Posts Tagged ‘Broadband Lifecycle’

July 2010: Broadband Lifecycle… and Getting Smart

“Awareness, adoption, impacts, and outcomes”

This month we finish our three-part series covering the steps of the broadband lifecycle. In May we covered demand analysis and pre-planning while June’s discussion centered on strategy, investing, and building the network.

The last steps of the process to create a “platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” via broadband are both simple and complex, and the most critical step in the journey – driving usage.

Step 5: Awareness & Adoption Support
Upon the complex building or expansion of the network, we turn to the basics, in this case Marketing 101.  Even the world’s best product or service has no chance without consumers learning about its availability. Likewise, if it is difficult or confusing to get their hands on your product/service, its most likely that consumers will just continue the status quo, never to adapt your offering, no matter how life-changing.

Your message should always focus on life changing the benefits of broadband – avoid a “features” discussion.  No matter the product or service, consumers “buy” benefits.  They want to know why and what will change in their lives… not how. Once your marketing has convinced consumers and businesses that they need/want the social and economic benefits of broadband, the “how” to get connected naturally follows.   

SNG can help you drive utilization and with it, the effectiveness of your network and how do you get businesses and households to leverage the power of broadband. And with connections to broadband and e-solutions – your region reaps the rewards.

Step 6: Monitor Impacts and Outcomes
Critical to the ongoing success, sustainability, and funding for your expanding broadband network and efforts is measuring the direct community benefits.  It is step six that validates the broadband investment decisions and the direct and indirect positive impacts.  And with this validation comes compelling reasons for further investment in network expansion and upgrades and/ or additional adoption and awareness campaigns to increase benefits from a broader base of users. At the same time, measuring outcomes serves as a model for businesses and citizens to utilize broadband.

SNG can help you measure the impacts of your investment, its use, and the direct/indirect economic benefits. Make sure your investment is being used, promoting economic development – and where and how you can increase adoption.

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Step “7”: Back to the Start
As your broadband network is an evolving asset, the Broadband Lifecycle begins again as you adjust your strategies to meet evolving needs. SNG helps identify and shore-up any gaps, resulting in continuing development, effectiveness, and impact.

The “Broadband Lifecycle” is SNG’s unique approach to each and every broadband initiative. Keeping it in focus will result in creating a platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” for your region rather than a network that may or may not be used.

Broadband Lifecycle in Action: Virginia

The project is a follow-up to a successful 2007 SNG study in which the small town of Bristol (17,000 residents) reported big benefits just 12 months after BVU’s initial fiber investment.  SNG’s study found that for local businesses, fiber meant operational and sales efficiencies, cost savings, and employment opportunities. Bristol’s newly installed “platform for innovation” had created:

  • Dozens of businesses reporting a total increase of $2.7 million in annual sales
  • Two-thirds of businesses reporting cost-savings due to fiber use
  • Nearly 300 new jobs, including a 10% increase in employment from organizations reporting an increase in sales as a result of the fiber network  

Today, the Economic impact study of e‐solutions in the Bristol area is a core project component, quantifying the impacts of implementing e‐solutions from BVU OptiNet’s deployment.  In conjunction with the state-wide initiative, SNG is again collecting data in Bristol that will serve as benchmarks for the rest of Virginia, helping identify the most significant and immediate economic and social benefits from e‐solutions. This will help guide Virginia as it makes decisions for what solutions are needed, and where, throughout the Commonwealth.

Findings from the Bristol test bed will be used to take effective awareness and adoption strategies for education, workforce, economic growth, healthcare and community.  Learnings will also help prioritize planning activities, workshops, awareness campaigns, training on e‐solutions that will sustain and grow broadband.

Get Smart

Before we wrap up this issue of Bandwidth, a few words about smart grids. Before you tune out from this seemingly over-hyped and over-discussed topic, we’re with you – smart grids are not exactly the most exciting topic. While touting the need for smart grids, there seems to be a lack of discussion of the benefits.

