Demanding reinvention for Telco companies – A closer connection between projects and strategy

During the past decade, the Telco industry suffered a great deal of pressure due to the traditional value pool’s erosion. The pandemic only accelerated this process and made the past year a redefining moment for the industry. 

The companies who recognize that an early move to reconstruction and change is the best way out of a crisis – are the ones that will most definitely come out ahead in the future.  This means that the only way the next generation of telcos will survive this roller-coaster is if it has strong leadership that  is not afraid to take action and risk short-term advantages for the sake of a more holistic approach to transformation.

Telco strategies today

We can blame the pandemic as much as we want, but the fact is that even before this setback, the telecom industry was already grappling with disruption. The changes in its current business model already redefined its service-delivery and value-capture models. 

So, what did telcos opt for when faced with new challenges?

Most of them decided to go with a blend of efficiency measures, digitization efforts, structural changes (like network sharing), and productivity improvements. Others tried to fit some new ventures into their portfolio – such as TV and communications technology (ICT), hoping to increase revenue streams. 

Was it successful?

While it brought in some results, there were still obstacles to overcome.

As the crisis continued to hit harder and harder, they put their efforts into finding new avenues to relieve the tension they’ve been put under. One of those is adopting rapid decision-making and new response processes across the board—from assurance to credit decision making to pricing—with a focus on the customer. That was rather clever as what happened next was an incredible customer behavior leap. No less than five to ten years ahead.

Consumers started moving online, increasingly embracing self-service customer care. In parallel, remote learning, gaming, and videoconferencing grew dramatically. All these trends added additional work. While the pandemic was making operations more difficult, the new ways of life were putting the pressure on the telecommunications industry to keep everyone connected.

The fact is that 2021 made telco leaders think hard about every new step their company will take. They have a choice and it’s still not too late to put their focus into creating a long-term strategy that takes change and disruption into account.

And for that, taking a look at how new projects are managed is surely needed. We all know that a corporate business strategy identifies the long-term goals of a company and defines ways of achieving those goals. On the other hand, a project manager takes on short-term project goals and manages costs, schedules, and resources to give the desired result. 

Business strategy uses projects to further its goals, whereas projects are steps in the overall process that use the strategy as their guiding star. Aligning them is the challenging part.

Where strategy meets project management

What does the reimagined Telco future look like

Well, for starters, leaders should define their vision. Telco leaders need to take a future-back approach, reverse engineering that vision into action steps while fundamentally changing the business strategy of their organization. 

Projects have been a central activity in most companies and in particular in the telecommunications industry, due to the dynamic market and the high competition. A common occurrence in many organizations is that many large projects have been executed with no strong link to and no consideration for the business strategy or organizational goals. 

This disparity can be linked to both internal and external factors. Internal factors often include communication between the project manager and the project sponsor (executive), project manager leadership competence, involving the project manager in the strategy development, and the executive’s commitment. The external factors are composed of vendors, contractors, government agencies, and a dynamic market. 

What Telcos can do to overcome this, is take some time to focus on creating a project strategy that is often lacking. Research and experience indicate that some internal strengths such as good communication across the organization, the competence, and leadership of the project manager, and the executive’s willingness to incorporate all relevant stakeholders into decision making can play an important role in aligning management of large projects to business strategy. 

Encouraging project managers to play a role in forming strategies is one of the important managerial challenges for telco companies to overcome. 

Companies can be sure that they’re on the right track when strategic priorities at the functional level align with and support business- level strategies. Alignment of priorities is supposed to contribute to enhanced organizational performance as well as the project’s success, just as misalignment is expected to weaken performance and the project success. 

At this point in the game, it’s important to keep moving forward. While looking into past best practices is often the go-to for making big decisions, now might be the time to change that. Relevant data, input from key team members, and set future goals are great starting points for building your new strategy.

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