Blog Hero Telecommunications - Copperleaf Decision Analytics

Written by: Bill Neill

Capital Planning in Telecom: Why Does It Take So Long?

Copperleaf® provides enterprise decision analytics software solutions to companies investing in and managing critical infrastructure. In this blog series, Bill Neill, who leads market development for telecommunications at Copperleaf, shares insights from his 20 years of experience in the industry. In this installment, Bill explores some of the drivers behind the long planning times many telecom companies experience.

Why does telecom capital planning take so long?

Many of you were probably involved in building your organization’s capital plan for this year. After months of business case development, reviews, prioritization, refinements, debate, bargaining, and back-and-forths, you finally have a plan in place—at least, one that will last until you finalize last year’s financials and spend January rebalancing it…

I’ll bet it took a lot of effort. And I’ll guess that few of you enjoyed the experience.

As we enter the new year, it’s time to think about how you can make your next planning cycle shorter and more efficient, while still delivering executable plans that maximize the value to your organization.

The Pain of Planning

One of the things that stands out from the results of our survey on capital planning in the telecom space is how dissatisfied people are with the process. I read comments describing it as “painful,” “confusing,” and even “wasteful.” 

So why does capital planning require such heavy investment of time and effort, and what can be done about it? In this blog I’ll share a little about what we’ve learned about the drivers behind long planning times, how they’re impacting the telecom business, and what can be done to improve the situation.

The Annual Aggregation Process

With thousands of potential capital projects looking for funding, spread across multiple business units, groups, teams, and investment owners, the capital planning process has become more about aggregation than decision making. 

This process includes aggregating investment requests for review, aggregating opinions and feedback on prioritization, and aggregating financial data. These steps repeat at the Director, VP, and SVP levels, and ultimately C-level. All this is made even more time-consuming when the process is built using spreadsheet templates and presentation-based checklists.  

This cyclical, manual aggregation of information, and the work involved in actually generating it in the first place, takes TIME to: 

  • Build the investment requests/business cases  
  • Enter them into the ‘official’ spreadsheet, document, and/or presentation templates 
  • Review the requests and ensure they’re reasonable and accurate
  • Preread, lobby, play politics, and debate priority to get support for your requests 
  • Consolidate the requests, data, and priorities for presentation to “the next level”
  • Receive feedback and repeat the process again to incorporate the input until the plan is “finalized” 

I’ve often looked at this cycle as a company-wide attempt at “rapid” scenario analysis—only in painfully slow motion.  

So What?

To many, the process and effort can feel like a bit of a conundrum.

First, capital planning isn’t optional. It’s absolutely critical to the success of a telecom business. You can’t just decide NOT to do it (unless you have unlimited human and financial capital and can literally do it all).

Second, time is money. The longer it takes to plan and replan, the less responsive you can be to changes in the market, the longer your teams are distracted from their important day jobs, and the more frustrated and less engaged stakeholders become in the decision-making process.  

Because capital planning is important and mandatory, it’s often seen as a “necessary evil.” I’ve had telecom leaders tell me that it “takes as long as it takes” and is a “cost of doing business.”  

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

There’s this thing called digital transformation… that can successfully digitalize capital planning processes. Copperleaf has helped many of the world’s leading, capital- and infrastructure-intensive organizations do it 

For our clients, planning is a routine, ongoing process rather than a dreaded annual event, because we help: 

  • Automate the mechanics of the process so stakeholders can focus on making the best decisions  
  • Capture, systematize, and centralize knowledge for everyone to use 
  • Align in-year, short-term, and long-term plans based on a single source of truth—tied directly to your strategic objectives and operating constraints  
  • Generate new scenarios in minutes instead of weeks, allowing greater organizational agility and quicker responses to questions, challenges, or changes  

These are just a few of many benefits of digitalizing your planning processes. It’s not unusual for our clients to see the time they spend building high-quality plans cut in half, and I’ll share more in our upcoming white paper and future blogs.  

But don’t wait. Copperleaf’s Decision Analytics Solution can help digitalize your planning processes now and it’s easier than you might think.  

If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you make better decisions faster, and get more value out of your investments, reach out to me directly or read more about Copperleaf’s solutions here.

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