It’s time for telecoms and utilities to reconsider the GIS status quo

You may have seen recent press releases and blog posts from our competitors that specifically reference IQGeo and our established market position. As an industry disruptor, the acknowledgement is appreciated! The fact that we are growing quickly and getting noticed means that our competitors are coming to realize the threat we represent to the status quo. This changing landscape is also reflected in how key players in the utility and telecoms industries are breaking from the past and moving forward with new technologies and strategies. It is critically important to our customers that we work with them to embrace a sustainable vision that is agile, reliable, and impactful.

 

IQGeo has evolved from a mobile field work enabler to an enterprise-wide solution provider with our utility and telecoms geospatial network System of Record (SoR). We are embracing a future that is not “business as usual”, but one where technology expenditures are carefully scrutinized and expected to deliver a step change in business value rather than a refinement of the past. And our strategy is clearly working as evidenced by the growth in new IQGeo customers and their investment in technical and managerial talent on a global scale.

Challenging the existing geographic information system (GIS) paradigm demands fresh thinking and creative technology so it’s only fair to ask ourselves a few questions about the motivation behind the desire to preserve more of the same. Why are voices for the status quo so bellicose and supported by an industry of consultants and integrators? It’s easy to understand if you follow the money! After all, they have a great deal to gain through major consulting and integration projects with very little real business benefit for their customers.

 

A personal GIS perspective

As a long-time GIS project manager and software product manager, I know how difficult it is to promote an alternative approach. However, it is essential to challenge inefficiency wherever we find it for the sake of our industry. The status quo is failing to deliver, and the concept of a monolithic GIS lies at the heart of this failure.

A bold statement but let me explain why I have come to this position. First, there is a technology disconnect, which leads to concerns that new data analytic and AI tools are not being fully embraced by traditional GIS specialists who continue to focus on historic roles and functions. With the proliferation of data lakes and data analytics, classic barriers have fallen away and pretty much anything can be done with a geospatial digital twin and viewer. A streamlined geospatial system can now serve the enterprise, rather than the enterprise serving the GIS. The democratization of information and technology is essential to build and manage our increasingly complex networks.

Next there is the business case. What would drive a utility or telecom company to replace a “functioning” GIS with an updated architecture that offers little change to the bottom line? Is there a compelling enough business case to make a substantial investment in new technology and operational processes? If you consider what is missing from the current workflows (not the technology), there are alternative tools and approaches that did not exist when first generation GIS were created. These new tools and workflows are fundamental to supporting modern networks. Maintaining legacy GIS operational structures, even with the latest software updates, will compromise the long-term ability of network operators to innovate.

Finally, there is the customer business model evolution, or more correctly “revolution”. It’s hard to imagine that a $20 to $80-million GIS “upgrade” will provide productivity for the next 10-20 years. It’s a great revenue opportunity for consultants and vendors, but it is likely to be a millstone around the neck of the business, draining more and more resources to prop up operational viability in order to fulfill its original, and relatively straightforward, mission. We are all in business to construct and maintain state-of-the-art networks, not to create a new generation of GIS experts. We need optimized technology that serves our mission. In other words, it’s all about the network and the business, not the technology.

 

Operational benchmarks for the telecom and utility industry

Let’s take a breath and consider the alternatives to the challenges facing network operators. Technology is evolving rapidly and companies like IQGeo are changing the way utilities and telecom operators think about the role of geospatial technology in fulfilling their operational mission. We have successfully made the transition from vision to delivery by looking at historic problems through the lens of contemporary technologies and the realities of changing work practices. IQGeo is achieving this with our determined focus on delivering measurable and compelling business value across five critical operational benchmarks.


1. Velocity and agility

Provide modern, easy to use tools that democratize technology and empowers field and office workers. Incidents and issues will emerge with little warning, driven by climate change, regulatory compliance, or consumer demand and operators must be able to respond quickly and flexibly.


2. Openness

Applications and integrations must be something that network operators can do with their own team if they choose, and not be dependent on 3rd party vendors/consultants for their business-critical processes.


