by | Mike Pordes
Article published in the April 2018 Digital Issue of ISE magazine.
The race for subscribers and increased profit continues! While there is great opportunity for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) service providers, there is also added competition, shareholder pressure to increase profit, and extra expectations by subscribers. For ICT service providers today, the importance of improving confidence and speed in decision-making is critical. Gartner estimates the average organization loses $14.2 million a year because of poor data quality. For ICT service providers, this data quality includes documentation of plant and network assets, competitive data, marketing lists, product offering lists, and event management. That’s a lot of data spread across many disparate systems. The interesting thing about all this data is one commonality: they all have geography. We need to remember that service providers are geographic companies, meaning their assets, people, work, opportunities, customers, and issues, are at locations. If you can bring together all of your disparate data into one place, you will see the business in a holistic fashion. You will be able to see how your business fits together. This ability results from effective geographic data management. Sure, there will be gaps in your data, but these are opportunities. Once gaps are identified, you can begin closing them and enriching your data. Doing that helps you improve confidence and speed in making better business decisions. And improved decision-making leads to happier customers (net promoter score) and better financial results (shareholder return). Easily said, but hard to implement. So how do you convince leadership to invest in geographic data management that can help these decisions and lead to profits?
Here are a few thoughts on that matter.
Find a Winner!
Effectively realizing a valuable business case for investments in geographic data management often involves many different departments within a single company. Without losing focus on your job, have conversations over coffee, on the bus, on the elevator, listen for opportunities where decisions are taking time because the right information is not readily available or where an unsuccessful decision is forced due to inability to make valid predictions. Listen to the problem and dig deeper. Find out what the steps are in a process, why they are needed, how much they cost, and what the value would be to eliminate, combine, or improve those steps. Don’t be afraid to validate some of the numbers early. Focus on the business case, not on the solution or on the technology. Identify quantifiable metrics for the as-is and the to-be state. Once you have something you think is a winner -- a workflow that could be improved -- then the next step is to make the business case. Business cases for better geographic data management have shared benefits for many organizations within a company.
For example, investing in new geographic data management procedures and mobile technology to capture timely and quality as-built data in construction greatly helps sales, marketing, network operations, field operations, customer service, and unplanned event management.
Investments in integrating geographic data management and job tracking technology improves engineering and construction coordination, while benefiting sales, marketing, network operations, field operations, and customer service.
Investments in geographic data management tools that bring accurate serviceability predictions, visual awareness of opportunities and competitive heat mapping increases opportunities and improves efficiencies of sales and marketing.
The list goes on. Find winners with shared benefits!
Do Some Homework
Ok, so let’s say you have found a workflow: maybe it’s intra-sales channel communication (SMB, Wholesale, MDU, Enterprise, Residential, Government). You have figured out the existing process is not able to quickly and simply identify where many of the sales channels are requesting builds in the same area. This duplication of effort is costing the company a large amount of money. Using geographic data management may improve the process, saving millions.
Now, do some homework.
The first part of the homework should focus on the process.
How is intra-sales channel communication occurring?
Who is involved?
What is thought about the process today?
Next look at the data quality and availability.
What are the data sources?
How and when are those sources being updated?
How is data quality managed?
Look at a few samples. Create some metrics of what qualifies as “good enough” data for your business case. Run some calculations and be confident that if the data is not of quality or if it is difficult to access (in a proprietary database), then the business case may fail and effort should be focused elsewhere -- maybe on the data and making it more interoperable! Ask around in the industry. How have others tackled this problem? What were the gotchas? What worked? Most of the challenges that you identify will be shared challenges. Post in a forum or on LinkedIn and virtually ask around. Review technology options, discover which options will solve this case as well as supply foundation for other cases. Find options that allow for seamless user experience independent of content access device. Run a pilot to see if your technology approach works. When the data is there, it is rare that an improvement using effective geographic data management is not realized.
Make the Case and Make the Scare*
In the government market, where geographic data management is widely used, a common return of investment is between 8% and 12%. For ICT companies, this could be even greater based on magnitude of scale and service offerings. For each case, develop a scoring mechanism to articulate the value. Make the mechanism dynamic such that you can manipulate inputs and see outcomes quickly. See how the numbers look at different scales. Do not be afraid to make justified assumptions. Collaborate with the subject experts to validate those assumptions. Include not only monetary benefits but schedule and risk mitigation driven benefits as well. Set a vision for your case. Brand it, give it a good name, make a logo, make it sparkle! A lack of vision within your case for geographic data management limits the chances of maximizing opportunity. If the numbers speak, the vision will sing! When the vision has been sung and people have listened, you’ve found a winner. A case has been made, the homework is done, and you are confident the use of geographic data management will be of benefit, but you still haven’t gotten the go (investment). One alternative at this point is to pull out the fear card. Articulate how the others that you talked to (the homework) are doing this and getting ahead! Turn the potential return on investment made during your case into a potential loss if moving ahead is not the option. If we wait, we will lose each day we wait! Figure out how much you could lose! (At last resort, perhaps put on a scary mask if necessary.*)
The race to capture the ICT service provider market may lead to only a few large companies. What will it take to be those companies? The time is now to spend more energy to find winners for the use of geographic data management. Make the case, do your homework, scare if necessary, and encourage leadership to make geographic data management more a part of their investments, focus, and conversations. ICT service providers that have individuals that are willing and able to adopt an effective strategy and execution of geographic data management will come out on top.