Project Management Institute

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Entel's PMP® Helps the Chilean Telecom Company Handle Growing Complexity

BY TEGAN JONES

PORTRAITS BY ALEJANDRO VALDES DEL RIO

Latin America has come online in full force over the last decade—and Chile has emerged as its digital frontrunner. Nearly 4 in 5 adults can access the internet, and 65 percent own a smartphone—more than any other country in the region. The government plans to increase connectivity even more: It aims to double internet penetration by 2020, including launching free Wi-Fi hot spots in every community and boosting home access to 80 percent.

Entel, Chile's largest telecommunications company and a PMI Global Executive Council member, seeks to capitalize on the country's growing digital economy by upgrading its infrastructure and installing the fourth generation (4G) network customers crave, says Patricio Pérez, chief strategy officer, Entel, Santiago, Chile.

“Our strategy is focused on the quality of service that we provide to customers,” he says. “The portfolio of projects is coordinated and aligned to this strategy.”

Customer satisfaction is particularly important in the telecom sector, which is characterized by fast-changing technologies and expectations. With all mobile phone carriers required to sell devices that work on any network, customers can easily switch to—or from— Entel's competitors.

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From left, Andrés Salinger, PMO consultant; Santiago Villarroel Ávila, PMO deputy manager; Patricio Pérez, chief strategy officer, Entel, Santiago, Chile

To maintain its market leadership in Chile and successfully expand into Peru, where regulations differ, Entel relies on its project management office (PMO), Mr. Pérez says.

“We need to deliver a very complex set of projects. And the PMO gives us the capacity to properly manage that complexity,” he says. “The PMO gives us a competitive advantage.”

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O'Higgins Avenue in Santiago, Chile, with Entel tower in distance at center

PHOTO BY RUSSELL KORD / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

In the telecom sector, building out and upgrading network infrastructure is the way to reach new customers. That's why Entel plans to invest US$3.5 billion in enhanced service offerings between 2016 and 2020. The organization's large project portfolio helps it defend and grow its market share. It executes more than 700 projects per year with combined budgets of roughly US$500 million.

“We need to deliver a very complex set of projects. And the PMO gives us the capacity to properly manage that complexity.”

—Patricio Pérez, Entel, Santiago, Chile

To keep strategic projects and programs on schedule, Entel launched its enterprise-wide PMO in 2007. This office, which oversees PMOs in seven departments, has rolled out standardized project management practices to help keep projects on track and deliver intended business results.

“The PMO is the driver to achieve the strategic goals,” says Santiago Villarroel Ávila, PMO deputy manager, Entel, Santiago, Chile. “When you have good performance, a good maturity level in project management, it's easier to achieve the strategic goal.”

37%
Entel's market share of mobile phone subscriptions in Chile

65%
Entel's mobile broadband market share in Chile

The PMO's portfolio management approach supports strategic alignment by using a single lens to identify, prioritize and initiate the projects with the best business cases. Centralizing the project selection process also allows the PMO to find synergies and avoid redundancies between tasks—and sometimes postpone anything less than mission critical.

“You need to be very flexible in order to adjust your strategy and run the right initiatives at the right time,” Mr. Pérez says. “So there is a strong commitment from the whole team that we need to be managed by the PMO.”

PMO leaders also create an annual roadmap for strategy execution that is shared across the organization. The roadmap is supported by standardized processes based on PMI standards, including those in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

The PMO also helps drive business results by completing periodic Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®) assessments. A 2016 assessment showed maturity growth of 18 percentage points above the previous assessment conducted in 2012. Measuring the value of its processes and implementing new methodologies as needed helps Entel continually improve project performance.

“Based on the OPM3 results, we create an improvement plan,” says Andrés Salinger, PMO consultant, Entel, Santiago, Chile.

For example, after the 2012 assessment, the PMO focused on rolling out stronger program management methodologies based on PMI's standards. That initiative included a model allowing Entel to measure the specific benefits each program provides to the company; the model links the results of a program's projects back to the organization's strategy.

But the PMO doesn't wait to push changes until another OPM3® assessment is complete. It makes updates to improve project management practices every six months. This process gives project teams an up-to-date, detailed guide describing how Entel wants projects to be run.

This type of ongoing engagement helps the PMO make the greatest possible impact on the bottom line, says Mr. Villarroel Ávila. “The PMO needs to show, every day, how it can add value to the business.”

UP THE LADDER

Entel has a firm handle on best practices and processes. But to ensure benefits aligned to strategy are produced, the company also focuses on developing its people, says Mr. Salinger.

First Data, Then Decisions

Entel senior executives need lots of data to make the right decisions at the right speed. Before the enterprise-wide PMO was in place, visibility into the health and benefits of projects and programs could be the exception. Now, the PMO provides executives with regular high-level status reports that drive the decision-making process.

