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Shovel Out Of The Data Dump

Randy Anderson - Sep 26, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Shovel Out of the Data Dump (featured image)

I'm a believer in the concept of good, better, and best.  If you haven’t heard of that it comes from the notion that we can do something that is "good", but if we put in more effort we can make it "better".  And, if we put even more effort we can make it "best".   For example, you have one of your kids mow the lawn.  The lawn looks good, but you show them how to trim the lawn to make the job look even better.  And then, you edge the lawn to make it look best.

Now, take a look at the photo above.  Ask yourself if the results are good, better, or best.  Upon initial inspection, one might suggest that the results certainly are not "best" because there is still snow on the driveway.  But, what we don't know are what the requirements were.  That is, was the requirement to simply get the car out of the garage?  Perhaps there was a time constraint and the job had to be done quickly, but good enough to ensure the vehicle would not get stuck.  If so, could we say that in this case “good enough” was the “best”?  

This photo could represent any project.  A project’s success depends on whether or not its objectives were met.  Those objectives have to be defined when the project is planned and then communicated to those who are responsible to complete the task.  In the scenario with the driveway, if the goal was to get the car out in 10 minutes, then it really doesn’t matter whether or not there is still snow on the driveway does it.

Over the decades of working hand in hand with our clients to create operational data to assist in managing fiber optic networks, we’ve run into this type of scenario many times.  That is, because of the hundreds of data fields that can be populated within OSPInsight, new users or those investigating the need for such a tool often feel overwhelmed with the seemingly unlimited amount of data that appears to be required to get the system up and running.  It is as if a blizzard just occurred and they have three feet of snow to remove in a huge parking lot with a single shovel. 

To get past that concern, we work with our clients to determine exactly what their primary needs are and what their ultimate objective is. Then, wrap a time frame around that plan to ease them into the system.  We try to get "early wins" with the system by pulling in the right data in a given area so that limited analytics can quickly be accomplished thereby turning the toy into a tool as soon as possible.  From there the system will start to be utilized by other people thereby exercising the data and functionality. As that goes on, new build data can be input using processes to ensure the vintage of the data is as close to real time as possible.  In parallel, legacy data can continue to be added along with any additional data fields to fill in the gaps.  

Here is an example of what I mean.  A few weeks ago I visited with one of our "celebrity" clients.  I call them a celebrity because they are in the news quite a bit lately.  In the case of this client, they had asked me to give them some guidance on some reporting aspects of their system.  As I ran our diagnostic tools (OSPInsight Integrity and OSPInsight Reports) on their database I noticed how they had ignored many of the typical data fields that others use.  However, they had perfect records of their cable sequential markings.  Along their network they knew the exact measurements of every single slack loop.  Not just those at splice and term points but every one along their network.  They knew the exact manufacturer of the fiber and knew the exact optical measurements to each splice and term point.  They were not so interested in which duct the cable was in or which pole the cable was mounted to (though they could get that), nor were they overly concerned with the equipment that was patched to the fiber nor the layout of their inside plant. They had focused specifically on the connectivity and length of their network.  From there, they were able to get to the analysis and reporting they had planned on.  Indeed, they still had "snow on the driveway", but the path they needed cleared was open and completed in the time frame they needed it to be.  

When it comes to populating a database to manage a fiber optic network, the effort can seem overwhelming.  But a clear understanding of what the primary objective is will help to limit the scope and focus the effort.  One of the most satisfying experiences you will have is to take boxes full of paper records or computer files of CAD drawings and spreadsheets and port their static contents into OSPInsight and give that data life!  Indeed, an OSPInsight database becomes an animated entity that you can interact with as opposed to lifeless pieces of paper that gather dust and bits and bytes that do nothing more than take up space on a hard drive.

So, make a plan, set a goal, limit the scope, and focus your efforts.  Now is the time to dig in and begin to shovel your way out of the data dump of the past.  Revitalize your records and transform them into an asset that will clear your way to future fiber optic network mastery.