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The Law of Fiber Record Entropy

Wade Anderson - May 24, 2021 12:50:00 PM

The Law of Fiber Record Entropy (featured image)

I dove into our Fiber Maturity Model several weeks ago in another blog, explaining why it’s so important for fiber network operators to reach Level 3 maturity. In particular, I described the positive business evolution that takes place when fiber operators invest in professional network documentation tools. In this post, I would like to build on that topic and share what happens when you don’t have a reliable system of record (SoR) that can scale with your network.

More specifically, I’m going to draw comparisons between fiber optic network management and the second law of thermodynamics. By the end, I hope you’ll have a better understanding of thermodynamics as well as a sense of urgency to find a fit-for-purpose and flexible SoR that can support your growing business well into the future.

Entropy and Fiber Network Management

Entropy represents the amount of disorder that exists in a given system. Although entropy is a thermodynamic concept, it’s useful in many applications, especially when you think about the consequences of entropy. To paraphrase the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, “The entropy of any isolated system always increases”. In other words, without intervention things will naturally trend towards more disorder and chaos, not less. We can see this happening in systems all around us.

To give a simple example, think about your home. It only gets dirtier and messier unless someone intervenes and cleans on a regular basis. Fiber networks work the same way. The entropy of fiber network documentation only increases as time goes on.

In our fiber maturity model blog post, we described a Level 1 state in which fiber operators rely on disconnected record-keeping practices, like Google Earth and spreadsheets. While this approach can work for a time, it quickly falls short as networks grow and become more complex. These siloed tools are swamped by the tide of increasing entropy.

A growing fiber network is constantly adding new subscribers, training technicians, dealing with outages, installing circuits, making splices, etc.. And, unfortunately, the fiber management “season” never ends. There is no point at which things get easier. Progress brings more entropy, not less. This is not my opinion, it’s a law of nature.

There is a Level 0 to the fiber maturity model: complete chaos and disorganization. Entropy is always pushing fiber operators towards Level 0, unless you intervene. For the sake of your business, you must have a proactive network management strategy to counteract the inevitable wave of entropy.

The Consequences of Entropy

The more entropy in your fiber network, the worse your business will perform. For example, without an SoR, you have less control and insight into the network, with the consequence being reduced productivity, greater risk, and increasing costs. You’ll unknowingly sign up customers that cost more to serve than you realize, leading to negative margins that can ultimately put your business underwater.

In the haste to get to the construction phase, which is a prerequisite to adding subscribers, many operators begin their fiber-rollout journey with an “I hope nothing bad happens” management strategy, relying on faith to keep subscribers online and that the cost of adding new subscribers is not more than the revenue expected from them. In service level agreement (SLA) negotiations, you’ll struggle to commit to meaningful performance benchmarks because you simply don’t have confidence in your understanding of the network. Many operators postpone implementing the right productivity tools – such as a fit-for-purpose SoR – to delay or avoid the cost of this; but as we have seen, this is almost always a false economy.

If you don’t intervene and take action to reverse entropy, the consequences of increasing disorder will escalate. Before you know it, you’re declaring documentation bankruptcy.

Keeping Entropy at Bay

So, what is the most effective way to intervene and combat entropy?

One option is to hire dedicated resources to support fiber documentation. You could also have existing employees spend more time gathering network data and managing databases through ad-hoc applications and spreadsheets. There are several problems with this approach. One, it does not scale as your business grows. Two, it leads to inconsistent approaches taken within the team, because there is no rules-basis for the work being done by individual team members. And finally, as we have reported before, the documentation itself “lives” in the heads of individual employees, creating a huge risk when employees leave or retire (this latter being an increasing problem as our workforce ages.) Take it from me.: iIn my years of helping fiber network operators I have never seen a Level 0 or 1 network strategy that didn’t collapse from increasing entropy.

The only real answer is to deploy a suitable and flexible SoR that meets your needs today in a cost-effective manner, but also is able to evolve with your needs as your business grows and thrives. It will give you all of the information you need at your fingertips to make informed decisions that mitigate the biggest challenges of managing fiber networks. Your fiber team likely already knows this as well. Just ask one of your field technicians what life would be like without any fiber documentation. Spoiler: the answer you get wouldn’t be pretty or polite.

Fiber networks are expanding and growing more complicated every minute, which means it’s harder for people to get the information they need quickly about specific assets. If your operators don’t have a trusted SoR, they can’t answer questions that come in from various stakeholders, at least not without spending significant time researching an answer using untrusted data. It is also critical that all staff – regardless of training or skills – are presented the same quality and integrity of data, and presented it in a consistent way, to avoid human error.

The only way to succeed is with a purpose-built solution that comes with field mobility capabilities. This is obvious, as the vast majority of fiber rollout work happens in the field, not in the office. For example, you need mobile tools that work in the field so that you can take care of issues as they unfold in your network. This will deliver real-time insights into fiber capacity that enable you to accurately direct expensive sales and marketing resources to the right target customers.

Take a moment to reflect on how entropy is impacting your business.

  • What are the internal record-keeping risks you need to mitigate, in terms of inadequate tools and human resources?
  • How can your fiber documentation practices be more precise, more consistent and more accessible
  • What documentation capabilities are you missing today that you wish you had?
  • Is current entropy decreasing your effectiveness?

If you need a new SoR, OSPInsight is the answer. It’s the breakwater that’s holding back the inevitable tide of entropy as well as a window into before unseen efficiency and productivity. We designed OSPInsight with all of the tools, reports, and resources fiber operators need to prevent disorder and chaos from coming out on top and we have a 25 year track record of helping operators succeed.

And most importantly, OSPInsight does this easily so the anxiety of entropy doesn’t stop you from creating a world-class fiber network.

Want to see OSPInsight in action? Contact us today to schedule a demo.

 

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