AutoCAD and other CAD-based software have long been a favorite tools among engineers due to their ability to create highly-detailed and precise drawings to guide the construction process. 

But for communication service providers, once construction is complete, the CAD object becomes a snapshot in time, and does little to aid the ongoing operation and maintenance of the network.  

Put simply, the CAD drawing doesn’t tell users everything they need to know. It does not understand connectivitycannot combine physical and logical elements into a comprehensive view of the network, and cannot interact with the management systems for equipment or billingThis means updates must be made across multiple sources, draining resources and creating an administrative backlog that frequently falls behind more urgent issues like new construction or responding to outages. 

Alternatively, Mapcom’s hybrid approach combines the best of CAD and GIS solutions with a robust partner ecosystem to create a best-of-breed solution for providers. Here are 3 reasons to consider switching from your current CAD system to M4 Solutions:

1. Equip for Success with Telco-Specific Tools 

M4 Solutions is built specifically for the telecom industry based on decades of experience working with providers to map and manage their networks. We understand many providers are working with copper and fiber optic networks – and therefore need to map and monitor legacy and modern plant side by side. M4’s tools allow users to track and manage plant-specific details like fiber splices, ports and complements. It also provides capabilities for tracking plant at each stage of its life cycle, from design, to as-built, to retired.

On the other hand, AutoCAD is a generic technical drawing program designed to work for many industries, often packaged inside a telco-branded wrapper and sold as an industry-specific solution. Vendors selling these products may be able to make AutoCAD feel more purpose-built with labels and user interface designs, but they are ultimately tied to the functionality available in AutoCAD. 

2. Work Smarter with a Relational Model 

M4’s database provides context for engineering info by combining it with geographically accurate data (like topographyroads, county boundaries, and census tracts) and operational information (like billing contacts, equipment alarms, and tickets)Lines and polygons displayed on the map represent their associated spatial data, and they allow users to trace physical connectivity, search for information, and drill into relational tables to easily understand the network’s composition and performance. 

Combining network, location and demographic information into a readily-available database is a huge advantage for reporting projects. Applications for federal or state funding programs require providers to demonstrate the area is under-served and to report on the number of residences, businesses and other community institutions the new construction would reach. Missing even a handful of structures could make an impact on award decisions as the competition for funds is steadily increasing.

Plus all broadband providers, regardless of awarded funds, must file Form 477 with the FCC twice a year to report their serviceable census blocks – a task which can take hundreds of hours and cause many headaches for providers without searchable and well-maintained systems of record.

While AutoCAD allows users to draw objects with detail and precision, its lines are… just lines. CAD drawings are inherently disconnected from other data about your business, forcing your team to connect the dots between systems and work groups with complicated spreadsheets or other manual mechanisms.  

3. Empower Your Entire Organization by Eliminating Data Silos 

M4 is a company-wide solution that can be leveraged by every department to access critical information and streamline everyday workflows. Below are just a few examples of how M4 users can benefit from integrating their systems and departments:

  • CSRs can use field technicians’ locations and schedules to book appointments on the spot for service orders or troubles
  • Repair technicians can see ticket history, equipment history, and data captured from EMS and NMS systems. 
  • Marketing can see census data for prospects located near planned or newly constructed fiber for targeted campaign planning. 
  • Sales reps in the field can see an open circuit, sketch new fiber runs and instantly pull from installation and EMS systems to determine when service can be turned on, and how much it will cost. 

AutoCAD and other CAD-based programs are only useful to drafting departments and perpetuate data silos, which cause delays for the rest of the business and, ultimately, customers. 


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