Proponents of smart grids need to convey the benefits to drive awareness and adoption among businesses and households. Just like any broadband-enabled application, in order to drive adoption, change agents need to tell people why they should care and/or change their behavior – a “so what.” Smart grids are here, they are great… so what does that mean to me?

Driving awareness and adoption (Step 5 of the Broadband Lifecycle) seems to be a missing component in many of the early smart grid initiatives.  And while finding the benefits that resonate for your audience is key to driving adoption – let’s not forget the first step – awareness. SNG’s recent studies show that the number of business owners and homeowners even aware of a “smart grid” falls under 5% of the population.

Smartgrid

For those who do know the story of smart grids, the narrative seems to be closer to that of 1984’s “Big Brother” than 2010’s BP Oil Spill, creating more support than ever for the need for energy conservation and responsibility.  So taking a look at smart grids from a perspective of a broadband-enabled application, how do we drive adoption among our different audiences? 

The Pragmatist
There are a lot of reasons a pragmatist will like smart grids. Outages can be prevented through monitoring and proactive maintenance/repair of equipment as well as diverting energy to areas of need during peak demand. 

The Environmentalist
Smart grids help reduce community carbon footprints – and help individuals spread out their energy consumption for conservation.

The Thrifty Consumer
Recently Baltimore Gas and Electric estimated that the average home owner will save $115/year by using a smart meter and effectively controlling the way that energy is being utilized. Many utilities are giving households the opportunity to earn “Negawatts” – which serve as credits that translate to refunds.

The Business Owner
Business owners for any size business can work with their utility to create a control for the disbursement of energy to their facilities and drive down costs. At the same time, by implementing smart grids community-wide, costly power outages like the one in Washington DC this week can be avoided.

So let’s get smart about smart grids, remember that just like all e-solutions, you need to drive awareness and adoption (even if government regulation forces adoption).  At the end of the day, environmentalists and pragmatists alike will find smart grids a benefit to the community, with broadband once again enabling cost savings and – in this case – conservation.


June 2010: The Broadband Lifecycle and Your BB Score

 

“The broadband lifecycle: e-strategy, pre-planning, and building capacity”

This month we continue our three-part series covering the steps of the broadband lifecycle as we focus on the strategy and the decision to invest, as well as the network build, or expansion.

By Michael Curri – Broadband networks can create a “platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” in your community – delivering the infrastructure to capture economic and social opportunities, some known, some yet to be invented.  Many communities fail during the broadband strategy, build-out and adoption phases as they lack focus and/or sufficient investment of time, energy, and resources.

Too often communities develop strategies based on following recipes from other regions. Instead of uncovering what the needed resources are, or how to leverage current efforts to best serve the specific and unique needs of the community, civic leaders race to “do what they did.”

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for successful broadband strategies that bring economic and civic benefits to a region and its citizens. Each community not only has different needs, but different strengths to best leverage the broadband platform. Strategic Networks Group (SNG) has for years been helping governments, at municipal, regional and national levels, to best understand where investment will make the biggest impact – and each and every time the best approach involves following the broadband lifecycle.

Before your community can thrive with its own “platform,” you need to get over the common pitfalls along the broadband lifecycle. In case you missed it, last month we reviewed how initiatives can fall flat because of a lack of focus and/or sufficient investment of time, energy, and resources (demand analysis and pre-planning). SNG encourages all broadband project managers to design and run their broadband initiative with one eye on the Broadband Lifecycle. Click here to review steps one and two.

Step 3: e-Strategy & decision to invest

Often the toughest stage – this is where you and your partners in this journey need to ask yourself some tough questions, including – should we proceed?  Obviously, you’ve started the journey, so you believe in the value and benefits that broadband can provide your community. But while you (and your colleagues) may be ready to proceed with building your region’s very own “platform for innovation” – will it be used, will it be sustainable? In short, have you addressed the key factors in the pathway to sustainable success?

