Connected Nation

Discussing project management with the company "future-proofing" their customers

May 22, 2024 Jessica Denson Season 5 Episode 18
Discussing project management with the company "future-proofing" their customers
Connected Nation
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Connected Nation
Discussing project management with the company "future-proofing" their customers
May 22, 2024 Season 5 Episode 18
Jessica Denson

Today, we are joined by Sitetracker’s leadership about the delivery on that promise with what the company has dubbed a “future proof platform.” 

When it comes to building new telecommunications and internet infrastructure – there are a lot of moving parts. What if you could better predict when to scale up resources to complete jobs faster, more efficiently, and with more profitability? That’s what Sitetracker promises it can help organizations do. 

Recommended Links:
Sitetracker Website
Brant Carter LinkedIn

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today, we are joined by Sitetracker’s leadership about the delivery on that promise with what the company has dubbed a “future proof platform.” 

When it comes to building new telecommunications and internet infrastructure – there are a lot of moving parts. What if you could better predict when to scale up resources to complete jobs faster, more efficiently, and with more profitability? That’s what Sitetracker promises it can help organizations do. 

Recommended Links:
Sitetracker Website
Brant Carter LinkedIn

This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods. When it comes to building new telecommunications and internet infrastructure, there are a lot of moving parts. What if you could better predict when to scale up resources to complete jobs faster, more efficiently, and with more profitability? That's what one company called Site Tracker Promises. It can help organizations do. Today we talk with site Tracker's, leadership about delivery on that promise with what the company has dubbed a future proof platform. I'm Jessica Sen, and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Sen, and today our guest is Brand Carter, the director of industry products at Site Tracker, a company committed to helping organizations build, deploy, and maintain the next generation of critical infrastructure. Welcome Brandt. 

Yeah, welcome. Thank you for having me. 

I really appreciate you joining us. I'm interested to learn more about Side Tracker. I was introduced to it just recently and I know you guys do a lot of interesting things when it comes to creating a better way to approach how you manage projects and deal with infrastructure and all of that. But first I would really like to know some about your background so we can understand your role with the company. 

Yeah, sure. In my career, I've been involved in sort of deploying technology to underserved markets and that's led me into the construction and asset management space, which historically have been pretty slow to adopt technology. I like challenging and hard problems and figuring out how technology can start solving those. It's been a big passion of mine. The other thing I really like, the fact is that the construction space especially is very much a part of the physical world. I know we work a lot in the digital world today, and being able to combine both those aspects has been very, very interesting to me over my career. 

And you've been in this field for 30 plus years, you said? 

No, it's been more like 15 years. I'm not that old yet, 


In that time, 15 years, a lot has changed for sure. I mean, I started off in the construction space really before even mobile took off. And so mobile was a huge factor in sort of getting technology deployed out in the field and I feel like we're at the precipice of another sort of major transformation and I think we'll get into some of that today as we get through the podcast. 

What was that like being there when mobile was just emerging? Was it interesting? Did you ever think that we'd be where we are now? 

Yeah, at first it started off as very much a consumer oriented trend. And again, the parallels with the new trends that are coming out are pretty significant as well. And I remember seeing the consumer side of that take off and there were a lot of questions internally at different businesses around, okay, well how can we apply this very sort of great consumer technology to our business and start getting our field crews more connected? It wasn't just a step function where CEOs and CTOs woke up one morning and said, we need to start with mobile. There had been a lot of fits and starts with mobile technology before, but it wasn't really until the iPhone launched and the next generation of mobile apps and the app store, that was the big driver that really kickstarted the industry and got mobile deployed in the field at scale. 

I imagine that experience leads into what you're doing now with internet and the changes in the world that are happening in technology right now. Have you always had an interest in computer science and technology throughout your time in your professional career? 

Yeah, I mean I've been in the tech side of things since the beginning really of my career at various roles. I started off in the sort of hard engineering side of things and then moved more into customer facing roles where I was helping customers really take the technology and figure out how they could maximize the value that they could get out of it and provide them some guidance and recommendations. And that's primarily my role here at Site Tracker is really to develop our product strategy based on the feedback that we get from our customers and then to provide them guidance on how that technology can be best applied to their specific needs. 

