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Expo: A cable state of mind

Tue, 10/22/2013 - 7:24pm
Mike Robuck

The final panel of the opening general session at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo wasn’t so much about getting down to the brass tacks of cable technology, but more about giving attendees tips that they could take back to their respective jobs.

Part and parcel of creating a more nimble cable dynamic is providing employees, including field technicians, the proper tools to succeed, which in turn made them happier workers.

To kick the session off, moderator John Schanz, Comcast’s chief network officer and executive vice president, asked the panelists to talk about some of their companies’ biggest risks, or ways they embraced changes.

Cox’ Guy McCormick, vice president, engineering, recalled the risk his company took when it embarked on building its converged network, which he said was very cutting edge at the time.

Cablevision’s Yvette Kanouff, executive vice president, corporate engineering and technology, said one example of embracing change was Cablevision’s decision to join Netflix’s Open Connect program. Netflix’s Open Connect was launched early last year. Netflix has said ISPs could receive its video directly at the interconnection point of the ISP’s choice, or closer to the edge of a cable operator’s network via its Open Connect Appliance chassis.

“It’s an example of ‘This is what our customers want so lets make it the best experience for them,’” she said.

Matthew Stanek, senior vice president of core, regional, metro and network operations, Time Warner Cable, cited the risks associated with the integration of the former Comcast and Adelphia systems in Los Angeles.

“More recently in Kentucky we took Insight and converted that into the Time Warner family,” he said. “It look a lot of effort and a lot of coordinatioin across multiple departments to move that along the lines of one network. I think there’s a lot of risk to migrate to one structure and network.”

Marwan Fawaz spoke about his recent work at Motorola Home, which was formerly owned by Google prior to its purchase by Arris.

“You get to look under the hood a little bit and see what they were doing,” he said. “What was really fascinating to me was for every 10 projects they had that failed they would have one that would succeed. These are projects that you don’t see. I learned so much about learning from failures instead of focusing on success. They grew up in that mentality.”

Fawaz said he also learned about “dogfooding” while Motorola Home was under the auspices of Google. Dogfooding allows each member of a company to test or trial a product or service prior to its release.

“From CEO on down everyone gets to try the product way before its released,” he said. “It starts in pre-alpha and the people know about the product. We need to do more dogfooding in our industry.”

Kanouff said the cable operator industry needed to embrace the fact that software is what runs the services instead of focusing so much on the network and hardware. Cable operators need to become more nimble with their services offerings, and embrace it as a mindset, according to Kanouff. .

McCormick said that while network convergence was great, network technicians and engineers needed to have tools and capabilities that were network centric.

Fawaz said he recently discussed GoPro cameras with Mike LaJoie, Time Warner Cable’s executive vice president and chief technology and network operations officer. The small GoPro cameras could be clipped on a technician’s helmet. If he or she comes across a problem in a node the video could be viewed via the cloud by a supervisor to help fix a problem.  

Schanz said a little over a year go Comcast throttled back on the approvals needed to complete a job. Instead, employees that made changes wrote them in a log so there’s one large repository of all of the changes. Schanz said that dropped approvals by 58 percent and made employees feel more engaged and have fewer tasks to complete. 

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