Esri User Conference 2022 Recap

The Esri User Conference 2022 wrapped up last week and it was the first in person User Conference since 2019. Some of our team members attended the conference in San Diego and also presented at a breakout session with our incredible partners Waveguide and GeoCam. If you’re on the fence about making an investment in this – or any – user conference, here are 3 highlights that should help you make the decision to be part of the action:

There is no better way to see how others are using the tool and to share best practices.

Think you know everything there is to know about using ArcGIS Pro? Think again! Whether it’s learning sessions facilitated by Esri team members, breakout sessions facilitated by successful customers or visiting with exhibitors at the expo, there is plenty to learn at this 3-day user conference.

In the telecom space, fiber management solutions was a hot topic this year. Finding solutions that satisfy the needs of internal teams as well as teams in the field is critical to project success. Just one a-ha or new nugget of information can be a game changer and this an event where that can and does happen regularly.

The networking opportunities are unparalleled.

Consider yourself an introvert and don’t really dig networking? You’re not alone! Luckily Esri has a strong Partner channel that communicates regularly with customers and that’s the perfect “jumping off point” for anyone attending this user conference and hoping to have networking success. At a minimum, connect with your “people” at Esri and make sure they are aware that you would like to engage in some fruitful networking which at the event. They will facilitate some introductions and then, as networking, tends to go, things take off from there.

The potential partnership opportunities are incredible.

Are there other companies in the Esri ecosystem who “do what you do”? No doubt. Believe it or not, there are often collaboration opportunities with those companies.

Are there companies in the Esri ecosystem who do something that would be a great enhancement to your services? For sure – and this is where you can make connections and further explore ways to partner and create an even better experience for your clients.

If you think of your business development and ultimately your potential revenue streams as a pie chart, consider this:

 

Then consider this:

Diversification of leads and business? Yes please! Plus, what this graph doesn’t illustrate is that you will not be doing 50% less of what you’re already doing, you will potentially do 50% more thanks to the new opportunities that attending and being fully engaged in the Esri User Conference can bring.

It goes without saying that we are advocates of carving out time and budget to attend the Esri User Conference. We get out of it every ounce of time, money, and effort that we put into it and more. We hope all customers feel the same because all of our clients benefit from all of us being the best we can be in our business.

Have questions about our experience at Esri User Conference 2022? Please be in touch!

 

Ethan Fenelon, Certified Drone Pilot

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

In our business, we spend a great deal of time sharpening our Esri saw. Our team member Ethan Fenelon not only does that every day, he recently became a certified drone pilot. This is as big a deal as it sounds, and Ethan was kind enough to take some time and break it down for us recently:

What certification do you have?

-FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. It’s also known as FAA Certified UAS Pilot, Remote Pilot Certificate and Certified Drone Pilot.

What organization did you get the certification from?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

What can you do that those of us without this certification can’t?

I can now operate a drone/UAS commercially. You legally have to have a license to operate a drone for business purposes.

What did you like about the training?

There is no required class you need to take for this certificate so you have many different options for how to learn the material. The most common option for preparing is to purchase online video classes. Many different sites provide the same kind of training that you can sign up for and it is all self paced. I took an Unmanned Aerial Systems class at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse when I was attending there last Spring where I learned all of these materials online. The course work focused more on flying the drones and processing the imagery but we were still tested on the training weekly. This class opened up my eyes to drones in the workforce and I hope to use them more in the future.

Was obtaining this credential challenging? If yes, what was challenging about it?

I anticipated it would be challenging, but it was a little more challenging than I was expecting. I would consider myself new to most of this information with airspace so it was a little overwhelming to learn. There are a lot more rules in the sky than I anticipated, which isn’t a bad thing. Learning about airspaces, sectional charts, METARs and TAFs were my biggest struggles.

Do you have to ever renew/update your credentials?

The certificate lasts 2 years. I am able to complete some continuing education training online that will keep my certificate up to date.

What are some GIS applications that require or are enhanced by using a drone?