Well, let's pick up with Site Tracker. Tell us a little bit from your point of view, give us an overview of what the company does its role, its niche, so to speak, that it can really fill for companies. 

So we're on a mission here at Site Tracker to help companies really get more connected with our software. So we have a set of software applications that run in the cloud and those applications help our customers sort of plan and develop and deploy their assets into the field. And we have a very strong customer base in the broadband space, and I think that's what we'll probably focus most of our attention on today is how those customers are getting value and providing some recommendations on what they can do to drive more productivity and more connectivity within their organizations. 

And does Site Tracker have a long time background in this area? How long has it been in the space? 

Yeah, we've essentially been operating at scale for seven or eight years now and have been primarily focused in the beginning with our wireless companies. So really with wireless contractors and operators deploying cell technology and managing the kind of workflows around that. Our business has evolved a lot and we're growing very, very quickly. And the latest biggest part of our company that's growing the quickest is probably on the broadband space. So there's a ton of investment happening in the US and Europe, which is also where we have a pretty sizable operation and we're seeing tremendous growth driven primarily through public and private capital investments that are really providing a lot of tailwind in the marketplace right now. 

So are many of your companies deploying fiber now or is it wireless and a combination thereof when you talk about the broadband space? 

Yeah, so our customer base is pretty diverse. We have a lot of wireless customers. When we think of broadband, fiber is absolutely the driver in the marketplace. We do have a fair number of customers doing fixed wireless as a new sort of use case or a new technology that has really gained a lot of traction over the last, let's say 1824 months. But fiber is certainly the biggest source of capital investment that our customers are making right now. There's a huge sort of trend to replace all the copper wiring that's been deployed in the US especially and replace that with optical networks. This is very much a kind of generational investment. I like to think about it sort of like the electrification of the US that happened almost a hundred years ago and similar now with all these optical cables being run, connecting up and applying electronics to it, that will drive broadband growth. I like to say the speed of light isn't changing, so the infrastructure in these optical networks is going to be there for a very, very long time, and there's been a lot of success in proving that you can scale out the technology by upgrading the electronics at various points in time and really sort of dramatically changing the consumer side of what they think of their internet connection and how they use it. 

I like that you said the speed of light isn't changing, so you're really talking about future proofing as you're working with these companies as well then thinking ahead. Yeah. 

Yeah, it's pretty expensive to go and dig up and trench and throw optical networks in all over the us especially when you're connecting pretty remote areas of the country. But these investments will have a long payoff, so the cables have a very long lifespan and who knows what sort of technology changes can be applied against that. The bandwidth speeds that you can get off of fiber networks is already a major step up from where you can get off of copper networks and it's only going to get faster. 

So do you work with just for-profit, nonprofit government organizations? I mean, is there some specific area you work with or are you all across the board? So organization all across the board? 

Yeah, we put our telecommunications companies into different sort of segments. We would have our carrier customers, which would be the operators and builders of the network, and then the contractors that are out in the field doing the hard work of the trenching, the splicing and the lashing, although the work that you see in the field. So that's kind of how we segment the market 

Again and again. We did do a little bit of research. We looked through your website efficiency, efficiency, efficiency was repeated. Why is that such an emphasis for y'all and why is it so important? 

Yeah, so efficiency, productivity, those are really some of the top metrics that our customers look to improve with deploying our product. There's a tremendous demand in the marketplace, but let's just take a contractor as an example. There's a demand for their services. There's certainly a lot of investment being made and the contractors are looking to grow their business, but you're certainly not going to be able to grow your business at the scale that you might have the potential to just by adding labor. It's expensive to acquire labor, it's expensive to train labor, so getting more out of your existing staff is something that we focus on and trying to provide products that can do that. Whenever I go to conferences, I often sort of talk to our customers or even prospects and sort of say, well, how's business going? And they also, oh, it's fantastic. And then I say, if labor wasn't a constraint, how fast could your business grow? And they often cite that it could grow two or three x what their current growth plans are. And so we're trying to tap into that to really enable them to get that growth without having to just staff up. 

