Concerns about the time, expense and frustration of contractors that are forced to use client onboarding companies such as BROWZ and Avetta surfaced on January 30, 2019, when Wireless Estimator released the survey results of financial and administrative roadblocks set up by carriers and towercos that could derail America’s race to 5G.
Two weeks later on February 14, 2019, Avetta announced the acquisition of BROWZ with the combined company using the Avetta name.
Contractors expected that they would see economies of scale when companies using BROWZ like tower owner Crown Castle were folded into the Avetta platform.
Almost nine months later that hasn’t occurred and contractors are still being invoiced for the services of both software-driven companies.
Although they registered their concerns with Avetta, they believed the company wasn’t taking their objections seriously.
However, Christopher Mallon, President of TowerMRL, Inc., a Wisconsin-based contractor, wasn’t satisfied with an Avetta support email he received last month stating that the BROWZ and Avetta “companies are not the same and the merger is not complete,” and the merger would take some time “as the data migration is manual since the two systems are on different interfaces.”
Mallon, a professional engineer and a member of the National Association of Tower Erectors Board of Directors, then proceeded to reach out to other contractors and posted his concerns on LinkedIn.
Responding posts and Mallon’s efforts quickly caught the attention of Avetta executives and they agreed on Thursday to set up a call to address questions of interested stakeholders.
Wireless Estimator reached out to Mallon and 22 other contractors last month, and amongst many concerns, their primary fear was that the merged companies have become a monopoly that could escalate annual fees to an onerous amount since they’re convinced that once a company is fully vested in their platform, it would take a year or two to move to a competitor.
They also objected to what they termed a ‘pay to play’ burden that should be borne by those companies requesting contractor information.
American Tower is not using Avetta, but according to sources, there is a full-court press to bring them on board, with the pitch being similar to that which was successfully used to land SBA Communications, that they could save $100,000 or more annually by reducing risk management staffing.
According to Matthew Peterson, Vice President, Communications and Employee Development at American Tower, the company presently manages contractor onboarding functions in-house.
“However, we regularly evaluate opportunities that will enhance the experience of customers operating at our sites,” he said.
Although many contractors said that onboarding and annual reviews can take up to 40 or 80 hours, Avetta disagreed, stating that “in most cases” it doesn’t take that long. If contractors find the compliance requirements difficult to provide, Avetta states on their web site that they’ll gladly assist, at an additional cost.
A cottage industry has sprung up to assist Avetta applicants, with one company stating that they “will provide all the safety programs needed to pass your Avetta manual audit.”
That is a key concern of many contracting executives that were interviewed since they reason it will allow companies that do not properly train their employees to be compliant while putting their workers at risk.
Below, Avetta answered 18 questions provided by Wireless Estimator, addressing contractor apprehensions. Comments to their replies can be posted on Wireless Estimator’s Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter pages.
Avetta said that if it made sense, they would certainly be willing to create a specific Telecom Advisory Board to address future issues and develop a template and specifications that would have an accepted commonality that follows industry standards and best practices.
Avetta said that the BROWZ integration will not be completed until September 30, 2020.
NATE will have an educational session entitled “Understanding Compliance Companies” on February 18, 2020, during its NATE UNITE 2020 conference in Raleigh, N.C.
Avetta Management Questions and Answers
1. BROWZ and Avetta announced the merger of the two companies on February 14, 2019. On October 8, 2019, an Avetta support representative said in an email that “…BROWZ and Avetta are not the same company as the merger has not finished and the Tax IDs are different…”. Is that a correct statement? If not, when did you close?
While the acquisition has been completed for some time now (February of this year), as per the information we shared at the announcement, we needed additional time to merge systems and move customers over to a new system from one they’ve been using. We’ve been working with each customer on a case-by-case basis to migrate them on a timeline that is sensible and logical. We expect migrations to be completed by the end of Q3 2020.
2. Wireless Estimator interviewed 23 contractors and some of them were getting invoices from Avetta and Browz or had paid for the services of both companies for several years. They expected that the merged company would be able to provide a single platform that would benefit contractors. If you did close in February, why after nine months has that not been accomplished and when can contractors and suppliers expect that to be completed?
Migration of BROWZ customers to the Avetta platform has been in process since shortly after the merger was announced. For the benefit of both Clients and Suppliers, we are taking a responsible approach to migration by focusing on a handful of clients at a time to ensure a smooth transition. Trying to transition hundreds of clients and tens of thousands of Suppliers is a huge undertaking. Also, there were several clients in various stages of the sales and implementation cycle when the deal closed. Rather than halt that process, we moved forward to avoid interruption of implementation. For the clients and suppliers currently using both Avetta and BROWZ solutions, the consolidation into one platform will significantly simplify the prequalification and account maintenance process. Over time, we will migrate BROWZ clients to the Avetta Connect platform. We will also migrate Suppliers to a single system for prequalification and account maintenance, rather than maintaining two accounts.
3. If a contractor was using Browz to be compliant with Crown Castle or other clients, and utilizing Avetta’s services for clients such as T-Mobile and SBA Communications, will they see a reduction in pricing once Crown Castle is managed under the Avetta umbrella?
