How was project management handled before the revolution in software as a service that we are experiencing today?
Clemente:To understand the need for project management software today, you need to look at how the deployment of communications infrastructure has changed.
In the past, fiber deployment was traditionally between data centers, enterprise to data center or enterprise to enterprise. The deployments were typically not that complex and legacy project management systems would suffice. Employees in the field would collect data and manually input it into a system, often with inconsistent formats.
Fast forward to today. ZenFi Networks has grown exponentially as a company in the deployment of our unique CRAN architecture in support of wireless densification in addition to our legacy Cross River Fiber assets throughout New Jersey. We now have thousands of nodes, each with a life of its own. When I think about how our network has grown, it now seems more like a living organism. To manage the expectations of our customers and ensure our reputation as a world-class, innovative infrastructure provider, we must ensure data integrity.
What are the important facets of project management software?
Clemente: The efficiency with which we can handle data now, since we deployed SiteTracker’s unified platform, is truly amazing. It has built-in protocols and layers that allow everyone to work in concert within the format and enables data to be entered into the system, processed and channeled with everyone in sync.
Given the densification that we are creating as a company, we believe we have found a system that makes us more efficient as a business and profitable from the standpoint of labor costs and time to deployment.
Has the software improved your internal operations?
Clemente: Our internal operations are more efficient now. If workers in the field are doing a pole-top survey for a small cell and there is a choice of two or three poles, that data can be fed to our offices where project managers can analyze the sites in real time, choose the pole and begin the applications process with the permitting parties, while the field persons are moving on to their next job. This example shows how data can be captured and moved internally in a very efficient manner. It begins with field personnel capturing the data from the physical structure using the same format company-wide. It saves a lot of time. This time savings translates to quicker turnaround time for our customers, an important item when the mobile network operators are under pressure to add capacity quickly and cost-effectively.
Additionally, a unified platform provides a sense of accountability and makes the field personnel’s lives easier. You can assign certain jobs and they know what they need to do and when they need to do it. It makes for a better, more efficient company. It can cost from $30,000 up to $100,000 to deploy a node. When you have thousands of them, you cannot have hiccups. We have to be extremely focused on managing our labor pool. Having everything aggregated in one place allows us to be more productive.
ZenFi recently merged with Cross River. How has that changed the company’s focus and is the software playing a role in the integration of your two companies?
Clemente: When ZenFi Networks merged with Cross River Fiber, we knew going into the merger that our footprints were complementary. Cross River Fiber had a focus on enterprise and carrier solutions in New Jersey and ZenFi Network’s focus was on mobility and aggregation in New York City and the outer boroughs. What is interesting about that is we can cross-pollinate between the companies’ previously separate solutions. We are highly focused on making use of the network assets across multiple verticals. That’s really exciting.
We quickly unified the separate companies into one using Sitetracker’s SaaS project management software after we closed on the merger in mid-September. The platform is going to help integrate the companies and so far, it has been successful. It has been two months since we closed on the deal and we have made significant progress. Our company is known for its’ agility and we want to continue to be an innovative company that solves problems and gets things done.