WDNI Blog: Tracing Paper

The Situation

Tracing paper allows you to copy an image, unless you draw outside the lines – then the image may be ruined. The same principle applies in the tracing of data sets. Most industries have more data than they can control – whether they’d admit it or not. And then there is the Tower Leasing industry – which has some of the more complex data sets and legal instruments of any industry. As it is often said, IYKYK (if you know you know). Having worked very closely with EVERY department which makes up a tower company, I found that the greatest challenge is sourcing a verified and validated record. Systems get migrated, deal makers leave the company and you’re often left managing a massive amount of disparate, unmapped, and disconnected data sets. And one mismanaged notice on a “Mona Lisa” site could cost you hundreds of thousands when you consider projected revenue (e.g. lease termination), site relocation costs, dismantling, hauling and more.

The Source

A Tower Company’s position on contractual, financial or service-related instruments is wholly and exclusively bound to the System of Record (SOR). When dealing with those records that were inherited through a merger or acquisition, you generally HAD to trust what you saw in the Virtual Data Room. So, you rarely have a complete and accurate picture of what you are seeing during the due diligence phase.  This can greatly impact, not only, the value of the target portfolio, but YOUR company’s long-term value – if you encounter risk you hadn’t prepared for. So, once you begin to consider data migration after the successful transaction, you find it so cumbersome that you decide to keep the original database in its original state as an archive. Oops…

The Reckoning

What happens next is you get a land lease notice to terminate. Then you get another. Then you scramble to analyze if it’s a specific set of leases. Then you wonder if other tranches of assets are vulnerable. The time to be proactive is well past and you’re stuck in a state of reactivity losing valuable time and money. Hopefully it’s just a handful of one-off land/site leases that weren’t aligned with the normal agreement terms assigned to the organic portfolio.

Well, I guess we’ll find out in time… Let’s just hope this doesn’t trigger a compliance incident. 


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