Pricing within Avetta and BROWZ platforms is based on the number of suppliers for which vetting must take place. We evaluate pricing decisions from the perspective of how they can generate value for our customers.
4. In social media posts some contractors said they were being charged by Avetta and Browz for the same client and that Avetta was ‘double-dipping’. Is this possible?
It is possible, but not prevalent and is not an attempt to “double dip.” Different divisions of some companies may have opted to use different contractor management platforms. One area of a company may have selected the BROWZ platform, whereas another area may be utilizing Avetta. In this case, clients may require their suppliers to use both platforms. Each platform has a different set of compliance requirements. As the platforms are merged, this situation will be alleviated. We are working with customers to combine platforms as soon as they can make the transition. Also, prior to the merger, suppliers were paying both companies separately, so the combination isn’t a net increase for the suppliers and as the migration is completed, the suppliers should see both productivity and cost improvements verses their pre-merger spending.
5. Will current contractors see a reduction in their Avetta pricing within the next six months? An increase?
Future pricing changes are not fully developed at this time. All pricing decisions are evaluated from the perspective of how they can generate value for our customers. Any changes in the future will be communicated to our suppliers in advance.
6. The primary concern registered by all contractors is that once Browz’s clients are fully engaged in using Avetta’s platform that contractor onboarding pricing will escalate due to what they perceive as Avetta becoming a monopoly. Since you currently manage most of the major carriers and towercos, can you appreciate their concern? How can you alleviate their apprehension?
While Avetta has many customers in the telecom sector, the company competes in various customer industries with numerous competitors. Market pricing is generally set by competition in the broader market across various industries because we have suppliers who cross over multiple customer markets and industries. We will continue to establish pricing in the context of the broader market of competition rather than pricing per individual markets or industries.
Additionally, Avetta highly values both Clients and Suppliers. That is why only Avetta provides a unique environment where Suppliers can save money on products and services they use to drive their business every day. The Avetta Marketplace provides significant discounts on many unique offerings such as insurance, safety products and other related services. Our support for Supplier relationships is underscored by the “network community” we’ve created, and by the solutions we’ve developed to address their unique challenges and goals. By negotiating with industry-leading organizations, we can provide Suppliers with access to valuable offers and discounts. Through the Avetta Marketplace, Suppliers are saving tens of thousands of dollars on products and services they use each day to grow their businesses.
Our end goal is to help Suppliers achieve and maintain a compliant status as quickly and efficiently as possible. We strive to put the customer first by investing in excellent customer care, which is why we have the highest Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the Supply Chain Risk Management Industry, a full 12 points higher than the B2B average. We provide customer service in more than 18 languages around the globe to help Suppliers achieve and maintain compliance so they can focus on running their business.
7. If your answer is that there are other companies such as ISNetworld that could easily be competitive and perform qualification services and improve workplace safety — preventing you from monopolizing required services — please explain how a client could easily transition to a competitor if it is taking Avetta nine-plus months to merge Browz’s clients when you already possess their templated requirements and contractor data, information that is unlikely to be provided to another contractor management service company?
There is an abundance of competition in the marketplace. While sales cycles to implementation can take several months, companies can switch providers. Clients choose their platform based on solutions that best fit their needs. Avetta’s configurability, functionality, global coverage and customer service make it a compelling offer for any company needing to vet contractors and suppliers.
8. Did it take almost two years to get SBA Communications’ contractors into your system?
The supply chains of clients evolve and rationalize over time. The process of onboarding contractors and suppliers is an ongoing process that is unique to each client’s needs and circumstances and does not remain stagnant in healthy value chains
9. In an Avetta white paper, SBA Communications lauded your services, stating that prior to becoming an Avetta client they didn’t have the staff to go into each of their 2,500 contractor’s file and review their safety manual’s content, insurance coverage, and ensure they met all of their requirements, and it saved them over $100,000 a year in employee costs. Why should a contractor have to pay for SBA’s and other clients’ onboarding and management services known as ‘pay to play’, that would normally be managed or borne by the originator, as is the current case with American Tower, Vertical Bridge and U.S. Cellular? As one contracting executive defined it: Their choice = their responsibility.
Safety is the responsibility of both clients and suppliers. As with most SaaS-based network businesses, costs are shared by buyers and sellers and generally include a membership fee. Market factors drive pricing. The compliance evaluations and verification are ultimately the supplier’s data.
10. Does Avetta provide a layer of indemnity to their clients and accept any liability for contractor actions?
Contractors are responsible for their own conduct, and Avetta does not provide indemnity or accept any liability for contractors’ actions. Instead, Avetta provides a streamlined platform so that clients and suppliers may obtain and provide the information they need to allow them to make informed business decisions
11. Avetta, like other supply chain risk management companies (SCRM), states that it can save lives in the telecommunications industry supply chain, as it has been doing for the past two decades. If that can’t be documented, can you posit why in the past four years fatalities have remained the same or increased, such as in 2017, with some of the deaths being employees of Avetta clients, or working on Avetta’s/Browz’s clients’ sites?