The PMO is charged with tracking strategic alignment and measuring the benefits projects and programs deliver, including customer satisfaction, ROI and operational efficiency. But it also digs deeper. For instance, the PMO measures schedule and investment deviation, and process usage and adherence, in order to compare projects across the portfolio.

Using these metrics, the PMO identifies areas for improvement and defines future action plans. Collecting and analyzing project, program and portfolio data gives Entel the insights it needs to stay ahead of the competition, says Patricio Pérez, chief strategy officer, Entel, Santiago, Chile.

“We are able to align the organization and have the best quality of service, coverage and data speeds—while supporting our financial key performance indicators,” he says.

“The PMO maintains C-suite support by showing projects deliver real benefits for the company,” he says. “And it does this by developing project managers' capabilities.”

The project management competency model (PMCM) supports the continuous improvement of people doing project work at Entel. Created by the PMO and human resources department, this model outlines the key competencies the organization's more than 400 project professionals must develop to advance. These requirements incorporate input from senior executives and align with PMI's Project Manager Competency Development Framework and the PMI Talent Triangle®. (The Talent Triangle encompasses technical, leadership and business management skills.)

Growing Satisfaction

81%
Results of a net satisfaction index measuring internal client satisfaction with how projects were managed in the fourth quarter of 2014

90%
Index results for the fourth quarter of 2015

97%
Index results for the third quarter of 2016

The PMCM also defines career paths for five project professional roles: project engineer, project manager, senior project manager, program manager and portfolio manager. Each path details the objectives, performance goals, requirements and competencies team members need to reach the next level.

“The PMO needs to create capability in the organization,” Mr. Villarroel Ávila says. “The project and program manager roles are some of the most important in the company. So we have very specific competency models, which collectively give them more than 10,000 man-hours of training per year.”

Entel's training plans, created jointly by the PMO and the human resources department, align to the five career paths to support team members' professional development. Determined to break down organizational silos, the PMO also helps facilitate communication across departments through knowledge transfer initiatives, including lectures, seminars and newsletters.

By helping people improve their skills and advance in their careers, the company aims to attract and retain the best project talent in Chile. Its efforts are working, Mr. Salinger says, noting that Entel's staff turnover rate is well below its industry's average rate. “People want to work here,” he says. “They know they can follow a career path, and they develop a competitive advantage in the market.”

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“When you have good performance, a good maturity level in project management, it's easier to achieve the strategic goal.”

—Santiago Villarroel Ávila, Entel, left

The PMCM also helped improve Entel's recruitment process by establishing criteria that all project talent need to meet in order to be hired. This has ensured all new project professionals come to the table with the required competencies. Looking for people with the right experience—and PMI certifications—has made the company's training program more efficient, as most new hires don't need to start with basic project management courses.

“People with PMI certifications know PMI's standardized practices, which means they can deliver better results,” Mr. Salinger says.

NEW HORIZONS

Maturing processes and improving talent management across Entel has made a big difference. For instance, between 2015 and 2016, the company's operations department, which in part executes technology projects for enterprise clients, set a new bar for success. Its projects' overall budget deviation improved from 9 percent over baseline to 4 percent under baseline.

Positive results have increased the PMO's support among senior leaders and across the organization. A 2015 survey of the PMO's internal clients showed respondents were 90 percent satisfied with how projects were being managed. And the C-suite has shown its appreciation by increasing the PMO's budget five times since 2007. Entel sees this as an investment to help the company compete in an increasingly challenging marketplace, Mr. Pérez says.

“In the future, all companies will need to manage complexity,” he says. “If you don't have the capacities a PMO provides, you will not be able to compete and make the right decisions.”

Mr. Pérez believes the PMO will help Entel navigate impending disruptions. Internet of Things technology, for instance, will change the industry by allowing telecommunications companies to offer new services to customers. Whether organizations want to track goods across the supply chain or monitor their patients' biometric devices, they will need a network to connect all that tech.

“We think we can give our clients the capacity to be competitive in their respective industries,” he says.

The PMO also is helping Entel expand beyond Chile for the first time since its founding more than 50 years ago. In 2013, the company set up shop in Peru, which has involved programs and projects that must meet a new set of industry regulations. The success of these expansion projects has depended on the company's ability to deploy new infrastructure on time and on budget.

As Entel enters this new competitive market, it's relying on the same strategy that has worked in Chile for decades, Mr. Pérez says: providing the best possible service and customer experience. To ensure that, the organization is carrying out a knowledge transfer process that will embed all the PMO-backed methodologies, processes and capabilities that have driven success in Chile into its Peruvian project activities.

“The PMO maintains C-suite support by showing projects deliver real benefits for the company.”

—Andrés Salinger, Entel

In order to make customers happy, “you need to deploy all your projects in the right way,” he says. “The PMO brings the capacities to do that. It gives you the chance to succeed.” PM

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