Introduction to Project Management in Telecommunications

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This introductory chapter describes the telecommunications industry value chain in order to look at the types of companies in which telecommunications professionals work. A number of typical projects that might be encountered in telecommunications are described. These projects will be subsequently used to illustrate project management concepts throughout the book, although the illustrations will not be limited to these projects.

This chapter also introduces the general concepts of Project Management, with an overview of each area, as a basis for the more detailed discussion in the chapters to follow.

The telecommunications industry spans many types of companies, with very different products, objectives, and modes of operation. People in these companies work in many different functional areas, in various organization structures, within environments that range from highly stable, to, more often today, very precarious. Some telecom operating companies are traditional wireline telephone service providers, some provide long distance, and others offer wireless services or data communications or video. Many offer combinations of services. Regulatory environments vary from heavily regulated to completely open competitive markets. In addition, the customers they have vary from single line residential telephone subscribers to world wide corporate customers with complex voice/data/video networks on which their whole business livelihood depends. Some operators are small; others are among the largest companies in the world. In all of these telecom companies, people work on projects. And these projects are all expected to produce the desired results, within the assigned budgets, and by the required dates. Many projects will have a similarity as they tend to be concerned with similar things, such as creating and offering new products and services, installing or expanding their network infrastructure, changing processes and procedures (billing or customer care, for example) or implementing services for their individual customers. But each project will be unique because of size, location, complexity, environment, etc. Yet, all of these are telecommunications projects, and there are techniques and processes that apply in all of these situations.

Let us consider the high level view of the telecom environment. First, let us look at the value chain of the industry. The value chain consists of companies in many different businesses, all of which contribute to the industry. Figure 1 shows the types of businesses that make up this chain.

Working backwards from the right hand side, we first encounter the end user. Even here, we have quite a variety of profiles, and hence a variety of projects. The end user can be a residential consumer, using telephone service in his or her home. Or it can be a huge multinational business using voice, data, video and multimedia services in a business environment which needs to be secure and consistent in multiple countries around the world. And of course there is a wide range in between. Obviously, from both a telecommunications and also a project management perspective, the projects and the needs of these users are very different.

In fact, the services and the equipment that these users buy or lease vary in size, in complexity and also in the nature of the services. A service can be specifically within one technology area, such as a wireless service, or a network of automatic bank machines, or it can involve many technology areas that may or may not need to interact with each other.

What are some examples of telecommunications projects that might be undertaken by an end user? Obviously these are as varied as the user applications, so it would be totally impossible to list even all of the generic types. Following are some examples to aid in understanding the different types of telecommunications-related end user projects:

upgrading a company's computer systems to allow better data communication with their customers or easier access to their corporate information databases;

installing a new LAN with high speed wireless capability;

moving a department to a new building (with the focus here on the communications portion of the move)

setting up a "hotelling" office concept that has no assigned cubicles for workers, who will now simply pick up a cart when they arrive, and plug in the cart in any free cubicle, with the network able to locate them as if they were in a permanent location; developing a disaster recovery plan and selecting vendors to provide the required services;

implementing a new communications system, thereby moving from an environment which provides customer services on site to one in which a set of services is provided electronically via kiosks, handsets and computers;

implementing an e-commerce system to allow the company to sell existing and future products over the web, including the capability to advertise, accept order and payment, keep confidential information secure, provision the products and provide follow-up support for orders as required.

Thus, the product that any given project must produce, even for the end users, can be one of a very large number of types, sizes and complexities. If we are going to talk about Project Management for Telecommunications Managers, we need to cover the tools, techniques, processes and knowledge that can be applied successfully in any of these varied areas. These four areas are what this book will cover.

Moving one step up the chain we come to the Telecom Service Providers. Perhaps telecom is a misnomer today. This industry includes the traditional telecommunications, which has typically been voice service, with the addition many years ago of data service as well. The data service was initially provided as a separate service from voice, mainly because the technologies that supported and carried one service type were not the most efficient and effective technologies for another service type. This also happened because the companies that provided one of these services did not always provide both - either for business reasons or for regulatory reasons. Some projects involve voice services and networks, while others involve data, and still others involve a combination of the two. In addition to voice and data, there are many other services, such as video, or forms of multimedia services. But we cannot even stop here. Many telecom service providers do not provide the carriage of voice, or data etc at all. Many provide other specialized functions that enable the service providers and/or the end users to define their own business. These functions can be related to the network (e.g. network management), related to the user's business, (e.g. call centers), can involve providing a specific function of the overall service, (e.g. billing), or can include management of customer interactions in an electronic commerce type of service such as E-Bay.

The telecom services involved can consist of typical voice services, or Internet services, or software products that are added to the user's or provider's network to improve performance or provide functionality. Or they can consist of equipment integrated into the network to provide service or enhance service, such as a LAN that allows the small business to integrate all data services, or the messaging system that allows business users to pick up voice messages on email.

Again, there are many types of projects, with differing requirements on the project managers and their teams. Yet despite the specific product related needs, there are also many project management related requirements in common for all of these projects.

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