Drones can be used to generate 3D point clouds, basemaps and can be used in other remote sensing practices. Drones are often used to survey hazardous areas and at lower costs. These are just some things that come to mind with the use of drones in GIS.

Congrats on your accomplishment, Ethan!

Interested in learning more about how we can use drone technolology to enhance your current or future projects? Please be in touch!

5 Reasons The Time Is Ripe To Become A FISP

Wispapalooza is going on this week and that got us thinking about the “WISP to FISP” topic even more than usual.

When we create educational content to share on our website, we have extensive discussions so our writers understand what we’re trying to convey. These discussions are incredibly valuable and often evolve our topic from what we originally intended.

Interestingly, in today’s landscape, we’re finding that WISP and FISP do not necessarily need to be two separate business models.

If you’re a WISP, the time is ripe to consider becoming a FISP but fear not, this is probably not a “get rid of what we we’re doing completely and invest in all new stuff” sort of thing. A hybrid path is very often the route to success. We have seen it dozens of times with our own clients. With this in mind, here are 5 reasons the time is ripe to become a FISP:

Adding Fiber To Your Business Model Allows For Growth and Competetiveness In The Marketplace

When you are strictly operating within the WISP business model, towers are what make the Internet magic happen. Towers have their limitations in terms of coverage area and also speed when the tower is servicing many customers. Towers also need to be maintained – sometimes a lot.

WISPs that are adding fiber to their model are taking what’s worked for them and their customers up to this point and growing to establish longevity in the market and meet the wildly high demand for Internet – and preferably fast Internet.

Access To Grants, Loans and Other Financing

Federal grants are what typically make headlines, but remember that there are a wealth of grants at the county and State levels as well. Traditional financing is an option as well as options like our parent company Millennium is offering through the Millennium Infrastructure Fund.

Why does this point make the list? For one, a fiber investment is expensive and the other reason is that Covid indirectly exposed how lacking Internet is in many areas of the US so there is a new level of interest in financing these projects.

Business Evolution

The reality of our times is this: keep up with the market or someone else will.  Interested in still being competetive in your marketplace 25 years from now? Investing in fiber is inevitable. If you are interested in growth, fiber is inevitable. Is speed your thing? Well then fiber is inevitable. If you want to expand your customer base or even just simply retain your customers…say it with us: fiber is inevitable.

As we said earlier, a total business model overhaul is not necessarily required, but expanding the vision is likely needed for WISPs to be in it for the long haul.

Fast Is The Future

If you want to know what consumers think of their Internet options these days, go to any small town in America and ask someone. Anyone. They will likely all say the same thing: The Internet is too slow around here.

Think about it: Netflix (and all the other subscription based streaming options) is our modern day cable or sataillite television. Slow Internet means good luck streaming. If that doesn’t seem all that important to you, consider kids who can’t do their homework or participate in school if it requires being online, watching a video or livestream, uploading homework, and the list goes on.

Bandwidth Is The Future

Remember when we paid for long distance phone calls by the minute? At .25/minute, we kept our conversations short and sweet or we paid dearly. The same is true with Internet. People want/expect/demand access to unlimited bandwidth. Gone are the days of people paying for data caps because “that’s just how it is”. Technology has brought us to a place where it no longer has to be this way, and companies that are meeting this consumer need will come out the winners of people’s hard earned dollars.

Demand for fast Internet is at a fever pitch at this moment in history. Do what’s best for your company, but whatever you do, don’t stick with what you’re doing simply because “this is how we’ve always done it”.

If you have questions about a potential FISP project, feel free to reach out to us!

The Importance of Relationships In Business

This past weekend, two of our team members spent their entire Saturday participating in an amazing event that benefits the children’s hospital and the cancer center in Madison where we have our main office. This was a reminder of how important and powerful relationships are in business.

While this seems like a “no brainer” to read, stop and think about all the jobs you’ve had – was building relationships always emphasized? Typically, when building relationships is not an emphasis, company culture suffers as does the long term vitality of the business. For a brand new business, without relationships you will be hard pressed to ever get things off the ground and even if you do, keep things going long term.

