Data managers at last weeks’ GIS Broadband Workshop in Denver talked about obstacles they’ve had to overcome in implementing geographic information systems (GIS) at their MSOs. One of the biggest challenges has simply been the element of time. It takes a few years to update a large operator’s subscriber databank with GIS data.
Charter started working on a GIS system in the late 1990s. Since then, the GIS engineers have seen a variety of database software come and go, have had to regularly ask senior management for funds to keep moving forward, and have had to learn ways to deal with resistance to change from other departments.
James Pierce, senior director of HFC engineering and GIS at Charter, learned that it was important to think about the business case for GIS. He garnered support from regional general managers when he was able to show them the amount of money they could save on non-deliverable mail if they cleaned up their address databases.
Pierce recommends including an identifier within the company’s billing system to track each sub that is added as a result of GIS. That way the data itself can support budget requests from the GIS department. And the GIS-tagged data can be sorted in a variety of ways to support the marketing department, as well.
“It’s really an opportunity to use GIS to solve business needs,” he said.
Yet, even though MSOs stand to add subscribers by synching their footprint address databases with GIS, the Information Services (IS) department is likely to resist the change. Why?
One engineer at the GIS conference explained that IS people get evaluated based on subscriber penetration numbers. If they have 80 percent penetration in their area and then the GIS folks add a big batch of new addresses, their penetration percentage number could take a nosedive.
One way to play nice with the IS department is to update the address database gradually, rather than in large batches.
At Charter, the GIS engineers have been able to overcome the obstacles. They have cleansed the company’s billing address system with GIS data and launched a successful serviceability tool. The next step will be using GIS for plant management. Charter has made a request for proposals (RFP) for a fiber management and RF management system, in which GIS will map plant elements such as taps, amplifiers and nodes.