Most CSPs lack the tools and know-all to do so.
Subscribers of cable, telecom and mobile network services have an insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest services from their communications service providers. Rapid service innovation is enabled by today’s advanced communications networks and fueled by aggressive competition. But while new services are an asset of differentiation, they are also creating an operational expense (opex) explosion that has become a CSP’s most pressing challenge.
The complexities of new services are straining network operational and customer care groups, particularly those in the field. The pressure to ensure subscribers’ quality of service and quality of experience is causing a surge in service activation failures, repeat truck rolls, increased mean time to diagnose/repair (MTTD/R) and ticket bouncing. To stem this tide of inefficiency and set upon a course of high productivity, CSPs must execute a more stringent test and measurement regimen. Unfortunately, most CSPs lack the tools and know-all to do so.
In a recent survey  that addressed the state of productivity in field operations, an overwhelming 81 percent of CSPs responded that improving field productivity is highly important to their organization. It also revealed that while productivity is crucial to maintaining customer satisfaction and retention, more than half of the respondents said their organization had not implemented a productivity initiative for field operations within the last 12 months.
These findings reveal a dire need for improving productivity in the industry, particularly in field operations, which will help CSPs reduce opex, increase QoS/E and retain customers. So what are the main productivity issues facing field technicians today?
In order for field technicians to properly assess the complex issues found in today’s networks and services, they must possess a broader set of skills, learn new skills quickly, and manage multiple pieces of expensive testing equipment and productivity tools. To make matters worse, the complexity of today’s networks makes it all the more difficult for a technician to have the knowledge, training and resources necessary to get the job done right the first time.
These hurdles lead to an opex nightmare, poor QoS/E and increased subscriber churn – all negatively impacting the bottom line. The CSPs that take the initiative to raise the productivity flag create a real opportunity for competitive advantage and business improvement.
SOLVING THE PRODUCTIVITY ISSUE
When CSPs examine T&M options, there are three capability areas that will most help increase workforce productivity, while at the same time provide a platform to modernize their workforce.
• Connectivity – Connectivity with anytime, anywhere remote access control enables managers to help a technician pinpoint problems without visiting the site, which in turn accelerates troubleshooting and eliminates multiple site visits. Connectivity back to engineers in charge of managing test equipment assets also ensures the field is uniformly equipped with the right testing tools and test profiles, improving testing consistency and quality.
• Optimized workflow – To better manage service verification workflow, CSPs should deploy a centralized system server that communicates with test equipment in the field. These back office systems help CSPs administer and review T&M processes, work orders, test results and performances. In addition, this optimized workflow management process allows supervisors to track productivity metrics, such as time spent at test sites and types of tests performed, and to archive service activation “birth certificates” at each site.
• Single-smart device – In order to support the wide variety of advanced new services, such as mobile video and broadband Internet access, a CSP may have deployed several iterations of a technology across its network. Therefore, it is essential that today’s test and measurement solutions are modular and consolidate test sets for multiple relevant technologies, providing field technicians with the capability to handle a spectrum of different technologies without having to carry multiple pieces of equipment. In addition, CSPs should look for solutions that are equipped with productivity tools, such as e-mail, Web and file transfer tools, which eliminate the need to carry a separate laptop in the field. A smart GUI with applications for guided testing with multimedia help and training videos is also instrumental in aiding technicians in the field.
By implementing these new productivity-improving tools, CSPs will see increases in high-quality first-time installations, decreases in MTTD/R and overall less wasted time. Additional benefits include an accelerated T&M process, increased QoS/E and improved customer satisfaction. By choosing a solution that addresses the three areas outlined above, CSPs will not only overcome their most pressing challenge, they will, more importantly, gain an edge in productivity.
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Next month's Open Mic will feature Bill Check, SVP and CTO of the NCTA.