Here are four relationships that businesses must cultivate to achieve maximum potential: 

Relationships With Team Members

Everyone is busy. Stress comes with the territory when you are doing important work. Feeling connected is a constant risk these days as people are working remote more and more. But despite all these challenges and more, building relationships with team members is critical. In this article published last year, “little things” that make team members feel appreciated include:

Simple acts of respect and graditude go a long way in getting the best your team members have to give.

Relationships With Prospects

Building relationships takes as long as it takes so this can be tricky when you have a new company and you need to get business in the door yesterday. However, you will find the prospects who have the time to get to know, like, and trust your company become some of your strongest client relationships and often turn into long term partnerships. Here are effective ways we build relationships with prospects:

Relationships With Clients

The quality of your client relationships determines if you jump out of bed to get back to work every morning or not. It’s either: “Ooo, what’s next!” or it’s: “Ugh, what now.”.

When you “do” prospect relationships well, you typcially “do” client relationships well too. If your client philosophy is partnership, then clients are much like team members in your world and communication, balanced feedback, and flexibility is important the same way it is when working with your internal team.

Relationships With Partners

Partnerships are the most overlooked potential relationship in business. Partners can be people who help you, people who refer you, people who take on opportunities you can’t and also refer opportunities to you that they can’t service. Everyone is a potential Partner – so proceed accordingly!

We all know that “business is about relationships”. But there are enough businesses in this world devoid of relationships so knowing and doing are not always the same thing. Building relationships in business takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, but it’s time and energy well spent in the end.

Give To Get – And 3 More Tips For Successful Marketing In Telecom

Marketing is simple, but it’s not easy. When Millennium Geospatial opened its doors nearly two years ago, we faced the question every startup faces:

Where will the business come from?

Yes, the telecom industry is in a “boom” status these days with companies in every corner of the world racing to provide and/or enhance Internet access. But anyone who has ever started and/or grown a healthy business knows that clients do not simply show up on your doorstep. Here are four tips for successful marketing in telecom:

Find Your Crowd

Once upon a time (i.e. before the Internet), everyone received information the same way: newspaper, phone book, word of mouth. Now, there are seemingly countless ways to “do your homework” and find what you need. There are not enough marketing dollars to “be everywhere” so the sooner you can crack the code on where your potential clients are, the better as you will then be investing your resources in getting the right message in front of the right people at all times.

Give To Get

While a “buy our stuff” marketing message works in some industries, no one is going to be moved to spend four, five, and often six figures on services, training, and/or consulting without learning a whole lot more about the company and what level of expertise they bring to the table. White papers, educational webinars, articles, testimonials, and videos are great ways to share useful content with prospects and clients.

Review The Data

Every business is different so there is no step by step guide to tell you where “your crowd” is or what educational content to create and share with them. This is why it’s critical to review the analytics of all marketing avenues you’re invested in to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

Make Google Your Marketing Assistant

We mentioned Google Analytics in our last tip and it’s worth repeating: review the traffic to your web pages as well as the referral channels as often as possible.

You may have a wonderful idea to share information on a certain topic and you discover through your web stats that there is little to no interest in that topic. On the other hand, you notice another topic is being reviewed over and over again – give the people more of what they want and less of what you want!

The other way that Google is your marketing friend is through organic traffic. This is when people find your web pages online using search engines. While Google isn’t the only search engine, it’s by far the most popular one and crafting your online marketing so that it’s “search engine friendly” will help you bring new prospects into your world every day.

Simple? Yes! Easy? Not so much. Doable with a plan, consistency, and practice? You betcha!

Options For Learning GIS

We’ve staffed our consulting firm with nearly two dozen team members over the last two years and something that jumped out to us early on is that while a four year degree in Data (Data Science, Data Analytics, GIS…) is helpful, it’s by no means a requirement for success doing the work we do for clients. We have found that interest and strength in the following broad areas is incredibly useful for success in a GIS role:

So, if the above bullet items are strengths of yours, you may want to explore a career in GIS! If you would like to get some classes under your belt to strengthen your resume, here are some options that we feel are worth exploring:

Google Data Analytics Certificate – This certificate is part of the “Grow with Google” program which provides training in high-growth fields. There are 8 courses, all of which are 100% virtual, self paced, and there are opportunities to work on real-world examples. There are scholarships available for this program as well.

