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 first 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:
- Don’t focus on engineering: it’s all about awareness and adoption;
- Use data to drive decisions before, during, and after the project;
- Create a “platform for innovation”: investing in broadband is NOT just about the financials;
- 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.
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