Project Management in Mobile Internet
A New Methodology based on True Success Stories
The Mobile Internet (MI) market is currently developing and creating the future revenue streams. Therefore a high revenue business yet has not been formed. Many MI players are experimenting with new services, building partnerships, developing business models, and marketing communication strategies to pave the way for the MI business expansion. In this developing market, there are various players from start-ups to big corporations in different markets such as advertising, movie, and even food industries. Most of these players are new to the telecom market and do not know much about telecom market dynamics or other players. In this complex picture, there are no regulations or laws set specifically to guide the MI businesses. Since high revenue businesses have not been completely formed yet, the budget assigned by companies for MI projects are small. As a consequence, project managers face projects with small budget, but they have still many difficult challenges to overcome. These challenges make management of these small projects rather complicated and difficult.
Project managers are the only group who can see the whole picture and fill the gaps by acting as a stabilizing force in the market. However, classical Project Management (PM) methodologies used in telecom market might not be effective enough to successfully complete MI projects. According to the MI market conditions, PM methodology should be dynamically changed and targeted. Past experiences have showed that the further measures have to be taken to complete MI projects successfully, and these measures are different from other telecom projects. In this paper, MI market nature is introduced and what changes should be made on the regular methodologies to overcome the problems in MI projects described. Two project examples, GPRSLand Project, 2001 and DigiVibes, 2003, are given to support the suggested methodology.
Mobile Internet is offering huge revenue potential for its interested parties. In West Europe alone, the market for mobile consumer services is likely to be worth up to €152 billion in 2008 (Strategy Analytics 2003). The success of NTT DoCoMo's subscription based i-mode portal in Japan, reached the world of operators, application and service providers. NTT DoCoMo generates an upside of more than 20 percent on top of its voice revenue with i-mode services (Bughin, et al. 2001)
On the other hand, Mobile Internet is still in its initial phase. There are a number of barriers that are preventing business growth. These include:
- - Status of market awareness,
- - Complexity of MI player map,
- - Lack of regulatory bodies,
- - Complicated and not well defined business models,
- - Low revenue streams.
These barriers seem difficult to overcome, especially for people who are only familiar the telecom industry. It is our belief, that in order to complete MI projects successfully, PM methodology is the key to success. However, classical PM methodologies alone are not going to be efficient in solving these problems. For that reason, the PM methodology should be dynamically designed according to the prevailing MI market conditions. In this paper, this methodology is investigated based on recent project experiences
MI Market Dynamics
As we mentioned above, the MI market is still in its early phase. Thus, most of the work in the market is creating market awareness. In order to sell and launch the services, the customers should understand “what is the mobile Internet” and Wwhat value-adds does the MI bring to their existing business.”
Interestingly, the MI market has been bringing new business models into existence. The only way to succeed in this market is for the new players to understand and harness these new business models. As shown in Exhibit 1, there are many players that have entered telecom market for the first time. In addition, the value chain between the players has not been well defined yet. Therefore, it is quite difficult for these players to convince each other to be in the same value chain. They have neither worked with each other, nor have they established any kind of a reputation.
Exhibit 1: MI Player Map (Camponovo 2002)
For example: Mobile advertising is a totally new concept. The classic advertising channels are through media companies, advertising agencies and advertisers. However, in the mobile world, network operators, startup wireless advertising companies, as well as other non-traditional channels have also had a large share. With this in mind, telecom players have actually started working with players in this new advertising market for the first time. The rules and the players’ characteristics, as well as business models, are very different from both the telecom and the traditional advertising market. Due to lack of clearly defined leaders, it is quite difficult for an operator and an advertising agency to be working together.
In the perfect universe, the mobile internet market would have a body to regulate its rules, standards and, even possibly, value chains; however, in the mobile Internet market, even regulatory bodies haven't understood well the potential interplay between different player in order to establish the optimal environment.