Esri MOOCs – MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and Esri is a software platform that much of the GIS functionality you see/experience is built upon. The Esri MOOCs are free, online, and self paced – though the courses do have a beginning and end date so you need to start/finish within that time frame.

Community Colleges – There are over 1000 community colleges in the United States and many offer credit and/or non-credit Data Analytics classes. Location is often moot since most community colleges now offer online options, but we’ll link to the community college in Madison – the city where we’re headquartered. Madison College offers a 3-5 course Data Analytics Badge.

Four Year Colleges – While we have team members who attend/have attended many colleges throughout the US, a high number of our interns are associated with University of Wisconsin Madison. The Data Science programs there are fairly new and growing rapidly. We were really impressed to learn about a class that’s currently offered at UW Madison called Data Science In Madison as the students tap into public data to solve real-time, real-world problems.

As you can see, there are ways to strengthen your resume for GIS positions that will fit any budget and any time table. From free to many thousands of dollars and from several weeks to several years – you can dive into the best fit for your goals. Pro tip: Enroll in a course and gain familiarity with GIS and then begin applying for internships and entry level positions – you can always continue your education while you’re working!

PS: We always include a handful of GIS jobs available around the world in our quarterly email newsletter. If you’re not signed up for the newsletter, click here to join the mailing list!

WISP Resources: WISP To FISP, A To Z: The Top 26 Questions We Receive From WISPs

We hear from a lot of WISP owners who are researching or in the process of shifting to a FISP model in their business. Like any big move in business (and in life!), there are a lot of questions that come with it. We’re fortunate to work with WISPs from around the globe who are at various stages of the process.

No matter where a WISP owner is doing business in the world or how big or small the project, we find that we field many of the same questions time and again. We’ve compiled the 26 most common questions and put the info into a new (and free!) PDF download titled WISP To FISP, A To Z: The Top 26 Questions We Receive From WISPs. You can access this resource by clicking here. We also want to share some of the questions included in the guide here on the blog – here are five of them!

Note: This information is accurate to the best of our knowledge, based on our experience in the field. Treat this information like a Wikipedia page – consider it a good resource but always double check whenever it comes to legal issues, insurance issues, permit issues, costs, and whatnot.

How much does it all cost?

While this is often the first question we’re asked, you really need to answer all the other questions on the list to come up with your answer because there are so many variables in these projects. Not the answer you’re going for, we know, but work through the rest of the questions on this list and we’re confident you will find yourself much closer to an answer on this one!

What architecture should I use? GPON or Active E?

Let’s lay out some of the merits of each option:

Active E (Active Ethernet) – Pros:

Active E – Cons:

GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network):

In addition, with GPON, you must consider Centralized or Distributive Split:

Centralized: More traditional approach.

Distributive: Less flexible.

Aerial vs. Buried?

Let’s lay out some of the merits of each option:

Aerial – Pros:

Aerial – Cons:

Buried – Pros:

Buried – Cons:

Are there grants, funds, or other loans – government or otherwise – for projects like mine?

Often the answer is YES! We’ll list a few resources for you to bookmark and keep an eye on, but as a rule of thumb many of the funds that come available for projects like this are somewhat state-specific so you will want to create Google Alerts for the following terms:

FTTH grants your state

FTTH funding your state

broadband grants your state

broadband funding your state

Not sure how to set up a Google Alert? This quick video will walk you through the steps!

How much do your services cost?

We’re GIS consultants which means we work with many companies, many different ways. Our services are well defined yet flexible so that you can involve us in your project as much – or as little – as you need/want to. Overall, most companies invest in a Feasibility Study that we prepare taking into account all of the info that we gather from you about your goals and your budget combined with the real-time data associated with the potential project area. Our team goes through the Feasibility Study with you so you are clear on how to interpret the data and you understand what your next steps can be.