That is something I've heard from providers that I've interviewed that labor is one of those things that's so difficult right now that there's such so much growth, but there's not enough people who are skilled in some of the things they need. So that's interesting that you touch on that. What are some solutions or offer one or two solutions that you would provide generally without giving away any of your proprietary information obviously, but what are some ideas that you guys generally throw out? 

Yeah, there's a lot there to help with. I would say that we look at our customers kind of going through a journey. So the first step in the journey is typically organizing their own business processes and getting those standardized. To be honest, when we go and talk to most of our customers, they're starting with existing systems, which are Excel spreadsheets and email. And I like to say that there's no business problem that can't be solved by an Excel spreadsheet, 

Poorly least 

The keyword. So many of our customers have spreadsheets, and so the first step we take them through is let's look at your spreadsheets and let's get those incorporated into side tracker so that you get everyone kind of working in the same way in a consistent way. So that's step one. Step two would be, okay, let's go and start figuring out where the bottlenecks are in your process and start ringing out inefficiencies or trying to understand where process can be optimized. And the nice thing is that once you've got everyone working the same way side tracker can provide those kind of reports for you to start saying, okay, here's where we're seeing some forecast problems or here where we're seeing some unintended delays and let's go and tighten up your playbook a bit. And then the third step would be to start inviting your business partners in and start collaborating. 

So the amount of email that our customers are dealing with in terms of just trying to keep everyone on the same page, they're working with multiple partners, they're getting progress reports via email, and then they're having to consolidate that. So the third step would be to bring them in a more collaborative environment and get everyone working together. I would say in the third part, technology is probably not the biggest limitation there. It's just changing the collaboration model. There's a natural kind of tension point between the operators and the contractors, and so trying to break down those barriers is important. The good news is that in the market that I work in and that I hear that there is a strong desire to try and change and improve the ways of working between contractors and operators. The operators want to be easy to do business with and they want to their contractors to be successful, and the contractors know that they can be more efficient if they have a tight relationship and a tight collaboration with their customers. 

And this system, it can be applied to all different sizes of providers and groups or it's not just for the big guys is what I guess I'm saying. 

No, we have 300 plus customers of various sizes and different geographies and different sophistications and different objectives that they're trying to achieve with our product. We have certainly a lot of large customers and they have certain nuances and distinct attributes that make them special, but we also have a lot of smaller customers that get good value from our product. We can be up and running in a very short amount of time, and the product is pretty sort of scalable. I mean, you don't have take it all in one chunk if you don't want to. You can kind of grow into our capabilities and we've had a lot of success with smaller customers. To be honest. The smaller ones are often quicker to implement and quicker to get value because they don't have the same organizational friction and organizational headwinds that larger organizations do in terms of trying to change the way they work 

A little more nimble. And I can imagine as a smaller organization too, anything that makes things more efficient and easier to operate is probably welcomed. Also, something else I read that site Tracker places a high performance on sustainability. Can you talk a little bit about that point of view? I think that was quite interesting. 

On the sustainability side, we have a emerging business in the renewable space, so one of our larger sort of subsegments in there would be EV charging stations. So we have a lot of customers deploying EV charging, which would be their charge points or the other contractors going out and doing the work of getting those installed. So on the renewable side, we've got a big market there. And then we've also got an emerging business in solar, so deploying solar sites both at utility scale as well as residential scale. 

When we first were going to talk, and Brent and I were laughing before we started that we kept going to connect, but our schedules weren't quite working, technology wasn't working for us. But when I first was approached by Holly who's with your company, I believe she was talking about Site Tracker and First Lite, a new public and private sector partnership and why that was important. Can you share a little bit about what that project's about and why you guys are pretty proud of that? 

Yeah, so Firstlight is a nice customer of ours that is in the middle of, or actually just getting finished with their site tracker deployment. I think they can be a nice sort of case study for the industry in terms of value that you get out of deploying software and the efficiencies you can gain out of that. They've done a very good job of standardizing their business processes in that sort of journey that I talked through. They're definitely towards the outer edge of what we consider best in class and really super proud of what they've been able to accomplish and what they're doing in the market in general. 

Awesome. Let's look through the future now. What technology are you and your team currently working on that you're most excited about to implement into site Tracker services? Is there anything that we could be looking forward to? 

