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“SKILLS GAP? NO PROBLEM, we’ll develop a software solution that’ll make your people more efficient.” KIRSTIN GRAVES A PASSION FOR BUSINESS-LED SOLUTIONS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY AND PLANNING HAS DELIVERED IMPRESSIVE QUALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY IMPROVEMENTS ON THE ULTRAFAST BROADBAND ROLLOUT. In September 2009, when the government announced details of its plans for a $1.5bn nationwide Ultra-fast Broadband (UFB) service, everyone was anticipating the extent of the telecommunications industry skills gap. “Two years before the physical roll-out of UFB, Downer identified a critical shortage of network designers – the people who play a crucial role in optimising the architecture needed to deliver fibre to the home and business, as well as quantifying the materials for construction of the network,” explains Kirstin Graves, Technology Services Manager for Downer. “This skills shortage applied not only to our own company but right across New Zealand, so it was a sizeable challenge”. Following an 18-month options review, Downer determined that technology – specifically, a specialist software platform – would provide a solution to the skills shortage. “There are simply not enough network designers in New Zealand, so we needed to make the ones we do have more efficient,” says Graves. “The planned software would not only solve the UFB challenge,” she adds, “but would also be valuable for Downer’s NZ Transport Agency Network Outcomes contracts, as well as other maintenance and operations contracts requiring GIS solutions. Under Graves’s leadership, a team of telecommunications and GIS specialists developed a software application now known as GRAIL (Geographic Reporting and Information Locator). Developed from the market-leading Geographic Information System (GIS) platform ArcGIS, which is the intellectual property of Californian-based software firm Esri, GRAIL represents an investment in excess of $1m. “We brought GRAIL a long way in a short space of time,” says Graves, “and the pay-back is already there with efficiencies we are enjoying on the UFB roll-out.” Graves attributes some of the success to the strong partnership between her team and Wellington based company, Eagle Technology. “The partnership has proven to be hugely beneficial, culminating in our receiving a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) award from Esri. “How amazing was it that we got to be recognised and receive the award at the Esri annual conference in San Diego,” says Graves. 40 / DOWNER / IN BLACK & WHITE


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