Obviously, you’re not asking the “are we ready” question in a vacuum.  A critical component of being “ready” is understanding the investment required – where the it will come from – and what the measurable benefits will be… will they outweigh the costs?

One way to do this is through SNG’s Community Broadband Readiness Self-Assessment, a process that SNG is taking communities through across the United States – most recently in Miami. The assessment tool provides a comprehensive understanding of the relative value of key factors that should be addressed as a pathway to sustainable success.

Image002 The Community Broadband Readiness Self-Assessment Tool is structured around six readiness categories:

  • Leadership
  • Vision and Plan
  • Organizational Stability
  • Community Awareness
  • Implementation Ability
  • Market Profile

For example, the readiness assessment showed that Miami-Dade had a relatively high level of readiness to undertake a broadband initiative.

SNG can help guide you in this phase applying market analytics and our proprietary Community Broadband Readiness Self-Assessment Tool.  By shaping your strategy to address not only broadband for un/under-served areas, but to include applications to drive innovation and efficiencies, we’re able to help establish a strategy to maximize broadband’s benefits. Recently SNG conducted readiness assessments for Miami Dade (FL), Lexington (KY),  Akron (OH), Aberdeen (SD), providing an objective view of the current state of readiness for undertaking a broadband initiative

Step 4 – Build or expand network capacity

This step seems like the most straightforward – but don’t be fooled. While we know that building the network is can be the most difficult step, we all have or are a part of a technical team that specializes in building networks. But there are many implications – that without the right guidance and discipline – could be neglected.

Are your technical and business plans in place to ensure a smooth implementation? Do you have the right provider – and are your requirements well defined? SNG has helped regions in Ontario and partnered with organizations like IBM to ensure the build process runs smoothly, building to the current and future needs of businesses, organizations and households.

Next Month: Steps 5 (Awareness & adoption support) and 6 (Monitor impacts and outcomes).

What’s your broadband score?

DEi While we’re on the topic of steps 3 and 4 and developing e-strategies for successful broadband initiatives and network builds, have you ever been asked by your constituents – how do I compare to my competition? What are other communities doing to better leverage broadband? What are the benefits of broadband should I be leveraging? In general, how am I doing?

SNG has recently announced our Digital Economy Index (DEi) – an assessment tool, an organization-specific “scorecard” that draws on information from eSolutions Benchmarking to assist small businesses and other organizations see where they stand. SNG’s DEi is a composite score of how organizations use Internet-enabled applications, or “e-solutions,” to drive productivity and competitiveness. By providing organizations’ with their DEi score, you are providing them insights into their utilization of e-solutions, how they compare to their peers, and where they can adjust to increase efficiencies, innovation, and profitability.

The Digital Economy Index helps organizations develop their own broadband adoption plan (and economic growth path). Which leads into the next step, awareness & adoption support (Step 5 of the Broadband Lifecycle, which we will discuss next month).

Broadband in a Down Economy

Across the globe the global downturn has had deep impacts. Many households are stretched thin, looking for ways to supplement lost income or to supplement declining or stagnant salaries. Recently SNG worked with the e-North Carolina Authority to conduct “eSolutions Benchmarking” across the state to understand how households are using broadband to tackle some of their challenges.

The study revealed the potential of broadband for competitiveness and economic opportunity:

  • Nearly a third (31%) of the State’s broadband households operate a business from their home;
  • The number of households either currently running (31%) or planning to run a business from their home in the next twelve months (14%) is nearly half (45%) of the State’s broadband households;
  • Even more broadband households are either now using (41%) or planning to use (24%) broadband to sell items online. That’s nearly two-thirds (65%) of broadband households using it to at least supplement their income;
  • Most (85%) of home-based businesses said that broadband was essential to their business. More than half (54%) said that they would not be in business if they did not have broadband while two in five (41%) would have to relocate if broadband was not available in their community.

