When grocery stores first swapped pricing stickers with barcodes, it revolutionised ease of checkout for large retailers. However, beyond that, there were few or no other gains, and the increased costs and effort for retailers of installing scanners and for manufacturers to change labelling, was seen initially as an encumbrance.
But when it became apparent that grocery stores could use the barcode right throughout their business and across the whole supply chain, to track and automate inventory and enable cost effective ‘just-in-time’ delivery of a wider range of products, it meant they could transform the way grocery stores operated and how shopping was done, allowing the birth of the superstore.
This brought double digit productivity growth, massive shareholder value and transformed the grocery store industry.
Discount department store Walmart was an early adopter of the barcode, spurring it to start selling food. It is now the largest grocery chain in the USA and the world’s largest general retailer. They have achieved this growth by effectively using technology to change the way they manage inventory.
What has this got to do with the telco sector?
Telco owners, operators, investors and tower companies have been increasingly engaging with the idea of using digital technologies for managing assets. More organisations are either on board the ‘digital train’, or at least thinking seriously about buying their ticket as they seek to better manage assets, realise efficiency gains and cost savings and ultimately transform their business.
When organisations look at digital asset management, there is a spectrum upon which they fall – at one end are those, like Walmart, who seek broad transformation, to reduce cost, improve product diversity and customer experience and increase profit. This is the best, most challenging and sustainable way to use digital asset management to realise maximum benefit.
At the other end of the spectrum are those focussed on just the digital solution – particularly as the digital twin trend accelerates. Sometimes this might be what’s needed, but as the telco sector’s enthusiasm for ‘digital’ grows, there is a cautionary tale here: let’s learn from the adoption of the grocery store barcode.
When it comes to new technology, it’s easy to buy a software solution and not gain any benefit (in fact this is the most common pitfall). To avoid this, more is needed than simply swapping your existing ways of working with, say, a digital twin.
Those organisations significantly increasing their benefits from ‘digital’ have six critical aspects in common: they understand the ‘why?’, evaluate at a senior level, adopt across the business (not just one department), have infrastructure to support new ways of working and a strong foundation of accurate information, and create flexible, innovative solutions to navigate uncertainty and anticipate change.
There is definite momentum in the telco sector to adopt digital asset management. Everyone is looking at this to find ways to remain competitive. If you wait, your competitors could leap ahead. Just remember – the decision here is not whether to buy a software solution, a drone capture platform or an asset management database.
The decision is whether you would like to work differently. Who will be the Walmart of the telecommunications infrastructure industry? Who will set the path by realising double digit gains in productivity through embracing a best practice approach to digital asset management?
Simon McFadden is Aurecon’s Industry Leader, Data & Telecommunications. With a focus on finding innovative solutions to client challenges, Simon has worked across Australia and Europe for over 20 years in the delivery of major telecommunications and utilities infrastructure projects in engineering, commercial, sales, business development and client relationship roles.