Planning your RDOF Project
With government issued grants such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), ReConnect, and CAF-II, there are many milestones and requirements involved in building out complex infrastructure projects. On top of the strict deadlines, detailed forms, and complex requirements involved in receiving such grants, one of the greatest challenges Network Owners face is the pressure to deliver on the commitments made during the initial bidding phase. Failure to deliver and abide by strict reporting requirements and timelines can result in costly mistakes which could jeopardize opportunities in receiving future funding. Throughout the years of assisting Rural Electric Cooperatives and Internet Service Providers successfully complete complex infrastructure projects, Tricia Subido, Director of Customer Success Operations at Vitruvi, has highlighted several areas to consider when deploying broadband networks:
Key Points to Consider when deploying broadband:
- Project Planning
- Updating Technology
- Managing Technological Change
- Project De-Risking
Tricia highlights that “planning and understanding what you’re expecting from your project is key”. The first step is to develop a good understanding of the scope of the project, consisting of goals, milestones, tasks, costs, and timelines to ensure that the project is on track for completion. It is crucial in the planning stage to keep the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations in mind because failure to comply may result in a termination of contract. After receiving funding from the FCC, Network Owners must act fast and efficiently as the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act states that all winning bidders are to commit to beginning construction no later than six months following authorization with services availability within a year. The recipient is also required to comply with a timeframe consisting of 40% of the required number locations completed by year three, 60% by year four, and 80% by year five (RDOF Requirements). In short, setting up your broadband construction project and planning each phase out carefully is key.
There are various advantages and disadvantages when outsourcing any component of your broadband project. Constructing a plan as to how the work will be divided up, and carried out is a vital step in starting your project. Managing multiple large complex geospatial projects such as deploying broadband can be done more effectively when contractors or consultants are hired to assist specific components of the job. Consider outsourcing the construction and engineering work, as well as the project management functions. Although outsourcing can be a valuable and cost effective way to manage projects, the more work that is outsourced, the less control the Network Operator has over the work being completed. Using tools and processes to ensure data integrity and reporting is key. Before outsourcing, consider an evaluation of your existing technology stack and identify if any gaps exist within your current processes and controls.
As projects progress, permits, field data, as-builts, documentation, and timelines continue to grow. When managing projects with a variety of moving functions, and ongoing changes, there needs to be a way to accurately and efficiently collect this data. Leaders should select technologies that will both complement their current state and pave the way for further growth.
“It is crucial to build efficiencies into existing processes. Up to date technologies can reduce administrative time and effort that would normally be expended on projects. For example, manual trackers, emails, phone calls, and reports.” -Tricia
Consider digitizing your construction projects to automate tasks and collect data that you can rely on.
Managing Technological Change
Managers may face some initial challenges when implementing new technology into a new environment, but if they overcome those challenges they will benefit in the long run.
“Some things to keep in mind are that change takes time, it is important to make sure that anyone involved with new technology understands that there is an application change to their processes and expectations,” explained Tricia. “It becomes critical that managers take things easy, keep the project processes relevant, and reinforce the benefits of moving to a new technology fresh on people’s mind.”
Leaders can address change management through a few easy recommendations:
- Reworking expectations
- Reworking project setup in your management software
- Training and user-acceptance testing
- Process mapping
- Software feature requests. Software companies are continuously improving as well.
Carefully following these recommendations has addressed common challenges involved in change management such as: some users are not tech savvy, some have difficulty adjusting to new procedures, some are scared to change, and others are just outright unhappy with how the new processes work.
At the end of the day, the goal is to complete the broadband deployment on time and in line with the government’s requests so that funding for the project is not lost. Consider de-risking your multi-million dollar project by investing in a construction project management platform to serve as your single source of truth for all of your construction data. One of the most practical ways of de-risking a project is to streamline the process through an end-to-end construction management platform like Vitruvi Software. Some of the challenges that are easily preventable through Virtuvi’s cloud based management system are:
- Prevent Double-billing. Vitruvi is built with controls that will prevent users from billing a single job multiple times.
- Avoid a manual count for a bill of materials or bill of quantities to develop budgets and purchase orders.
- Preventing submission of incomplete construction reports.
Additional precautions that should be taken to de-risk your fiber construction project includes:
- Making sure that all contracted values and milestones are known and built into your management software technology. This enables the work needed for completion to be trackable.
- Having a solid understanding of what is required to close the project down, and submit all that is needed to the government or contract holder (Such as photos, as-builts, redlines, copies of invoices.)
- Asking, what kind of information does the government or contract holder require during and after the project? Think about what is needed to have a successful audit.
Starting your Construction
In conclusion, when deploying a new broadband project, whether it is a new FTTH build, greenfield construction project, or fixed wireless projects, start your construction project off right by following a few simple recommendations. Planning your construction project by evaluating outsourced resources and selecting scalable technology can significantly de-risk your construction project. Contact us for more information on how Vitruvi Software has de-risked similar construction projects as you prepare for your network expansion.