Project Management for Fiber Contractors
In an ideal world, all installations are flawless, and construction and commissioning should feel like plug-and-play with no need to test any of the network components or the cables that connect them. However, in the real world, we routinely encounter errors during installation projects, such as defective or damaged components, untrained or inexperienced installers, and complex deployment processes.
In order to successfully complete an installation project on time, an intense amount of pre-work and ongoing coordination are needed for the life of the project. Project management skills, such as time management, are essential as the network converges and becomes a part of an ecosystem with many moving parts and people. Undoubtedly, there will be many challenges that a fiber contractor may face during the process.
Today, we will take a closer look at the different phases of an installation project, the common pain points or challenges associated with each phase, and best practices to optimize the effectiveness of your project.
Different Phase of Project
According to a paper issued by Fiber Optics Association (FOA) regarding Fiber Optic Cable Project Management Plan, there are four different phases on fiber optic installation projects: initiation, planning, execution, and closing. As a fiber contractor, we are working with time and thus an excellent time management skill is required to complete the project on schedule. Therefore, it is recommended that prior to project initiation, fiber contractors must first recognize the challenges and pain points posed by the process and understand how to tackle it. This could help them to go through the process more efficiently and effectively, leading to a better-quality installation.
Initiation & Planning
Test process not getting followed.
- Parameter and threshold setup control and differentiation when testing different directions/date time.
- All tasks not getting complete and steps are missed or overlooked. Record Management and mapping – Nightmares in commissioning build process.
- Control of inventory (fiber) ID and record correlation – labeling/tagging and asset association.
- Unknown readiness if network is ready for subscriber home connection (risk of missed install SLA).
- Addressing mismatch, Drop blocks in wrong locations.
During the initiation and planning process, there are two common major challenges faced by fiber contractors. The first one is failure to follow the test process correctly, usually due to some crucial steps that are missed or overlooked, or tasks that are left incomplete.
Another challenge is record management and mapping, which is often referred to as nightmares in the commissioning build process. During this process, control of inventory ID and record correlation by labeling or tagging and asset association is necessary. However, there is the challenge of unknown readiness if the network is ready for subscriber home connection, which is a risk of missed install SLA. Hence, fiber contractors need to address mismatch and avoid dropping blocks in the wrong locations.
- Issues with poor build, bad qualifications, revisits and re-test taking a lot of time as well as lengthy and slow manual processes.
- Network build groups must be contacted if fault is in the feeder network during drop.
- This means they must roll another technician – adds significant time/cost to customer connection – BAD EXPERIENCE.
For the execution, there are typically issues with poor build, bad qualifications, revisits and re-test taking a lot of time. This in turn adds significant costs and time for the customer which lead to a negative experience. Moreover, lengthy and slow manual processes, or jobs done by inexperienced contractors may escalate fiber build failure rate or lead to poor build control processes.
Another common pain points in the are the slow process of managing traffic around infrastructure access, poor contractor control, and lack of follow up when testing different processes.
KPI met in terms of home passed (land grab) but serious issues with feeder build quality.
- Speed of deployment -KPI (changing methods/connectivity)
- Ease of deployment
- Splice through (not all ports used) – do not want splitter to be over occupied. Auditing costs – check the contractor did the work correctly?
- Manual process to check the results after contractor uploading
- Check process is poor and not automated
- Audit admin unable to know if results meet quality thresholds and done with correct setup.
In this final phase, most of the challenges faced by fiber contractors are related to audit and KPI checks. The auditing process is done manually by clients to check for the results once the contractor is done with their job. However, this checking process is often poorly performed and not automated, which may result in confusion with the auditor admin. Specifically, the audit admin is unable to know whether the results meet quality thresholds and are done with the correct setup.
The last pain point is related to KPIs of installation projects. Occasionally the KPIs are met in terms of home passed or land grab, however there are serious issues with feeder build quality. Some of the problems include speed and ease of deployments and splice through, in which not all of the ports used to avoid the splitter being over-occupied.
Once these pain points are identified, contractors can apply the appropriate instruments to solve the problems. One of the best ways to reduce errors during installation projects is to use VIAVI Test Process Automation.
What & How Test Process Automation (TPA) Helps
Test Process Automation (TPA) is an automated system by VIAVI that is designed to optimize technician workflows. It offers solutions that allow novice technicians to deliver expert-level results every time, even on the first try. There are numerous benefits to the VIAVI Test Process Automation, including consistent results across a broad skill range of technicians, lowering the costs, time, and manpower required to produce test reports, and reducing the number of rework and repeat dispatches.
TPA helps to manage test assets and software or test parameter configurations, which prevents errors such as email inventories, lost test tools, or the inefficient purchase of excessive tools. By providing real-time reporting with test data storage, contractors can auto-collect and collate test reports and KPIs to avoid payment delays or charge backs. Ultimately, it can help contractors to accelerate tasks, take corrective actions when error does happen, and thus perform better at their jobs
To illustrate the utilization of TPA, let’s say that there is a customer who wants to make sure that contractors are using relevant methods and procedures during the project. Such requests can be handled by utilizing Test Process Automation with guided step-by-step process to provide objective evidence of proper job completion with a closed-loop test process.