As you can see, there are not many easy or cut and dry answers to any of this! If you’re interested in seeing the other 21 common questions we receive from WISPs? Grab your free copy of WISP To FISP, A To Z: The Top 26 Questions We Receive From WISPs by clicking here. We hope you find this guide helpful in your continued project research!

Why GIS?

We’ve put together this blog post in celebration of GIS Day 2020! If you or the company you work for are already using GIS then you already know why it’s “the way to go” at this time in technology history. If you’re new to this, or on the fence about the benefits of utilizing GIS in your business, this article is for you! Before we begin, here is a definition of GIS from the Esri website:

A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data. Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data. It analyzes spatial location and organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes. ​With this unique capability, GIS reveals deeper insights into data, such as patterns, relationships, and situations—helping users make smarter decisions.

Before GIS

Before GIS was “a thing”, all of the planning, implementation, and management of telecommunication and broadband networks was done manually. When we say manually, we mean by hand. People would have to go out to proposed build sites and hand draw what they saw and then the handwritten notes could be taken back to the office and entered into a system like AutoCAD so that “maps” could be generated based on the data that was entered into the system.

When this was the only method, it “was what it was”. Now that it’s not the only method, it’s an option that’s incredibly time consuming, relies on humans “getting it exactly right” on every level within the process, and the end product is simply a digitized version of what was originally created with pencil and paper on that specific date and time in history.

After GIS

Technology has now made it so that the info that people manually went out and observed can be ascertained online. That data can be fused with geospatial data (think Google Maps) and the data can be updated – because this info is constantly changing – online and in real time. In essence, you create a “digital twin” – think records that actually mirror what is out in the field at all times.

Additionally, there are other invaluable variables that you can easily add in to your data by layering other data in. Factors like weather patterns and census data allow for better, more accurate data to help projects be more efficient once it’s go-time.

You may be thinking: You are grossly oversimplifying this, company whose business IS GIS! because it really can sound too good to be true. But, we’re not. Sure, you have to invest in GIS tools and employees who know how or can learn how to operate those tools. But is that investment all that more significant when you can take significant amounts of time, travel, and inaccuracies out of the equation?

GIS has been a game changer in our industry. It has allowed companies to massively ramp up efficiencies – do more, faster, more safely, and more accurately. It has allowed for services to get into the hands of people who need and want it faster than ever before. While we have a long way to go in closing the digital divide, leveraging technology is a clear path for providers to do their part to make that happen as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.

WISP Resources: WISP To FISP: 5 Things You Should Know (Webinar + Checklist)

We are fortunate enough to meet and talk with many WISPs about their plans and goals around shifting from a WISP to a FISP model in their business. Since we’ve been through this process in partnership with companies many, many (many!) times, we have become a trusted resource for laying out everything a WISP owner needs to consider in this process.

The webinar below runs through the top 5 things companies should know as they are considering or gearing up for this shift.

You can obtain the Checklist referenced during the session by clicking here.

No time to take notes during the session? No problem! We’ve laid out the main points below – feel free to print them out and reference them as you move forward with your project!

Who should consider shifting from WISP to FISP?

Ask yourself this question: Do you want to play offense or defense with your business strategy? Not into sports analogies? Try this instead: Do you want to be proactive or reactive with your business strategy? If you answered “offense” and/or “proactive”, then you may be ready to make the jump from WISP to FISP.

What should you do?

When it comes to making this shift, there is no one-and-only way to do it. Here are some things to consider – Do you want…

We know: ALL OF THE ABOVE! But it doesn’t work that way, so think about what is of the utmost importance to you and this will help to drive what you will need to do.

When is the right time to make the shift?

Clients we have worked with always say NOW or YESTERDAY once they are on the other side of the project, so know that the feelings of uncertainty do tend to fade. Until then, ask yourself is it:

Also consider:

Where should you do it?

Why should we make this shift?

How can we get this up and rolling?

INTANGIBLES – There is ALWAYS something!

Are you still with us? We know, it’s A LOT to consider. If you have questions, we’re always happy to help – click here to contact us!