For more information about these findings, please contact the e-North Carolina Authority who commissioned this work – see www.e-nc.org, or phone 1-866-627-8725.

In good times and in bad, broadband is critical for community members to earn income (and extra income).   But in bad times, research shows us that home-based businesses and sole proprietorships are more likely to sprout up.  More than ever, it is critical for states and communities that want to remain competitive – and even thrive – to have broadband’s platform for innovation and competitiveness in place.

Want to know how your state is doing to facilitate competitiveness trhough broadband? Contact SNG today. 


May 2010: The Broadband Lifecycle and Investing Wisely

The broadband lifecycle: demand analysis and pre-planning

By Michael Curri

Much too often broadband initiatives that should be successful end up falling flat – for aMaking_plans myriad reasons.  Perhaps they do not get off the ground because of a lack of vision, planning, or leadership. Many fail during the strategy and build-out process as they lack focus and/or sufficient investment of time, energy, and resources. Some initiatives may have been successful building the network but fail because they are simply taking a “we built it – you use it” approach and not driving applications and adoption. And even the most successful broadband projects, with ample utilization and economic and social impact can be perceived as a failure if the outcomes are not measured and reported.

It is for all of these reasons that SNG encourages its customers (and all broadband project managers for that matter!) to design and run their broadband initiative with “one eye on the Broadband Lifecycle.” In this issue of Bandwidth, and the next two, we will be taking a look at 2 of the 6 steps of the Broadband Lifecycle. In this issue: step 1 (identifying gaps, needs, and demand) and step 2 (pre-planning and assessment). 

BLC2

Step 1: Identify gaps, needs, and demand

Before you jump in with both feet (and fistfuls of dollars), ask yourself: does your community need (more) broadband? Is your region’s current infrastructure insufficient when it comes to meeting the needs of your entrepreneurs? If the answer to either question is YES – then the most important task in step one is to determine how a broadband investment can eliminate community shortfalls and create solutions for economic and civic advancement.

Critical here is to identify your community’s specific needs. Don’t make the mistake of simply following any “tried and true best practices” that you think may apply in your territory – as the gaps and needs for one region are not necessarily yours. Don’t scrimp on research in this stage – too often it is feared that research is too slow and expensive – or just unobtainable. However, we know it can be done. Strategic Networks Group (SNG) has for years been helping governments, at municipal, regional and national levels, to best understand where investment will make the biggest impact. [Most recently SNG has helped Alberta (Canada), Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia with a variety of data collection solutions, including e-Solutions Benchmarking.]

Step 2: Pre-planning & assessment

Make sure you have your “ducks in a row” and all of your stakeholders/partners on board before moving forward with the next step (developing a strategy). What do you need to implement a successful broadband deployment? What leadership and partners do you need to achieve your community’s goals? What components need to be included your deployment? Keep in mind that having a well-represented group of invested parties in your community helps create the momentum you need for a wide-reaching, successful project.

Make sure you take into account your community’s assets: each community has both different needs and different strengths – and those strengths will be uniquely leveraged via the broadband-enabled “platform for innovation”. Too often communities take shortcuts. Instead of uncovering what the needed resources are, or how to leverage current efforts to best serve the specific and unique needs of the community, civic leaders race to copy what another community did. [Contact SNG for our numerous case studies in this phase, including work in Miami (FL), Akron (OH), the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Toronto, Manitoba, and Australia.]

No matter where you are on the Broadband Lifecycle, you can turn to us for leadership to help navigate through the challenges and pitfalls of each step, maximizing your project’s economic impact and civic advancement.

Next Month: Steps 3 (e-Strategy & decision to invest) and 4 (Build or expand network capacity).

How to invest wisely – 4 key guidelines

By Doug Adams

Now that you have funding, how can you make sure that your project lives up to the promise that got it funded in the Invest_wisely_SNGfirst place? Hundreds of broadband projects are being funded in 2010 – be it from Stimulus or some other funding source – but how many will truly become a community asset that drives economic and social benefits?

