As the infrastructure world continues to ramp up its buildout at the edge and into the last mile in support of 5G and other new technologies, the problems of scale just get harder. More sites, more truck rolls, more supply chains, and more subcontractors spread thinly across wide geographies require their own digital transformation to manage. Sitetracker is one of those next generation cloud software providers looking to take on that challenge. With us today to talk about the company’s approach is CEO Giuseppe Incitti.
TR: What are the origins of Sitetracker, and how did you get involved?
GI: Sitetracker was started in 2013, when our founding team found a massive opportunity in the market. Essentially the entire industry was running on spreadsheets and they teamed up to build something focused on end user productivity to change the industry and get folks out of spreadsheets. They actually did just that, and built the first version of Sitetracker, working for a couple of years with Verizon Wireless. In 2016 the company took its first step forward commercially and started selling it to other companies. I joined the company in 2016 as CEO after working at MongoDB, prior to that, I was an advisor when the company could only support technical hires. Fast forward to today, and we are 300 people with 200 customers and operate globally. It has been a wild ride.
TR: What does Sitetracker’s technology do?
GI: Sitetracker is a software platform that helps critical infrastructure providers manage milestones associated with building, maintaining, and operating their networks. We service most of the subsegments in the industry: tower companies, mobile network operators, fiber companies, and all the contractors as well. We help everything run smoother on detailed network build projects for large-scale high-volume deployments. It is a completely cloud-based application with a very cool mobile app for work in the field, plus the ability to integrate with contractors and partners.
TR: What types of customers do you find the most traction with?
GI: Those that want to innovate. A good example would be Ericsson, which first started using us in the US and the UK to service their mobile network operator customers and track milestones associated with network rollouts. They recently decided to use us across all of their global markets in 100+ countries. Another customer that I would highlight is Vantage Towers in Europe, which is the Vodafone tower spin-out. They use us to manage about 70,000 towers across 10 different countries. They work differently in every country and every market, and we were able to help them manage all that complexity. And on the fiber side, Frontier is a great example of a domestic company that’s using us for fiber-to-the-home.
TR: What was holding back this type of technology at the spreadsheet level, and how do you get folks to make the change?
GI: We have seen a bunch of different versions. With very large customers there generally is a legacy system that has been built inhouse or that are on-premise. Such older applications are more focused on integrations and satisfying enterprise requirements, and not as much on end-user productivity. Because these end users are not so satisfied, they end up working in a spreadsheet. Once you put one column in the spreadsheet, before you know it there are 40 columns. So even when our customers say they have an existing system they want to upgrade from, we still find ourselves collecting spreadsheets from a bunch of different users to ultimately fill Sitetracker before it goes live.
TR: How much customization do you have to do to meet their needs and integrate with their other systems?
GI: Configuring our system, which is built natively on the Salesforce platform, to meet key business requirements is a key part of our success. Of our 325 or so employees, maybe about 100 of them are focused on what happens after someone chooses to use Sitetracker, and because we work with so many industry leaders, we can cull best practices and implement Sitetracker in the most efficient ways. In addition to having great software, we’re very proud to have an excellent team that works directly with our customers to take them from what they were doing yesterday to what they’re going to be doing tomorrow.
TR: Where do they see the most benefit?
GI: I think the biggest benefit is most often increasing the speed or velocity of completing milestones. But there’s also an efficiency component from having everyone working in one system. We regularly hear that fewer people are required to manage greater volume of work, which is a direct opex benefit. A company that may have a great team of market managers or project managers does not have to grow that team linearly with the amount of work they take on.
TR: What new capabilities are you putting resources into?
GI: We are always investing on the product side to stay a step ahead of our customers. The newest thing that we’re spending a lot of time on is using artificial intelligence to help our customers forecast. Historically forecasts were done by market managers or project managers. We’re bringing in AI to compare a project manager’s forecast to that of our AI engine and identifying whether the forecast is accurate or not. Sitetracker not only gathers critical information and metrics that our customers need, we help them see through the trees so they can use that data to improve their business decisions.
TR: What trends are driving demand for this kind of software?
GI: One trend driving the new deployment operations management category is network densification, for which the UK is a great example. Both Vodafone and British Telecom use us to build 5G networks. So in the city of London, we’re watching two of the biggest mobile network operators work in Sitetracker to manage the increased volume and densification of the network. One thing that the pandemic has made clear is that FTTH and home connectivity is extremely difficult. We’re seeing tailwinds from that. Companies are looking to use technology to increase the amount of home passes they do in a given time period.
TR: Are there other sectors beyond telecommunications and internet infrastructure that your technology might find application in?
GI: Two great examples are electronic vehicle charging and commercial/residential solar. The deployments are quite similar to building towers or any other telecom project, and there are some fun use-cases that our employees enjoy spending time on. Real estate is another area that could be interesting. After all, projects in telecommunications and energy are partly about real estate already. But our top priority is just going deeper in telecommunications and energy because we think there’s so much to do there.
TR: That position gives you a window into a lot of network buildouts in the market. What challenges do you see your customers facing in the marketplace?
GI: The current environment they’re working in requires them to get everything right. There is a labor shortage both for the mobile network operator and for the contractors they rely on. The permitting environment is very tricky. We try to help them identify anything they could be doing better or faster to try to offset some of those headwinds.
TR: Where are they these days in the deployment of 5G from your perspective?
GI: If I had to make a blanket assessment, I still think it’s early innings. But it’s definitely different by country, especially in Europe. There are years of work to do ahead of us to get 5G out there.
TR: How do you view M&A as a means to expansion, perhaps to add capabilities to your platform?
GI: Sitetracker has grown organically and we think that there is a long runway for us to continue to grow organically within the US and globally. However, there are certainly opportunities to better service our customers faster through an acquisition. Our primary strategy will still be organic growth, but now at our current size I think we’re a bit more comfortable looking at inorganic opportunities, whether they’re in the US or internationally. For example, there might be another group of 10-20 people out there with a great idea that we think would be great for our customers.
TR: In what ways is adopting this sort of digital transformation helping companies in today’s market?
GI: The companies that are more aggressively pursuing digital transformation are winning. It is worth doing. Some folks continue to put it off, because it is a lot of work to teach your company how to work in a different way. But we’re finding the management teams that are making the decision to operate in a more modern way are winning. Working in a more modern way makes them more agile, and that allows them to jump on new business opportunities quicker and ultimately drives first revenue and then profitability.
TR: So agility has proven to be more than a management buzzword after all?
GI: That’s right, and I think service providers are a great example of this. We’re seeing service providers enter new markets, such as jumping from a base in the Northeast seamlessly to the Southwest or offering new services they might not have before. Agility leads to new business opportunities.
TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!
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