Yeah, so of course when we talk about future, everyone wants to talk about longer term stuff I'm most proud about, and I will speak to that in a second, but I'm most proud about the stuff that we're releasing in the market right now and the value that we're providing immediately. So we've got, one thing that we're doing is we've invested a little bit of time in streamlining the permitting process. So permits are historically and even concurrently the number one pain point that many of our customers face. It's a huge delay in deployment and it's a huge headache to manage all the permits that need to be managed and coordinated. So we've got some new permitting capabilities coming out in the market in the next few months that I think will really help streamline the permitting process, help with better forecasting, and also help with better collaboration with not only the agencies and the permitting authorities, but also the contractors and that whole process of getting boots on the ground, deploying the fiber networks that we all want. 

On the longer term side of things, I know that everyone has looking at an AI strategy and a machine learning strategy, those types of technologies, and we've got some plans there that will keep coming out probably in early next year to really start streamlining and providing automation to some of the processes. So when I went through that journey, automation is also a key aspect of the process optimization rather. So there are things that a human or a person is taking 10 days to do that you might be able to streamline and get down to maybe a few hours if you apply some additional technology to, and really try to ring out the delays that typically happen in projects. 

One of the things I have heard a lot from the smaller providers that I've interviewed or talked with is the need for help with permitting and red tape, government, red tape and that type of thing. So you can really add this into the system and track that kind of thing in general. 

And we'll have even more capabilities around this, but the ability to manage and set up all your permitting authorities so that you can understand what are their documentation requirements, what are their turnaround times, who all the contacts are, what type of permits they can issue, those types of that type data. And then when you're executing a particular project, you can manage all the permits that you have either pending or are issued and making sure that your construction teams are not delayed. So it can be quite cumbersome. And as you mentioned, different authorities or different cities have different requirements for different permits and just keeping track of all that is complicated. Again, we go back to the Excel spreadsheet days, we often talk to some of our customers and say, so tell me where's all this data stored? And it's stored in one of two places, either in someone's head and where they've discussed some sort of tribal knowledge around that, or it's in a spreadsheet that's in someone's computer and not easily shared. So we'll be able to take all that information, make it much more visible and make it more actionable. And again, start to identify where process improvements can be made there. 

What is your vision for the future of infrastructure deployment and Site Tracker as a whole? Or what is the company's vision of where would they site Tracker would like to go next? 

Yeah, I think what we're really focused on is starting to connect different parts of the organization. So oftentimes today the planning group is very disconnected from the construction group, is very disconnected from the operations group, and those disconnects can have significant impacts on the internal efficiency, as you mentioned earlier on in the call. So we're very much focused on trying to bring those groups together, get everyone working in the same way, working off of and understanding what their asset base is and what are the particular work items, either projects, jobs that need to be completed against those both at the planning level so that the planners can create their high level plans and track that right through the two operations. 

So efficiency is even you look internally as well, externally. That's fantastic. What would you like our audience to take away from today's conversation or is there anything I did not ask you or touch on that you would like us to know about Site Tracker? 

Yeah, I appreciate the opportunity. I would say that there is a tremendous opportunity in the marketplace and those customers and companies that invest in technology are likely to be the big winners. If we look at as the contractor space, for example, certainly there's plenty of work out there, but is it profitable work? Being able to improve your margins means that every new dollar you bring in is just going to be that much more valuable to your organization. And then on the operator side, most of our customers that I talk to are really interested in time savings. And so being able to get to market more quickly and to be first into a market where you know that you're going to have better take rates and have less competitive pressures. So on the operator side, just those customers are typically looking for time savings and knowing that it's a highly competitive market out there. And technology can help you with saving time and getting to markets more quickly. 

Alright, well we'll leave it there today. I'd love to follow up on any products you have going on down the road, and thank you so much, Brent, for joining us today. 

Yeah, thank you Jessica, and we'll be happy to talk in the future. Reach out 

Again. We've been talking today with Brand Carter, director of industry products at Site Tracker. I'll include links to their website in the description of this podcast so you could check 'em out. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connected or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.

Brant Carter joins
Brant's background
All about Sitetracker
The importance of efficiency
Sitetracker's customer base
Partnership with FirstLight
Dealing with red tape
Audience takeaways
Conclusion + Outro