Since regulatory bodies and regulations haven't been well established yet, there is no system of law set to regulate the MI. This lack makes the business environment very vulnerable for the players. This is especially true for startup companies, since they build their business on concepts that can be copied easily by their competitors
Financial Status of the Market
Since there is very little market awareness, it is quite challenging to convince companies to make investments on mobile Internet projects. Most of the customers want to see value-adds for their existing businesses without making any investments. This makes cash flow in the market very small.
The telecom market was its peak performance about five years ago. There were large revenue streams in this market, so life was quite easy for start-up companies. However, today even the big corporations are struggling. The lack of revenue and awareness makes it rather difficult for any new market to get established. In today's conditions, customers are making only essential investments.
The MI projects bring companies additional prestige and improve their brand image. Before the economic turbulence in the telecom market, companies had big marketing communications’ budgets to increase their brand image. However, today's tough economic conditions have forced them to start some risky projects ahead of the others to stay competitive in the market.
As a consequence, Mobile Internet, as a future technology, is strategically important for all the players in all markets. Thus, we are facing projects that are, strategically, very important, but also rather small in size in the MI market. As such, the management of these small projects is complex and requires specific methodologies designed for MI projects.
New Players in a New Market
In the early stages of MI market, almost all players are new and keep updating or changing their business models. There are different size companies from small start-ups to big corporations, with different backgrounds and company cultures. The market needs a regulatory body that can be a bridge and act as a stabilizing force between these different sized companies.
Start-up companies and big corporations have totally different working styles, even if they are from the same market. For example, start-up companies do not like bureaucracy and do not know how to handle problems caused by bureaucratic processes. Additionally, they are not as professional as big corporations with regard to documentation, design, and the presentation of the work. Big corporations expect start-ups be as professional and process oriented as they are. Different problems can occur with companies from different working cultures. For example, an advertising company's working style, or the way that they handle the projects, are different from telecom companies. However, mobile advertising in MI has pushed these advertising companies and GSM companies to have to work with each other.
These different expectations and working style could sometimes be a serious problem in a project. Harmonizing the terminology or differences between the companies from different markets should be considered as a serious task and should be done in the beginning of every project.
Importance of Project Management in MI market
As mentioned above, mobile Internet is in its infancy. It's in the period that players in the picture are trying to know each other and learn how to build strong relationship with their customers. The MI Service industry should make a good impression to end-users to make people get used to the services. If MI players cannot make a good impression in the beginning to GSM end-users (B2C related services), or to other corporations (B2B services), then it would be difficult to convince customers to continue using those services. Therefore, the future of the market highly depends on today's service quality.
High quality services depend on many parameters. One of them is launching these services successfully. If MI projects are not well managed, even if the service is launched, during the operation many other problems might occur. This would affect the service-usage as well as the future of the market (indirectly).
Currently, the main challenge in the market is to show the value-adds that MI brings to an individual's life or to the corporate business. This stage can be called the market's trial phase. This trail phase has to be successful otherwise the future of market cannot be mentioned. For a successful trial, concordance between the players, as well as successful launch of the services is required. Since the market is new, there are no regulatory bodies to stabilize the market and no players that understand the market and other players well. However, for successful project completions, a dummy regulatory body is needed during the project. Project managers are the only group that can fulfill this expectation.
In both the B2C market and the B2B markets in MI, customers don't want to spend money for “trial” services. They want to see the value-add first and then make the investments. Therefore, during this trial phase, MI projects have small budgets. These complicated projects with small budgets need very professional project managers for successful completions.
Unsuccessful projects will cause serious problems for the MI players. At this trial stage, they are the ones making the investments without getting any payments from the customers. Unsuccessful projects will cast a serious doubt on the validity of their existence in the market. So, the MI players are very much in need of successful project managers in their projects.