3. Cloud-native

Operators need the scalability, flexibility, and security of a serverless cloud architecture that supports both day-to-day operations and autoscaling for major events. While some operators may not yet be ready for the cloud today, it is essential that they build their solution on a cloud-native platform if they want to avoid a cliff-edge in the future.


4. Mobile-first

The ability to incrementally enhance the network digital twin from the field creates a virtuous circle of data quality enhancements and streamlines processes across the organization while actively supporting grid modernization. The best way to build up your digital twin is to put intelligent and easy to use applications in the field that incite adoption and use. Data quality is fundamental to future utility operations and mobility is key.


5. Future proof

A geospatial strategy that provides protection from an uncertain future and incremental evolution of the broader grid modernization ecosystem will be key to long-term success. Not only must there be trust in your chosen technology, but you must have a shared vision with the vendor. Part of that vision is control costs as we transition knowledge and action to the entire workforce.

To be fair, there will be some highly complex network environments that could benefit from a team of GIS support personnel, but in our experience, this is the exception. Most telecom and utility network operators want to lighten their technical debt with optimized software, delivering solutions that meet the challenges of their industry, so they can get on with the job of transforming their networks.

We acknowledge that considering an alternative geospatial network driven approach is both technically significant and involves a new mindset. However, we believe that the benefits are game-changing. Our platform is profoundly more streamlined and agile when compared to ingrained systems and practices that were designed decades ago for GIS specialists. As grid modernization becomes a driving priority against the backdrop of accelerating technology advances, agility will be a differentiator for network operators, regulators, and customers.

 

The changing GIS and geospatial landscape

Current market events are causing an increased level of technology churn. This is driven by legacy GIS vendors imposing major system upgrades on their customer base, some vendors discontinuing old technology, and new providers emerging onto the market. Against this changing backdrop we have identified four important factors that create an opportunity for organizations to rethink their GIS and geospatial strategy.


1. GIS vendors are discontinuing support

Several legacy GIS vendors have announced end-of-life plans for their existing products and forcing customers into costly and disruptive upgrades with no significant product benefits. This is a perfect time to step back and consider state-of-the-art alternatives that are available today.


2. Ineffective connectivity model

Existing legacy GIS often suffers from poor connectivity models that cannot adequately support today’s smart devices and complex networks. To future proof the evolution of your network, it’s essential to build your strategy on a strong foundation that is open and adaptable.


3. Technology consolidation

As network operators have been merged and acquired, they often inherit multiple GIS and associated technology platforms. Consolidating this technology on a smaller number of applications offers significant financial, IT, support, and training benefits. However, a “common GIS” by itself will not achieve the operational goals desired by companies expanding inorganically. Common management practices and engineering standards can achieve many of the supposed benefits without leaning on a huge capital outlay.


4. Accurate and timely network model

Poor network data quality is a major driver for technology change. If a current product has failed to deliver a critical data quality KPI, an expensive upgrade from the same vendor can be throwing good money after bad. Modern distributed networks need a distributed mobile-first approach that updates the model as work is done in the field. Workers must have the tools they need, and they must enjoy using them or adoption will fail.

 

A technology turning point for telecom and utility network operators

What I have outlined in this blog may be blasphemy to some and a breath of fresh air to others. However, I prepared this content because we believe, and have seen, that there is a better way for many network operators. I personally resent implications in the press and social media that utilities must follow the pack – even if it leads to an overpriced oblivion.

 

IQGeo-Network-Manager-530x450

In many respects, we are at a technology turning point for utility and telecom operators and these networks are so important to the future of our planet that we must all seek to provide the best possible solutions. You owe it to yourself and your customers at this point in time to take a step back and consider if the status quo will deliver the agility and innovation you need for the challenges we face in the 21st century.

 

To learn more about IQGeo, request a free demo with our telecom and utility industry experts. 

 

Free demo

 

Topics: Geospatial software, Utilities, GIS, Telecommunications

calender

Workshops

Virtual interactive workshops

Join our virtual workshops and learn how you can improve operational productivity and collaboration.

Find out more