Overcome Challenges Presented by the Flood of Attachment Requests

Posted by Ashley Little on August 8, 2023

Utility Asset Management Solutions

How to ride the wave and come out ahead.

It's a scenario that happens all the time in the world of joint use asset management: A broadband company is working under regulatory time pressures to deliver fiber along a stretch of utility poles in the right-of-way. The team lead reaches out to the utility asset owner to begin the application process. Maybe he starts with an application request, pays an application fee, and then…waits.

Meanwhile, the utility has seen a flood of attachment permitting requests come in from other providers, each vying for time and attention. All the work must be completed within a certain timeframe when approved. How do asset owners and attachers keep up, or better yet, get ahead?

It’s getting more complicated.

At Alden Systems, we understand that you live with this challenge daily. We partner with asset owners and attachers in the utility space to understand industry change and meet the demands by automating your business processes for efficiency.

Jacob Harrison, Chief Revenue Officer of Alden Systems, explains: “With all the federal funding and grants now available, the number of attachment applications is increasing — anywhere from 3 to 5 times. You're not necessarily getting larger applications, but you’re definitely getting more applications.”

It’s a perfect storm that Harrison characterizes as “creating a whirlwind of work for asset owners to centralize and coordinate.”

The Surge of Attachment Requests: What’s Driving the Issue?

  • 5G Growth: 5G Industry growth between 2023 and 2030 expected to be 33.6%. With that, ROW attachment applications will continue to come in, potentially overwhelming utilities without a utility asset management system in place. 

  • BEAD Broadband: On the fiber side, major Federal Government initiatives like NTIA’s recent $42.5 billion BEAD Broadband Equity and Deployment will drive massive attachment request increases, particularly in rural areas where utilities have so far seen minimal impact from big telecom development projects that are now expected from the BEAD funding initiatives. 

  • New Tech Entrants: Private tech companies are entering this space without the knowledge that legacy attachers (communications companies, broadband providers) bring. As a result, they may struggle to make sense of an attachment process that is foreign to them.

  • Underperforming Project Management Systems: Traditional utility project management methods, such as Excel spreadsheet tracking, are simply not getting it done anymore.

  • Staffing Limitations: Utility staff are aging out as veteran workers retire and younger workers aren’t being effectively recruited. The volume of work is drying up scarce staffing resources.

  • Competing Priorities: Utilities struggle to balance processing new pole attachments with ongoing maintenance operations requirements and already overworked crews.

What’s a Utility to Do?

Harrison isolates three possible solutions:

  1. Augment workforce with outsourced contractors
  2. Add employee headcount
  3. Deploy automation technology
  1. Add contracted resources.

    Contracted resources need to be aligned to supplement the gaps in your internal workforce, where they are unable to scale up easily to handle higher volumes. Harrison cautions, “At the end of the day, that contractor is not responsible to the regulatory agency — the utility is. That’s why a utility needs to have a little bit more ‘skin in the game’ versus giving it all to a contractor.”

    Harrison favors a more “hybrid approach,” in which in-house staff provide vital support to outside contractors.

  2. Add employee staff.

    Though the labor market is tight, a utility cannot risk turning over all new work to contractors. Your internal team members are the keepers of institutional knowledge and wisdom that cannot be outsourced. Yet, with many utility workforces built on the Baby Boomer generation, their retirements will cause utilities to be especially hard-hit: 10,000 boomers reach retirement age every day.

    • Bottom line: Neither of these solutions is without inherent challenges. Contracting out the immediate attachment volume can be risky, and augmenting internal utility staff can be costly and time-consuming.

    • The good news: The advantages of using software like Alden One will offset these hurdles. The platform provides more control by standardizing workflow processes. And best of all? Harrison points out that “when those increases go away, the contracted staff can go away too so that you're not left with all this debt for a long period of time.”

  3. Implement Business Automation Technology – the Utility Asset Management System

    While spreadsheets and home-grown databases have traditionally helped with project management tasks, having a central repository for all your asset data and a portal to share that data is a critical requirement of utility asset management.

    Harrison sums it up this way: “Our system allows you to scale so you’re able to coordinate all the work and do more with the resources you have — you have to have scalable solutions in place.”

    Here’s how implementing a hybrid model that includes contractors, in-house staffing, AND the Alden One asset management platform can provide the infrastructure necessary to process an increased level of broadband pole attachments requests:

    • Collaborate with centralized asset management - You have to manage everyday core infrastructure maintenance work, including inspections, pole replacements, and transfers, as your staff deals with aging infrastructure assets. With Alden One, utilities can improve the coordination of all these activities.

    • Meet compliance demands - While utilities struggle to absorb the volume of attachment requests, they can’t just sit on them. Attachers must hit certain milestones in fixed timeframes. If anyone misses a regulatory deadline, they face fines. Alden One automates your processes based on regulatory timelines and provides historical time-stamped records of all your activities:

Get Help Now with Alden One

How can a system like Alden One integrate with existing utility teams, legacy and new attacher company inquiries, and outsourced contract resources to smoothly deliver an effective operating environment?

We bring business automation to life by centralizing the work in the Alden One platform. New business (applications, attachment agreements, permits, close-out documents) and maintenance activities (safety inspections, attachment audits, pole replacements, changeouts) are all tracked over the life of the pole that you manage.

Alden One’s centralized system allows for different timelines and KPIs to be tracked and communicated easily to all stakeholders. With defined processes, workflows, and out-of-the-box reporting, data can be migrated over quickly as team members are trained.

Whether you are an asset owner experiencing a new high volume of requests or a service provider making the requests, we can help make life better. Discover Alden One.