5 Reasons why project management tools can’t handle small cells

Small cell builds have established themselves as an incredibly popular piece of telecoms project development. But with that comes a much larger project load for PM’s – which means the tools need to match the landscape. 



Small cells are at the epicenter of the telco water cooler talk right now. Crown Castle’s recent $7 billion (with a b) fiber purchase demonstrates just how hot the small cell market is. A recent, widely-shared article highlighted small cell projects as a primary driver for 5G development. Small cells are helping connect remote parts of Northern Canada and Sprint recently heavily invested in small cell deployments, citing them as a focal point of their wireless strategy. The telecoms industry as a whole has plans to spend big time on small cells. Even the President has weighed in, vowing to pass legislation to facilitate small cell siting.

The rise of small cells signals a significant increase in project volume. Instead, big tower builds with long lag times, small cell builds are occupying an ever-larger space in the telco landscape . And while the sites may be smaller, they are still complex and require project managers to really hit their marks. And that’s just not going to happen using spreadsheets or out-of-date in-house systems. Here are five reasons why.

1. More projects mean more pieces of data to track

That translates to big, bloated spreadsheets. Project managers already spend hours scrolling through thousands of cells to find what they need or correct data errors. The rise of small cells is going to make this burdensome task so, so much worse.

2. More projects mean more timelines to track

Small cell projects force project managers to execute under tighter financial constraints than big sprawling tower builds. Therefore, as we discussed recently, it’s imperative that PM’s have a tool that lets them track many complex projects simultaneously and make updates easily, because, try as we might, project timelines change all the time and at the drop of a hat.

3. Small cells are relatively new technology, with complicated dependencies

They require a high level of coordination between project teams. Meaning if something goes wrong at a site, PM’s can’t afford to wait a weekend to get updated. And guess what? Spreadsheets aren’t online. In fact, huge thousand-cell spreadsheets crash when too many people log on simultaneously. PM’s need tools that allow teams to access data at all times, wherever they are. Plus, small cells have 20 or more related items that often need to be grouped together. Spreadsheets are just not equipped to handle this task.

4. Each small cell project is different – in size and scope

Spreadsheets and in-house systems are many things, but they are not customizable (Sitetracker on the other hand, was built with robust customization baked in into its DNA). PM’s need tools that can adapt to the broad range of different types of small projects out there.

5. Small Cells are complex legislative issues

See herehere and here. As such, there can be many rounds of permits and site approvals. Spreadsheets are good for data entry, but what if you want to quickly update information about a site approval, or enter in new permitting information? You’d be much better off with a tool that customizes for permitting and siting (not to mention allows users different security clearances for accessing project data. Hi again!).

Small cells aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they are the new normal. Project managers know this. The question remains – will PM’s realize the tools they’re using now just don’t cut it? (We’re banking on it!)