Avetta provides technology and professional services to support client requirements and best practices throughout the supply chain life cycle. We can quantify, that on average, Avetta clients see a 58% reduction in on-site incidents, meaning Avetta facilitates safer workplace environments. It is a logical inference that safer workplaces have an impact on incidents and more importantly, on fatalities. A large chemical company client, for example, saw a 74% reduction in Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) as a result of implementing the Avetta solution.
12. SCRMs and Avetta state that they have reduced accidents. Since lower worker compensation claims and rates aren’t necessarily an accurate barometer due to class code reclassifications and a tendency by some contractors to not accurately report injuries, what data does Avetta use to document the reductions?
At Avetta, we utilize both lagging and leading indicators as industry standards to measure safety performance improvements. Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) is used to track total incidents/injuries. Days Away Restricted Time (DART) and Lost Time Incident Rate (LTIR) are used to track more severe incident rates. Experience Modification Rates are also utilized by some clients. As our system is configured to our clients’ needs, more leading indicators such as real time performance reviews and ratings are also a powerful indicator of safety results. We utilize the validated reported data from suppliers and clients to provide all relevant KPIs.
13. A frequent concern, according to contractors that were interviewed, is their inability to escalate a compliance issue to someone more knowledgeable of the exacting disciplines required in wireless construction. Is Avetta aware of this concern and will it be taking steps to address it?
Yes. Avetta facilitates a variance request process that enables clients to communicate with their suppliers about these kinds of issues
14. In addition to annual compliance fees, contractors are additionally burdened because it can take anywhere between 40 to 80-hours or more to become compliant with one client. They state that each client is treated as a separate entity; therefore, some information already in the possession of Avetta must be resubmitted again. Does Avetta have plans to resolve this issue? If not, why is it not possible?
In most cases, it doesn’t take 40-80 hours to achieve compliance. This process is based on the time it takes Suppliers to provide proper documentation. For clients and suppliers currently using both Avetta and BROWZ solutions, the consolidation into one platform will greatly simplify the prequalification and account maintenance process. Over time, we will migrate BROWZ clients to Avetta Connect. We will also migrate Supplier data to provide a single system for prequalification and account maintenance rather than requiring suppliers to maintain two accounts. The information provided by suppliers can be shared across multiple clients when appropriate.
15. Will Avetta consider the formation of an advisory board of telecommunications industry stakeholders to address perceived and/or real issues affecting contractors? Would Avetta entertain telecommunications clients getting involved as well so that their template and specifications would have an accepted commonality that follows industry standards and best practices?
As an example, a client might request to know if the contractor provides excavation services. If they check yes, they will most likely have to add trench box safety requirements and other protective system safety measures. Having an additional selection for trenching under 5 feet could resolve that need.
Also, there appears to be a requirement of one carrier that details in RF exposure notes that the contractor will inventory “source” all RF, document and provide field strength calculations at every site. That is clearly an obligation that a contractor is neither equipped to handle nor required to do.
Currently, Avetta hosts an Advisory Board that includes representation from many industries, including the telecom sector. We are always looking to expand the Advisory board and if it made sense, would certainly be willing to create a specific Telecom Advisory Board.
16. There is a consensus belief that with all SCRMs, many contractors add regulations or change the wording in their safety and health manuals to be compliant, but never train their employees on those changes hoping that they’ll not have an accident that could cause a serious or willful OSHA violation. Is there any way that Avetta can validate that the changes are being adhered to by all the contractor’s employees?
All companies are responsible for following their own policies. SCRM systems help to ensure that companies have the right policies in place. Avetta performs implementation and field audits at a client’s request to report information and assist in verifying compliance with stated policies, but it does not assume any responsibility for companies’ compliance with their own policies
17. Avetta recently launched Marketplace, a resource for contractors to purchase discounted safety products, insurance, and safety-related services. Do you have plans for additional benefits for contractors?
It is very important to Avetta that suppliers and contractors find value in the network. Avetta recently launched Marketplace, which is the first of its kind in the industry. We are routinely adding new vendors, products and services and will continue to do so to help Suppliers gain pricing economies of scale on the products and services they use every day.
18. Do you have any additional comments regarding the Avetta/Browz merger?
Avetta and BROWZ combine more than three decades of experience in making industries safer, more sustainable and compliant by vetting and qualifying the suppliers that support their global clients. Avetta and BROWZ’s over 400 combined clients include blue-chip companies in industry verticals such as energy, chemicals, manufacturing, utilities, construction materials, facilities management, communications, transportation, logistics & retail, mining, aerospace & defense, and food and beverage. These industry leaders require better visibility into supply chain risks, such as workplace health and safety, sustainability, modern slavery, data privacy, anti-bribery and corruption, regulatory and insurance compliance. Together, the companies’ market-leading technology platform and products strengthen sustainable connections between clients and suppliers, while streamlining and simplifying the engagement process for both parties. Avetta and BROWZ share a common vision of putting customers first and a belief that the solutions we offer to clients should be configurable to address the specific needs and requirements of their client base across industries and geographies.