Challenges and extreme Project management in the Telco industry

First, let us underline the fact that today’s projects are much different from those 10 or even 20 years ago. We owe this change mostly to the introduction of the internet and digitalization and hence – automation. Also, how we plan, organize, and execute projects pretty much changed, so we can say that the Telco projects had undergone a true revolution, just like any other industry’s projects.

Even before all this novelty, managing projects in the Telco industry has never been an easy task. No matter the size and complexity, Telco projects require the ability and great knowledge of Project Management methodology. Telco managers must control the work execution while, at the same time – they wave rolling planning projects, analyzing new constraints and requirements, and compressing time and costs. On top of that, they are in charge of maintaining efficient communication between all members of the team and between distributed stakeholders, too.

Strong competition among operators does not make things easier. 

Project managers face business strategy changes, goal shifts, and compelling searches for competitive advantages like new technologies, services, and offerings. And they handle all that while reducing time to market.

This situation results in unexpected turnarounds in strategies, project scope fluctuations, variations in constraints, and project milestones shifting.

What does it mean?

It means that project requirements can change on daily basis and teams are expected to handle those situations fluidly – overlapping the complexity and mutual interdependencies among systems, budget compressions, crisis, financial shortage, mergers and acquisitions, consolidations, re-organizations, and many more obstacles that might come.

When you add to that all the cultural differences, geographic distance, or different stakeholders’ needs – things get even more complicated. All in all, telco management today is rather challenging, and project managers and their teams must be ready to follow various scenarios to reduce change impacts.

Extreme project management (XPM)

The fact is that the entire telco industry should turn to so-called extreme project management. It’s a method of managing extremely complex and therefore – pretty uncertain projects. This approach differs from traditional project management as it is open and flexible, focusing on the human side of project management rather than on intricate scheduling techniques or strict formalism.

Traditional project management is usually adopted for linear work, free of any serious u-turns or any sort of changes, while extreme project management is ideal for fast-speed projects with not-so-predictable results.

Doug DeCarlo, a Software Engineer at Google NYC (formerly, Assoc. Prof of Computer Science at Rutgers defined extreme projects as “complex, self-correcting venture in search of the desired result”.

Extreme projects are characterized mainly by the low possibility of failure, short deadlines, and essential innovation – as Wikipedia states.

You might stumble upon the information that the extreme project management life cycle model proceeds from phase to phase based on very limited knowledge of goal and solution – where each phase “learns” from the former ones, redirecting the next phase in an attempt to converge on an acceptable goal and solution.

So, what kind of leaders and team mindset extreme project management requires?

Mindset is defined as “a set of beliefs and assumptions about how the world works” (Douglas DeCarlo). A specific mindset is very important and can be considered one of the critical assets of extreme project management. For a team that adopted this approach, it is quite normal to have chaotic project activities, the uncertainty of a project that is somewhat uncontrollable, and spontaneous changes during the processes. Also, XPM increases security within the company.

The extreme project manager

A project manager who runs the entire show must-have skills like strong administrative credibility, political sensitivity, and leadership artistry. His main tasks are negotiating, communicating with all parties, dealing with obstacles, and keeping a balance within the team, motivating them constantly.

Also, he or she must be aware that the detailed and constant analysis within the extreme project management is the safest way for the clients to know the benefits that will be gained.

Bottom line is that XPM (Extreme project management) helps the manager to manage the unknown. And when we say the unknown – we mean all those variables that change and turn up as an extreme project progresses. The XPM teams must be willing to make several attempts to get it right instead of simply focusing on completing everything after the first attempt.

Extreme management in the Telco industry

The change of global legal regulations within the Telco industry created a hypercompetitive market. This means that, if they want to keep on swimming, Telco organizations must create a constant stream of new products to market, in order to survive. Also, they must grow continuously. 

New technology challenges

New technology brings out at the table a whole new set of challenges and conditions to be fulfilled. For example, when it comes to a new technology, the first challenge is to get all stakeholders’ agreement on the project scope. This attaches new problems – different expectations and assumptions about new, sometimes immature technology. It is unknown, unfamiliar, unidentified and for that – it can cause delays, risks, prolonging the delivery date, and even the entire project!

What happens very often is that most Telco companies select an area to beat their competition, opening a gap between them by offering completely new solutions, products, services, and technologies. However, this does not come without a cost or a risk – being the first means you have to pay a high price for such novelty and prepare for the cost of solving early adopters’ problems. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t attract new customers who value such an innovative product, but instead, you end up paying the high price and not gaining new customers in return. 

It is safe to say that extreme project management is perfect for the Telco industry. Mostly because this industry requires fast-paced work due to its highly complex project needs and outcomes with a lot of frequent changes to the project requirements as the project progresses. Also, we must count on a trial-and-error approach to see what works and a self-correcting process when things go wrong. As most of the projects are people-driven instead of process-driven, Telco teams don’t adapt their projects to fit the model, they rather adapt models to fit the project!

Extreme project management is an answer to the industry’s challenges.

This kind of open and pretty much flexible approach is the perfect solution for all the challenges that are coming our way. For example, the ever-growing need for traditional communications services is losing its battle. The process of digitization today moves at a much faster pace. Every organization must have a presence in the cloud to adhere to consumer expectations, and compete in their industry, while, at the same time, they must protect themselves against potential issues. This means that the security and the threat of data breaches continue to be a common trend for the challenges in days before us. The demand for better security will still be in the focus, together with efforts to ensure that people continue to feel safe in this rapidly virtual environment. Having in mind that society today demands telecom companies to guarantee their transparency towards consumers and clients about how they use data, Telco companies will have to ensure that they have the right systems to track the flow of information from beginning to end.

New era, new telco. Does this look like it can benefit from the old-school concept?


So, let’s go slowly into this transition, as this is what it is. A transition to an extreme PM.

We don’t think so, as well. For starters, go and combine until you find a perfect blend of classical and extreme project management. You can combine traditional and expert techniques, like change management, stakeholder satisfaction, virtual teams management, and, scheduling and cost compression.

And now comes the paradox. While adopting a new approach, extreme project management, project managers must keep it simple. Yes, we know, it sounds a bit off, but it is the safest way to implement a new type of project management that is smart, complex, and – extreme!

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