What skills do PMs need for managing large telco projects?

Ok, we are all very well aware of what the future holds. We sure hope there is no need whatsoever to explain what we mean. Everything changed and all that is left now is simply to adapt. No doubt, some new skills will be required and what we all can do now is simply decipher which ones.

In order to somehow future-proof citizens’ ability to work, those skills must be defined, precisely specified, and described.

So, shall we?

And, just to be clear. What follows goes for all PMs, not just for the Telco industry.

As a matter of fact, it concerns all PM handling big projects. This goes for  different PMs, their employees, their superiors… It goes for everybody who wants to adapt to the real world and take things into their own hands.

Here it goes.

Let’s just start with digital and AI technologies that keep on transforming the world of work. Don’t think twice to learn new skills and learn how to continually adapt as these new occupations loom. Add pandemic to it and you have a perfect setting for the scenario where jobs will be lost, as well as created – like automation, AI, and robotics take hold.

This means only one thing: future demand for technological, social, emotional, and higher cognitive skills will grow while, at the same time, the need for manual and physical skills, and basic cognitive ones, will decline!

The more labor market gets automated, digital, and dynamic – the more you will benefit from having a set of foundational skills that will help you fulfill the following three criteria, no matter the sector or the occupation:

  • add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines
  • operate in a digital environment
  • continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations

According to McKinsey’s research, there are four broad skill categories—cognitive, digital, interpersonal, and self-leadership. These are classified into 13 separate skill groups. For example, communication and mental flexibility are two skill groups belonging to the cognitive category. On the other hand, teamwork effectiveness goes to the interpersonal category.

Organized and conducted like that, the research came to some intriguing results. It turns out that employment was most strongly associated with proficiency in “adaptability,” “coping with uncertainty,” “synthesizing messages,” and “achievement orientation”.

When it comes to high incomes, a group of skills needed for its aptitude were understanding digital systems, software use and development, planning ways of working, and communication. Get the picture yet?

It is very simple. Digital proficiency seems to be notably linked with higher incomes. A professional with higher digital proficiency was 41 percent more likely to earn a top-quintile income than a professional with lower digital proficiency, according to McKinsey’s research.

Now might be the good time as any to ask yourself whether you have the ability to adapt to change? If you could also conceptualize complex multiple ideas all at once, you are very well set for the future of the employment market, as it means that you might be a resilient and advanced multi-tasker, highly valued by employers and recruiters nowadays.

The skills of judgment and decision-making

And now, for some good news. Even though AI is getting more sophisticated by the day and this technology could really be better and more efficient than humans when it comes to the calculations and diagnostic solving – it is still us who deal with the subjective side of data analytics, using data provided by our creation.

This makes skills like judgment and decision-making extremely valuable and still demanded in the future.

Emotional and social intelligence

Just like the previous set of skills, emotional and social intelligence also remain exclusively human capabilities. Hand in hand with a creative and innovative mindset – these abilities will open many doors.

Just keep your mind curious, and keep thinking outside the box, and you’ll be just fine.

But, keep in mind that a full ever-changing spectrum of competencies and approaches will be required. You need to be agile and quick to adapt in – what is becoming – a rapidly evolving and highly competitive environment.

Sales skills

Sales skills might be the answer as selling is getting its way to become a key part of the project manager’s toolkit. This is happening as the global situation, the uncertainty and rapid automation are quickly requiring for all of us to be better at advocating for the resources we need, the tools we have access to, and getting our ideas acted on. If you look at sales as some sort of art of persuading, the idea is much clearer, right?

The micro-managing and days of command-and-control are far behind us, so we need to change and adapt to that. In order to survive (in every sense of that word), nothing less.

Communication is a good place to start learning and changing. First of all, you need to understand how to communicate both in-person and online, high and low within the organizational hierarchy, and inside and outside of your organization. Create a constant and resistant mode for all types of communication, offering your interlocutor the very best of you. A small tip, now more important than ever. For the maximum impact and maximum utilization of your communication skills: Listen, understand, think and only then answer.

Telco PM

What is of crucial importance when it comes to managing projects in the Telco Industry? Most certainly it is the ability and excellent knowledge of project management.

The project manager must always keep in mind several aspects of PM – understanding, clear definition, and effective management of the project scope.

As each project will experience proposals for changes to the initially planned scope, they are initially planned to have that in mind, implementing all stages in an environment where continuous, significant, and rapid changes tend to happen. 

That is why Telco project managers need to manage and control work execution while, at the same time, they are analyzing new constraints and requirements, compressing time and costs. No doubt, today’s project managers in the Telco Industry are called to face tough times.

Extremely strong competition among operators forces sudden strategy changes, goal shifts, and the unresting quest for competitive advantages (like new technologies and new services and offerings) all – while reducing time to market.

Besides, complexity and mutual interdependencies among systems within the organization and constant budget compressions may cause quite a few rework cycles just to finalize the project scope and requirements.

So, what is necessary to face that kind of challenge?

As we said many times – flexibility is a must! Thinking forward attitude and neat knowledge of advanced project management methodologies are also a necessity.

Having all that in mind, the best possible solution to get a grip on any telco project (especially bigger ones) is to combine traditional and expert techniques, like change management, stakeholders satisfaction, virtual teams management, and, by all means – scheduling and cost compression.

Needless to say – efficient communication is mandatory.

The telecommunications industry spans many types of companies, with many different products, objectives, and operational modes. Also, this means that employees come from different fields and functional areas.

That is why all of them need to be considered as a unique team (managed by project managers), as much as possible.

For example, as some of their activities can overlap, project managers and engineers have very different jobs with different skill sets. It is of the utmost importance that they understand each other and have clean and clear communication in order to complete the job.

Whether the project implies developing a new service or new features for an existing service – the communications include complex, internal communications amongst them, following existing protocols on that matter, and providing terms and tools to be able to meet project deliverables.

The digital era we are witnessing is making us all consider even more that implementing projects successfully requires a whole new set of skills and different areas of focus for project managers. Traditional project management skills like teamwork, what we nowadays call – basic communication skills and the ability to build effective relationships are of less use today. It is what it is. Increasing demand for skills in digital literacy, critical thinking and creativity are taking over and if the organization allows itself to fail to respond to the new ‘requirement’ – it can and it will have some serious consequences in the project management sector, turning them quickly into dinosaurs.

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