 Key to making sure your project will have a return on investment with quantifiable outcomes starts with these four guidelines:

  1. Don’t focus on engineering: it’s all about awareness and adoption;
  2. Use data to drive decisions before, during, and after the project;
  3. Create a “platform for innovation”: investing in broadband is NOT just about the financials;
  4. Frame the benefits, measure them, and promote.

Don’t focus on engineering. It’s all about awareness and adoption.

Broadband planning should start with current and future demand of e-solutions by individual businesses, organizations and households. It is natural to focus on the tangible always – the network build, the nuts and bolts of it all – it is how we’re programmed… to follow a blueprint and build.

But building without utilization is a fruitless (although significant) exercise. It’s the utilization, the applications, and the resulting increased productivity, competiveness and innovation that your network creates that are the reasons for investment. Never lose sight of this. It’s the “off-balance sheet” benefits to the private and public sectors that are key for your broadband initiative to bring community value. And the key to deriving value is, and always will be awareness and adoption. Often requiring campaigns targeted at the individual business, organization and household level.

By always keeping your eye on driving adoption, the public investment will be seen as a successful part of community growth.

Use data to drive decisions – before, during, and after the project.

Broadband planning is part of strategic planning for a community / region. Without an assessment of current utilization, or a vision of what the utilization could be, how can an appropriate network be built?

Make sure you do the legwork (research) to understand what how local businesses need to do to be productive and competitive and how broadband – or better broadband – can help them achieve their goals. Do you have plans for applications that will support needs? What services can broadband support for public institutions? And will the network be able to meet utilization requirements?

Take ownership locally of your region’s future – local stakeholders need hard data and insights to make the right decisions about what kind of community they want to be 5, 10 years down the road – and how broadband helps get you there?

Investing in broadband is NOT just about the financials. It is about creating a “platform for innovation.”

It’s easy to see the immediate benefits that broadband will bring – be it needs that are blatantly apparent or discovered through assessment. What is not always as immediately evident is the long term transformational power of a broadband “platform for innovation.” One needs only to look back ten years to see how the world has changed – and the economic and social benefits that have accompanied this change – when broadband first emerged as a replacement for dial-up.

Looking back through our history, there have been countless – and sometimes unpopular – decisions to make an investment in infrastructure whose benefits would reveal themselves only when it was in place, and for decades to come. Roads, railroads, water and sewer systems, national defense, etc. are all examples of economic drivers that exceeded what could have even been imagined.

The opportunity cost of not having broadband is continued loss of jobs, industry and youth from a community / region – you cannot afford not to have it if you wish to remain relevant and competitive in an increasingly globalized economy.

Only when you stop looking at your broadband project yielding only immediate and finite benefits will you begin to see the true benefits for your community.

Frame the benefits. Measure them. Promote.

While all of the benefits of your network are not immediately measurable – measure what you can – and promote your success! Define success is measurable, tangible metrics – not with philosophical mumbo jumbo.

By defining goals and the criteria for measuring success, it is possible to collect the data needed for short-term return on investment. All public investments require accountability and transparency, so putting in place up-front monitoring and management process maximizes cost-effectiveness of cost-benefit analysis, but more importantly can leverage these processes and tools to maximize local economic and social benefits. Of course SNG can help you with each and every challenge you may have to ensure your community’s network investment has the measurable impacts and long-term benefits you need.


The Broadband Lifecycle: Awareness, Adoption, Impacts, and Outcomes

This month we finish our three-part series covering the steps of the broadband lifecycle. In May we covered demand analysis and pre-planning while June’s discussion centered on strategy, investing, and building the network.

The last steps of the process to create a “platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” via broadband are both simple and complex, and the most critical step in the journey – driving usage.

