UCG keeping Kiwis connected, supporting communities and staying true to their values
In this article we talk to Roger Crellin, Executive General Manager New Zealand to find out more about UCG’s journey, how they managed COVID-19 and their plans moving forward.
Can you tell us how and when you got involved with UCG?
I started with UCG just over two years ago after some 20 years working in the US, Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia, primarily in technology and telecommunications infrastructure roles. I was attracted to UCG because of their values, the team they had in place and the massive job that was being undertaken in rolling out fibre throughout New Zealand. It was a complex challenge to deliver the installation services throughout New Zealand and we’ve learned much along the way about process improvement and effective on-the-ground delivery.
What makes UCG stand out from competitors?
We have a huge focus on real-time, accessible programme management with strong cadence on project reporting. That means our customers are constantly informed about the progress that’s being made on their workflows and maintenance. We have invested significantly in proprietary systems that underpin this delivery (siteTRAX3™) and on top of that we have a real focus on customer needs – not just for up-to-date information, but immediate reporting on issues that may affect them across their business.
What percentage of your market is domestic versus global and where do you see that in the future?
We are the New Zealand arm of an Australasian business, but we operate as a Group, collaborating on partnerships in the Pacific. For example, we recently designed a fibre broadband infrastructure for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and we collaborated with our Australian partners on the delivery. What’s more, we managed to deliver this 100% remotely during COVID-19. Consequently, we had to maximise planning on the ground here as well as recruit and train local FSM staff to support the local FSM economy.
What is it like working across the ditch, both the good and the bad?
I’ve worked in Australia, so I understand the differences in the respective markets, but the broadband model in Australia is quite different to the model used here. It’s good to have that additional Australian experience though, especially when it comes to working with our UCG Group colleagues.
What was COVID-19 like for UCG? What adjustments did you have to make to navigate 2020?
Providing access to broadband internet, especially during COVID-19, is an essential service. UCG has a robust Group Business Continuity Plan and mobilised very quickly to obtain PPE and other health and safety provisions to equip and ensure the safety of our 1,000-person ecosystem of staff and Delivery Partner technicians. It was a large undertaking to obtain those supplies in a market experiencing massive demand, then distribute to our Delivery Partners ensuring the appropriate protocols and training were in place for their use. We were continuing to go into people’s homes during this period and of course fibre was in huge demand because there were so many people working from home. We were able to quickly adapt and adjust our practices to ensure we met the health and safety requirements needed to operate within the COVID-19 environment, while safely delivering a timely service. With more people working from home, we needed to transition quickly.
A lot of the work you do uses technology to improve communities. Is that a core part of your focus?
Yes, and we continue to look for innovations that will meet new requirements, such as facilities for EV charging, security and wireless access for public transport – which we have rolled out in bus stops throughout Auckland. A big part of our ongoing work is providing telecommunications infrastructure operations to communities that are often quite remote, for example rural Marae. This work has been a game changer, enabling people living in remote communities to have widespread access to technology and giving them the opportunity to connect with family and to be able to work remotely.
What plans do you have for the next five to ten years?
Our long-range plans have three pillars that are important to us as part of our UCG Group values.
- Sustainability is very important for us – not just our company, but the sector as a whole. We are acutely conscious that there is a big ecosystem out there servicing the needs of the community. Part of this is support for our Delivery Partners to ensure their businesses are sustainable. We have recently signed up all of our Delivery Partners to EMA (Employer and Manufacturers’ Association) services to give them the best possible employment and regulatory advice and training. They’re all small businesses who otherwise would not necessarily have the capacity to access legal and HR advice. Also, as we have done over the past twelve months in particular, we will adapt to changing needs and focus on continually improving our processes to keep ahead of what our customers need and expect.
- Environment Society and Community (ESC) – Our focus is to bring social and environmental considerations into the heart of the organisation in ways that create value. Our model defines the ways in which we conduct our business responsibly, reduce our environmental impact, put our customers at the centre, ensure we are a good employer, and build more inclusive communities. We are heavily committed to our activity plans which are in place at Group, national and local community levels with 2, 5 and 10-year KPIs relating to policy and compliance, culture and engagement, best practice service delivery and community support. Each activity plan has its own measures and targets which helps us to remain accountable for our goals and aspirations.
- Our active Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programme has five focus areas:
- Culture – ‘All New Zealanders’ inclusive of all ethnicities, cultures, religious beliefs and other ideologies;
- LGBTQI+ ;
- Gender – non-binary, female, male;
- Wellbeing – physical, emotional and mental wellbeing;
- Generations – Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomer.
How important is maintaining a local identity in this competitive international market and how do you manage that?
It is very important, which is why UCG decided to establish a fully loaded New Zealand operation. Empowering management on the ground is the best way to engage with our stakeholders, even in a remote working world. We prioritise building strong relationships at a professional and personal level as well as ensuring the day-to-day engagement is maximised at an installation and maintenance level 24/7.
What advice would you give to manufacturers who would like to undertake more work in Australia and globally?
You really have to go there and be part of the community. In my global experience fly-in-fly-out is not as effective. Many New Zealand and Australian companies have learned over the years that our cultures are not necessarily interchangeable, and you need to have leaders that understand the requirements of the local markets and the way business is conducted within the country in which they are operating. The same applies to working in Europe, Asia or the US. There is no substitute for being there, understanding the people, the business environment, the regulations and, above all, respecting the local culture and history.
Universal Communications Group (UCG) is a leading supplier of telecommunications design, construction, operational and project management services. The company is relied upon by New Zealand’s and Australia’s largest telecommunications operators to research, develop, deliver and maintain broadband deployment concepts, smart city technologies and bespoke IoT solutions. UCG pushes the boundaries within the telecommunications industry by transforming existing infrastructure to be multi-purpose, future-proof and sustainable.