CSPs’ Role in Multi-Stakeholder Telecom Projects

Posted: November 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Behind the Scenes | Tags: , , | Comments Off on CSPs’ Role in Multi-Stakeholder Telecom Projects

Recently, the U.S. Air Force announced that it is shutting down its next-generation, billion-dollar logistics management software project after its implementation was consistently stalled, and goals went unmet. This multi-stakeholder project started in 2005 and was designed to save billions of dollars by streamlining supply chain management and replacing more than 200 legacy IT systems and 500 interfaces. With such promising benefits, the decision to scrap this project raises more questions than answers: Why did it take so long, and so much money, to realise this project wasn’t going to pan out? What planning process was in place that allowed this to happen?

Drawing Parallels with Telecom and OSS Projects

Projects in the telecom industry have similar implementation challenges, especially because of the numerous stakeholders involved like network suppliers, OSS/BSS vendors, system integrators, VAS providers, in-house IT and various communications service provider (CSP) departments. Such a landscape of not just stakeholders but also systems and processes results in high complexity and risk, meaning there are many ways project execution can go wrong. For instance, individual vendors may promise more than they can deliver, system integrators might not take end-to-end responsibility, and CSPs could miss some important details. These gaps in ownerships, stakes, understandings, initiatives and interoperability create a snowball effect over time, leading to project delays that could mean disaster.

Insistence on Collective Responsibility

To help prevent this, it’s important for CSPs to be very knowledgeable about the big picture apart from being very detail oriented. Knowing the big picture ensures that the CSP can keep a firm grasp on the various parties engaged, and to what capacity, as well as each party’s weight and significance during the course of a project. On the other hand, being detail-oriented ensures that the CSP knows how to negotiate a meaningful, clear and unrelenting scope of work for each party. The scope of work distributed across different stakeholders should be collectively exhaustive and aspects like dependencies and engagement service level agreements (SLAs) should be very clearly stated and agreed upon in advance.
This can ensure that any conflicts of interest are alleviated, so vendors can act in the best interest of the project at hand to guarantee its collective success. Vendors like Comptel can play a very leading and helpful role in bringing different parties together to agree on a clearly documented scope at the very outset. This can involve details such as key objectives, success factors, project scheduling and budgeting, and risks.

Ensuring a Collaborative Project Roadmap

In my opinion, the CSP’s role in ensuring a collaborative project roadmap involving OSS/BSS vendors and system integrators is crucial. CSPs can define project execution models at the very outset and play an important role in overall project leadership and governance to ensure delivery within the constraints of budget, time and scope.
Furthermore, it is the CSP’s leadership alone that can contain the many simultaneous business-to-business relationships at any cost and without letting any party indulge in a game of blames. Success being the only ultimate benchmark, CSPs should trickle it down to all of its suppliers in unequivocal terms.


Succeeding in OSS Project Engagements – Insights from MEA

Posted: November 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World, Behind the Scenes | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Succeeding in OSS Project Engagements – Insights from MEA

A learning organisation is the sum-total of the experiences of its people. At Comptel, we take great pride in having delivered on excellent projects, and the lessons we have learned through them are our prised possession. To a large extent, a distinctive pattern begins to emerge from the various projects and engagements conducted in each region. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) is no exception – its unique characteristics come through its many region-specific best practices, as well as the lessons and cultural themes we have accumulated through our commitment to our customers.

When it comes to the success of a project, leadership is an important aspect– from managing project charters and negotiating scopes, to resolving conflicts and involving stakeholders, to addressing resources and process implications. From my experience in MEA, I’ve seen six elements of success emerge that stem from strong leadership.

1. Trademarks
First, it is very important that a project be ‘trademarked’ both internally and externally. This should go hand-in-hand with the company’s corporate strategy and bear an inspiring slogan that attracts everyone’s contribution. Externally, with the customer, the trademark should bear in succinct terms the top 2-3 goals and objectives sought from the project. These should be posted at all times as the overriding milestones for all stakeholders, especially the customer. Internally, this should become more of a symbol that people can relate to in daily activities, when talking by the water coolers, for instance. Last, it should be attached to a group of influential sponsors, decision-makers and key participants, who can help develop an inclination across company ranks to make the project successful.

2. Strong Launch
The project should be kicked off like the Olympics. What I mean by this is that everyone should feel willing and ready to be a part of an exciting new journey. The most important thing is making sure that the project leadership is technology savvy and capable of understanding the complexities involved. A sense of control, responsibility, raw skill and effective management can only be inculcated by a project manager with extensive domain expertise. This, in my humble opinion, can be a deciding factor for a project’s success at the very outset. The project leader should then be able to recruit a balanced team and prepare for a strong launch.

3. Alignment
The project leader should have a comprehensive, organisation-wide understanding of the customer’s business units (e.g. commercial, network, human resources, finance), business processes (TM Forum standards can help), key stakeholders, parallel vendors and existing IT and systems landscape. This helps align the project to all of these various entities, so that any risk is taken care of proactively, and all parties/resources are marshaled to a collective success.

4. Clear Scope
It’s important that the project leader is actively involved alongside any sales staff in negotiating, understanding and freezing the scope of a project. The scope should be very clearly documented and have approval from all key stakeholders. This can involve details such as key objectives, success factors, project scheduling and budgeting, and risks. Again, it takes a project leader proficient in that domain to effectively record the different requirements, needs, assumptions and risks.

5. Communication
The project leader should be able to develop a very clear communications methodology to ensure transparency and a real-time window into the project’s workings. He or she should be able to identify ‘what messages’ need to be passed to ‘which stakeholders’ at ‘what intervals’ through ‘what methods and channels’ with ‘what level of severity’. The communications methodology should be able to integrate and harmonise the many artifacts of project communication including meetings, emails, progress reports, workshops and portals.

6. Motivation
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the project leader should strive to be a true source of motivation, energy and inspiration for the whole team. A confident and independent leader can take hold of a project without letting control sink away to distant and irrelevant corners of the organisation. He or she should be bold enough to take calculated risks and use the team’s best energies to create win-win situations with the customer. An effective project leader manages and resolves conflicts through creative ideas and through the power of communication. A dynamic leader is imaginative enough to adapt the fabric of the project to the changing strategic needs of the customer and of his or her own organisation. Finally,  he or she should be able to culminate all of these leadership themes into closing the project, celebrating it like a hard-earned victory, learning from its course and moving on to the next challenge with a bigger, more self-assured poise.

These types of leaders deliver on strategic opportunities, resulting in increased revenues through cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and references, and ultimately happier customers.