an approach that will be shared by the winners in the race to broadband. Only by constantly delivering incremental value can an organisation stay ahead of the competitive pack.
The fibre broadband race will heat up in 2022. Operators cannot afford to stand by and let their competitors outrun them. Every organisation must implement effective solutions in a timely manner to open the door to a wealth of new customers and higher revenue. Those that fail to do so, will fall behind.
The author is Wade Anderson, vice president of SME, IQGeo.