Important start to a successful project

Early on in my project management career I was asked to take on a new project for an Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) billing and rating implementation. That was to be not any old project but our company’s first MVNO implementation, with a 3 months deadline for completion by far our fastest billing implementation at that time and yes of course there would be significant business fall-out if it were to fail or ended up being late. Our customer was one of the big System Integrators (SI) running the full business MVNO roll-out as subsidiary of a major Telco operator.

As it turned out, this was to be one of my most enjoyable projects delivering in budget and on time resulting in the MVNO business up and running successfully in time.

Up to this date I am convinced that it is the very first simple (phone) conversation I had with the SI Programme Manager in my capacity as our freshly appointed project manager, which set the foundation for our project success.

Following our friendly introductions and background information he re-emphasized the short and critical timeline and that henceforth they need us to start right away and by the way they had allocated their team to work with us over the next two weekends too.

That’s gaining us 4 “working”-days more right away. Helps getting things within what was perceived as very short timeline, so sounds good. So clearly, I happily agreed there and then, didn’t I? Well, I did not.

Indeed, I clarified that, yes a core team could be flying out to their site within the same week; however, whilst we would commit to working weekends, whenever there was a significant risk of running late and we were behind our plan, we would not base our first initial plan on working weekends and not leaving us any contingency should we need it. Instead, our plan would be based on the normal work days and scoping and design aim for what delivers the required benefits and we believe could be achieved by the deadline and should we then find a need to add days or consultants we will do so without hesitation.

Over the course of the 3 months (scoping, design, implementation, test and handover) we then hit 3 major challenges each of which had the potential to derail the project or as a minimum put the timeline at risk. Two of these required close collaboration and negotiation with the customer to get resolved and the third one required a lot of good will from the project team.

Because of this first phone interaction (as well as subsequent continued relationship building), the project team was confident I had their back and if I asked for extra work it was because it was really needed and most importantly by pushing back and explaining how we work, the customer started to trust us and accept that we would speak out as appropriate, that we knew what we do and that we would actively manage against the ever so critical timeline.

Great project, great team, great customer, great experience!