FTTx deployment strategies, approaches and technologies are constantly changing and evolving however there’s a few common issues that keep appearing. The concept of the 7 Deadly Sins is founded on a presentation that I will be delivering at this years’ Fiber Connect Conference in Nashville TN (and Also now, a remastered version at ISE Expo 2018). However, I felt it was important to highlight the key parts to the presentation based on those who can’t make it, while at the same time adding some emphasis to the presentation itself.
It might be just one, or all, but when it comes to an FTTx deployment are you:
- Slothenly with Data?
- Gluttonous with project artefacts?
- Envious of the supply chain?
- Proud of your processes?
- Wrathful with innovation?
- Lustful with supposed shortcuts?
- Greedy with our deployment plans?
We need to understand that change is a Virtue, Not a sin
With high speed broadband now being considered a basic necessity, the onus is on our industry, and specifically those that can influence the manner in which networks are deployed, to continuously find better ways to provide a means for communities to thrive. Yes, that’s right, we need to take ownership of the issues we’ve helped create, and move forward differently, with purpose and intent, and perhaps slow down the sinning run-rate for much needed change.
As technology has evolved, it’s been an ongoing challenge to try to make use of the latest so-called ‘best-practice’ approach. From planning, through to operating the network, no part of this value chain is left untouched by disruptive innovation. The decision between adoption to win in the near-future is tough compared to maintaining status quo to win now.
Being in this deployment space for some time now, I have grappled with this time and time again, and it’s easy to keep repeating the same mistakes. It’s time to become more self-critical, take ownership of these sins we are committing, and start doing the right thing.
Here’s the exciting part – when we face these head on and actually change, we begin to see fundamental benefits across the entire delivery our projects. I’ve been fortunate to see this more often in the last two years than in the four prior to that.
So what Sinful tasks are holding our FTTx engineering back?
Slothenly when we’re getting The Data right
We see it time and time again where we have the opportunity to make the data right, but because of one reason or another, we are restricted from correcting it.
A standard example of this is when we don’t empower our field teams performing field validation with the right tools, techniques or processes to correct that they have inspected whilst on-site. This ultimately results in a revisit, or potentially a variation in the field during construction. This is the worst case scenario when we begin to adopt a digital engineering approach, which is suppose to yield great savings.
Gluttonous with our project Artifacts
On a recent meeting with a former colleague of mine, he reminded me of the ridiculous process we had set up on a wireless deployment.
“Do you remember that 35 page pack you used to give us to construct? Well, we ripped out the first, third and tenth pages out of the pack, used those, and threw the rest of that useless information into the bin!”
That WAS the way we did it, that was the pack we were told to generate.
Envious of others across the Supply Chain
Too often we incentivize the wrong things and then wonder why we get certain results.
When there is no common goal and reference across the supply chain, then you end up with issues and destructive behaviour. Envy creeps in, and before you know it, your project is off course.
I’m surprised at just how often I see this still occurring, and it astounds be when I talk to project leaders and how annoyed they are with contractors asking for different contradicting things. I know if the run rate is the only incentive, particularly with field-based activities, We’re going to have a bad time!
Prideful in a “that’ll do” Process
Being an engineer at heart, building processes from scratch can be fun. Being an engineer on a network deployment with KPIs can be dangerous. How many times did you let the KPI or milestone lead you down the wrong path? Why do we favour getting the tick-in-the-box and that perception of a great run-rate, BUT we put the quality of the output second or third?
Not many projects I’ve worked on could actually afford to slow down to go fast, and so we sometimes put up with the tasks in the field being done in a less than optimal way earlier on in the process but we know that it would bite us in the foot later on.
Wrathful to change when it comes to Innovation
This one I’ve been exposed to more than the other sins.
Playing in this disruptive field, I have many conversations with people around how to adopt an innovative approach. Guess what – it’s rare that you get peaceful agreement for an all-in change. There’s typically some fired-up individuals, or departments who feel they are being made extinct.
Innovate somewhere, even if you start small, prove it out. Create a skunk-works lab or team if you want to keep it isolated from the business as usual bandits.
Lustful for that Shortcut Solution
Who hasn’t dreamt of that silver bullet, of that great shortcut to get us there faster? I have lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to take a shortcut whilst driving, and it ended up taking more time that if I had just stuck the course.
When going down the digital engineering road, data and information flow is your friend, but we need to exercise patience in order to set up our flows, create that highway for the data to flow through in the right way.
Greedy for the Rollout outcomes
Too often we are put behind the eight ball before we even start. It takes a lot of effort to convince someone that you want to start slow, but will finish fast.
Trying to keep the approach rational, and managing the stakeholders is not easy but necessary to enable FLOW in your process, particularly if you are trying to undertake the digital engineering route.
What is the first step to change my ways?
Firstly, you should come and listen to my presentation at Fiber Connect!
In terms of tangible next steps though, and imparting some of my wisdom, hopefully this will stick with you:
Don’t let fear stop you from overcoming the 7 Deadly Sins of FTTx Engineering. Fail, Fail spectacularly, learn from your mistakes and continue to adapt. When you can build a culture that supports this perspective then you’ll start seeing some tangible benefits across your entire FTTx deployment.