Organisations invest in digital asset management to stay ahead and transform their businesses.

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Learning from the grocery store barcode: how the telco sector can maximise benefit from digital asset management

In the competitive telecommunications market, telcos, investors and tower companies are continually looking for ways to reinvent and remain viable. Increasingly, organisations are investing in digital asset management to stay ahead of the pack, yet many fall into the trap of making a narrow decision which significantly limits the benefits possible – both now and into the future. More is needed than ‘simply’ asking for, or adopting, a stand-alone digital solution, such as a digital twin.

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?

From digital twin to business transformation

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.

How can telco maximise benefits from digital asset management

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.

1 Understanding the link between objectives and the solution

A specific tool may not be what you need, even if it looks great! Without asking: “what are we trying to achieve overall?”, “why do we need to do this?”, “could we work differently if we had a specific tool?” and “what benefits will we see?”, adopting a digital solution – such as a digital twin – could end up being more onerous, more expensive in the long run, limiting value and slowing your company down. Understanding the link to your objectives helps you avoid this pain.

2 Evaluation at a senior level

A transformative technology doesn’t magically evolve an organisation by itself. You have to change other things, especially how people work. To do this successfully, it’s crucial to evaluate the options at a senior level, so benefits are considered on a broad scale, not in isolation. Through this early exploration at a senior level, you might find that a digital twin isn’t needed, you may instead need an outsourced partner or even just a spreadsheet!

There are many digital twin, software and drone information capture solutions in the market, and before diving in, this upfront evaluation at a senior level ensures the entire business is considered when setting objectives, investing and managing outcomes, to maximise the opportunities you can realise. It also allows you to ensure that you realise the benefits by setting targets for your teams to achieve in parallel to the rollout of any solution.

3 Adoption across the business

A common roadblock to the widespread benefits is digital asset management adoption in only one part of an organisation. If you do this without thinking about the other areas of the business, many opportunities will be missed.

It’s similar to what underlies the network business success of LinkedIn and Facebook – with digital asset management, the more people involved, the greater the benefits can be. A digital twin used by just the maintenance team will only garner benefits for that team, but when operations, sales and finance also have access, we start to see broader benefits across organisations. Sales can find out when something has been installed that shouldn’t have been and they can charge the customer for it, and the finance team can link up who pays for what on the tower.

4 Infrastructure to support new ways of working (cloud storage)

We can now work from anywhere, and see anything related to an asset whether we’re working on site, managing an outage in a national operations centre, designing new infrastructure, or forecasting capital expenditure. In part, this is made possible by cloud-based information storage. With a well thought through plan for cloud storage (including what, how and where data is stored, managing information security appropriately), it will change the way you work, removing many manual and tedious day-to-day processes, to make workflow faster.

5 A strong foundation of accurate information

Digital asset management is ultimately about having accurate, readily available information on assets. Keeping data up-to-date is essential for any digital solution to be effective, and if your organisation doesn’t already maintain recent and accurate information, buying a drone or a digital twin won’t automatically change that. In many cases, the job to be done here is ensuring the discipline, systems and resources are in place to capture and maintain accurate data, which then acts as the foundation for achieving the benefits digital asset management can enable.

6 Flexible, innovative solutions to navigate uncertainty, anticipate change and act effectively

With a rapid pace of change, embarking on a path now is important for staying ahead, but it’s essential that any digital solutions are designed to enable your organisation to change and shift too, with minimal impact. Creating flexible solutions needs a deep knowledge of the telecoms sector, digital engineering and advisory.

It also needs foresight – an understanding of technology trends and where future commercial opportunities might exist. This knowledge helps develop solutions that are flexible and sustainable long term.

Do you want a digital twin, or do you want to transform your business?

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?


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About the Author

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.

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