D3M Review with Utility Communications’ Ben Clark

Earlier this week we sat down with two-way radio Project Manager Ben Clark to find out he and Utility Communications uses D3M to better design and manage their network projects. 

How long have you been working with two-way radios?

Roughly 15 years. I started in a rental department. I moved and started in an inventory position and then got promoted to a project manager.  I moved again and started here at Utility Communications as a service manager and then transferred back to a project manager role, which I’ve been doing for almost 2 years now


What do your daily activities entail?

It really varies here at Utility Communications. From working with internal sales people to coordinating with customers and our service department, I drive the project and take ownership. My responsibilities include leading the project from start to finish.


Prior to D3M, what tools were you using to design and document two-way radio networks?

Nothing. I was doing some research and D3M popped up. I have been using D3M the whole time I have been a project manager at Utility. It has been beneficial not only for me but for other people in the office as well.


How has Utility Communications implemented D3M into the radio project process from start to finish?

I am the main D3M user. There are a couple of other users who use the tool for documentation and build outs, but I have yet to get the sales team to implement the sales portion of the application. I think that would be beneficial. They have an ad hoc situation currently. They typically build out their network on a spreadsheet and do all the costing there and then implement it into our sales software. Ideally, I like to be involved in the process from the start at a site visit. I can put my 2 cents forward and see what we need.

I typically only use D3M with larger networks just because I’m not needed in smaller deployments. Once I do the build out and have the information like IP addresses and site info, I input it into the system so everything is in one place. The main reason I use the tool is because I can do the build out, show the customer what they are getting and internally provide an overview of the system and all the information that is needed; IP addresses, frequencies, location data, etc. It is an all-in-one solution. All of the information is in one location. When technicians go out in the field to install the system they typically take a print out of the network from D3M.


Are you using the file storage capabilities of D3M? Storing site photos, codeplugs and more?

A little bit. I’ve done more of that in the past.  I’m working on a larger project right now and I’m planning on storing everything, so it’s all in one place.


Who do you interact with on a daily basis? Sales team, end users, managers etc.

It really varies. The customer, their end users on site, our techs and service department, sales, the president of the company - the full gamut.


How often are you using D3M?

Again, it varies depending on the size of the projects I am working on. Right now, not that much, but when I have 4 or 5 projects going at the same time, I’m on D3M every other day.


Has D3M saved you time and if yes, how much time?

Yes. It has saved me 20% if I had to throw a number at it.


Were there any WOW moments, where you said... that's really cool, I didn't know D3M can do that.

Definitely, when the tool was first implemented there were some wow moments. And again, a couple of months ago when you introduced the manufacturer icons, that was really helpful. I can pull the Motorola products directly from the application. I don’t have to create the images, download them, cut and paste and upload them. It has saved me a lot of time and has been very helpful.


Since using D3M, how has your overall process improved?

D3M simplifies everything. When I do a build out, it’s easier for myself to understand and know what’s going on. For the customer, they have a schematic of what is going to be implemented, and internally the technicians can look at the system and see what we are doing. It definitely helps. When we are doing a proposal, it is easy to send the customer a drawing so it’s easier to explain exactly what we are going to be doing. A picture is always better since customers don’t always understand what we do.


Are you using the fleetmap portion of D3M?

I am. I do a lot of editing on it. There are some fields that I don’t personally need. I can see how they would be beneficial for some users, but I don’t need that much information. I scale things down to the core information I need such as the IP scheme, frequencies, IDs, UDP ports, etc.


What do you find most frustrating about D3M?

Sometimes when I’m doing the build outs and I’m trying to connect the objects, I want everything to be perfect and it’s minor, but connecting equipment is not as pretty as I want it to be. I would like more control.


Do you have comments, suggestions or additional features that you would like to see?

This may be a function that you have already, but when we have multiple locations on the canvas I would like to be able to highlight one location and make it a different color to make it easier to understand that everything associated with that location is together on one site.

Editor’s Note: D3M has a group feature that allows users to group items together and a box is displayed around the group items.


If you were to review D3M what score would you give it out of 10?

A 9!


Would you recommend D3M to a friend in the industry?



Please finish this sentence…  “D3M has been beneficial to Utility Communications because…”

D3M has made my job easier. It has made it easier for me to collect all of the information in one place and allowed me to have a visual representation of the project for myself, internally, and for the customer to see exactly what we are doing and what are going to be implementing into the project.




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