Step 5: Awareness & Adoption Support
Upon the complex building or expansion of the network, we turn to the basics, in this case Marketing 101.  Even the world’s best product or service has no chance without consumers learning about its availability. Likewise, if it is difficult or confusing to get their hands on your product/service, its most likely that consumers will just continue the status quo, never to adapt your offering, no matter how life-changing.

Your message should always focus on life changing the benefits of broadband – avoid a “features” discussion.  No matter the product or service, consumers “buy” benefits.  They want to know why and what will change in their lives… not how. Once your marketing has convinced consumers and businesses that they need/want the social and economic benefits of broadband, the “how” to get connected naturally follows.   

SNG can help you drive utilization and with it, the effectiveness of your network and how do you get businesses and households to leverage the power of broadband. And with connections to broadband and e-solutions – your region reaps the rewards.

Step 6: Monitor Impacts and Outcomes
Critical to the ongoing success, sustainability, and funding for your expanding broadband network and efforts is measuring the direct community benefits.  It is step six that validates the broadband investment decisions and the direct and indirect positive impacts.  And with this validation comes compelling reasons for further investment in network expansion and upgrades and/ or additional adoption and awareness campaigns to increase benefits from a broader base of users. At the same time, measuring outcomes serves as a model for businesses and citizens to utilize broadband.

SNG can help you measure the impacts of your investment, its use, and the direct/indirect economic benefits. Make sure your investment is being used, promoting economic development – and where and how you can increase adoption.

Bla

Step “7”: Back to the Start
As your broadband network is an evolving asset, the Broadband Lifecycle begins again as you adjust your strategies to meet evolving needs. SNG helps identify and shore-up any gaps, resulting in continuing development, effectiveness, and impact.

The “Broadband Lifecycle” is SNG’s unique approach to each and every broadband initiative. Keeping it in focus will result in creating a platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” for your region rather than a network that may or may not be used.


The broadband lifecycle: e-strategy, pre-planning, and building capacity

This month we continue our three-part series covering the steps of the broadband lifecycle as we focus on the strategy and the decision to invest, as well as the network build, or expansion.

By Michael Curri – Broadband networks can create a “platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” in your community – delivering the infrastructure to capture economic and social opportunities, some known, some yet to be invented.  Many communities fail during the broadband strategy, build-out and adoption phases as they lack focus and/or sufficient investment of time, energy, and resources.

Too often communities develop strategies based on following recipes from other regions. Instead of uncovering what the needed resources are, or how to leverage current efforts to best serve the specific and unique needs of the community, civic leaders race to “do what they did.”

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for successful broadband strategies that bring economic and civic benefits to a region and its citizens. Each community not only has different needs, but different strengths to best leverage the broadband platform. Strategic Networks Group (SNG) has for years been helping governments, at municipal, regional and national levels, to best understand where investment will make the biggest impact – and each and every time the best approach involves following the broadband lifecycle.

Continue Reading →


The broadband lifecycle: demand analysis and pre-planning

By Michael Curri

Making_plans Much too often broadband initiatives that should be successful end up falling flat – for a myriad reasons.  Perhaps they do not get off the ground because of a lack of vision, planning, or leadership. Many fail during the strategy and build-out process as they lack focus and/or sufficient investment of time, energy, and resources. Some initiatives may have been successful building the network but fail because they are simply taking a “we built it – you use it” approach and not driving applications and adoption. And even the most successful broadband projects, with ample utilization and economic and social impact can be perceived as a failure if the outcomes are not measured and reported.

It is for all of these reasons that SNG encourages its customers (and all broadband project managers for that matter!) to design and run their broadband initiative with “one eye on the Broadband Lifecycle.” In this issue of Bandwidth, and the next two, we will be taking a look at 2 of the 6 steps of the Broadband Lifecycle. In this issue: step 1 (identifying gaps, needs, and demand) and step 2 (pre-planning and assessment). 

BLC2

Continue Reading →