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Seven Steps to Address Top Challenges of Telco Network Deployment Projects

 Telco operators face the challenges of continuous network deployment waves as technology progresses (eg. copper/fiber for fixed access or 2G, 3G, 4G and soon 5G for mobile access networks).

These deployments are complex and highly stressful programs. They generally share the following characteristics:

  • They are complex by nature, frequently include a launch of the newest technologies and can encounter “quasi-infinite” combinations of field issues and a significant amount of “unknown unknowns.”
  • They are large projects, not only in terms of number of nodes deployed (thousands) and geography (nation-wide) but also in terms of variety of stakeholders both internal (business, project management and implementation) and external (all third party companies involved in project rollout).
  • They are stretched by the triangle of project constraints: time, cost and quality. They also represent operators’ public commitments to market and regulation authorities in terms of population coverage time and quality targets. And don’t forget the stringent cost control required internally.

This makes it critical to find the best way to navigate throughout your network deployment project. To better describe the Deployment Ecosystem paradigm, let’s take a metaphor from the aerospace domain. Think about the whole ecosystem: not only the plane itself including its flight crew (the project team), but also the supporting organization in the airport including the ground crew and the traffic control tower. What steps would be required for a successful end-to-end journey delivering full service value from check-in until the plane’s safe landing and the passengers leaving the airport?

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There are seven key steps: first four are “static” and last three are “dynamic.”

1. Build up the right Operation Factory (Organization, Processes and Tools). There is no way a large complex project can be executed and remain sustainable in the long run without the proper supporting organization, processes and tools: build the delivery factory! Deployment projects are definitely operation-based.

2. Select the right People. Multiple skills will be needed, for both ground and flying crews. Think holistically in terms of project team organization and capability rather than hoping the project manager has altogether the skills for strategy, planning, business, organization and execution! If not, be prepared for blind spots, gaps and burnout.

3. Acknowledge the Organization and Project Dynamics. There is a key “tipping point” in project lifecycle: when does your project production really start? Before you can reach full execution, you will have to go through preliminary phases from initiation (the what), planning (the how) to the establishment phase (are your people, tools and processes on-boarded and ready). This is definitely a prerequisite to the seamless and efficient execution of “the production tipping point.” No better recipe for failure than starting too fast!

4. Give room to maneuver. Before taking off, make sure you build the right plane: your project team! It should not only address corporate needs (such as capacity, cost, and consumption) but also pilots. Make sure project managers benefit from the very best environment for project execution and control. Particularly they need to have access to visual indicators and automatic alerts so they keep focus on the route and do not get distracted.

Now that static environment is all set, let’s move to dynamic steps. After takeoff phase, once the pilot has reached the “production tipping point,” they have three main duties throughout the journey: 1) focus on the route, 2) analyze input data and manage local issues, and 3) follow the current plan and continuously synchronize with the control tower team that owns the big picture.

5. Ensure you have an actionable, sustained, reliable, single source and flow of data. This is critical. Kerosene (resources, money) makes the plane move, but what about the flight itself? Without proper input data (real-time, accurate, sustained, integrated, shared, etc.) there is no accurate information on status, and no informed decision possible. The poorer your data, the poorer your project direction, as simple as that.

6. Have an adaptive plan. This is about project trajectory. Of course, a plan has to exist; of course, it has to be defined at the project start. No matter how experienced the project manager is, directional self-reliance is unlikely to make it in the long run in a shaking project environment. The plan has to be your best companion supporting you in reaching the goal. It has to be highly adaptive, connected to your input data flow. Like a GPS, the route is reprocessed constantly based on where your project is. The only thing that does not change is the objective (unless the organization acknowledges that it will never be met, and in that case plan is readjusted according to newly set objectives).

7. Ensure a global governance. Why global? Because it needs to combine execution by the project manager and management governance by the organization (micro vs. macro). We want the project manager to follow the plan, being focused on real-time events while being confident on data and technology. The management governance should monitor the project trajectory in light of the business objective. It should also ensure the security of the project when it is too much focused on short-term execution. It could intervene in case of deviation from the baseline, or alerting signs not captured by project manager while supporting flight (resources, plan adaptation when required).

In conclusion, the success of your deployments is held in your capability to set up the environment which manages delivery of complexity and volume, gives space to your project team, guarantees a high level of integration, and keeps alignment between projects and corporation strategic objectives!

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