MI Project Management Methodology
In order to prevent at least some of the problems that naturally occur from the uncertainties and immaturity of the market, some additional steps need be taken in addition to the classic methodologies. In this section, we will suggest some of these additional steps that helped us in successfully running our international MI projects. We will use two projects as our examples: GPRSLand, a project done for Turkcell, which is a local operator in Turkey; and DigiVibes, a project done for Digicel, which is a local operator in Jamaica. The methodology used are based on PROPS®-Ericsson PM methodology (Ericsson). However, this methodology can also be based on other methodologies as well.
A Methodology for successful Project Management in MI Projects
In MI projects, the most challenging barrier is bringing different size companies with different cultures from various markets to work with each other. Because of this, there are many holes in the picture that can only be filled by project managers taking further measures. These measures, of course, vary depending on the location, the market conditions, and the players.
These measures can be explained based on any generic project methodology. In this article, PROPS®-Ericsson PM methodology is taken as an example. PROPS® is based on 4 main phases, which are: pre study, feasibility, execution and conclusion phases. There are also 5 tollgates, which is a super ordinate decision point at which formal decisions are made concerning the aims and execution of a project. The PROPS® general model is given in Exhibit 2.
Exhibit 2: PROPS®-Ericsson General Project Model 4
Based on our PM experience, pre-phase of the project should be designed according to the status of players and market awareness, as well as market maturity. The conclusion phase should be designed according to status of operational regulations, laws, and economic market conditions. Since MI is a developing market, these two phases have to be handled more carefully than one might for a more mature market. In general, the phases of the PROPS® model are as shown in Exhibit 3. However, in order to launch the services successfully, pre study and conclusion phases have to be more detailed and designed according to MI conditions. A specific model based on the PROPS® model, as shown in Exhibit 4, is suggested to increase the success of MI projects.
Exhibit 3: PROPS® block model
Exhibit 4: The model suggested for MI projects based on PROPS® model
Pre-study phase of MI project differs from the ones in other projects. In MI projects, PM people face a complicated picture where the players do not know each other's expectations and company cultures. So, in addition to pre-study phase, which includes regular preparations, there should be a new phase that includes concordance between the different players, cultures, and expectations. Regular preparations are included in the “pre-study” phase in Exhibit 4. The highlights of “Concordance” phase can be given as follows:
– As the project management team, understand all the different players’ company cultures, and the “pros and cons” of working with them.
– Communicate the PM team role's “as a stabilizing filter” in the project, and explain that this is different from other telecom projects.
– Introductory meetings to warn the involved groups about the different company cultures or problems that they may face during the project.
– Oversee committees for the most time consuming and problematic issues such as HW and agreement discussions, etc.
– Introducing the idea of MI partnering structures to start-ups.
– Introducing big corporation's bureaucratic processes and corporate PM methodologies to start-ups.
– Introducing start-up's cultures to the corporations.
– Explaining the importance of data-synchronization between the project players.
– Warning the different groups about how much time legal agreement discussions can take.
These are the important tasks to be completed for the success of the project before starting the feasibility and execution phases, and this is besides the regular preparations.
Feasibility and execution phases can be applied as they are defined in the PROPS® model. The conclusion phase should be also detailed like pre study phase. Regular conclusion tasks are listed in the “conclusion” phase shown in Exhibit 4. Different from other telecom projects, the highlights of the trial phase can be listed as follows:
– Acting as the operational body during the trial phase to see the whole operational picture.
– Executing a closed-user group test for the trials.
– Warning the player who will take care of operation about the operational problems they may face after the handover.
– Recommending operational process flow for “commercial” phase.
– Monitoring the complete system's operational flow and technical performance.
– Preparing the performance criteria for the trial phase with the feedbacks from the customer.
– Motivating the players to finalize the contract work.
– Preparing system and service training documents for the players.
The tasks listed above should be carried before the closing phase, which are the standard tasks done during the conclusion phase.
An important point is that these tasks may be not seen as Project team's responsibilities. However, in developing markets such as MI, one body has to take care of these issues. Otherwise it is very difficult to complete the projects on time. Project Managers are the only group qualified to complete these tasks among all the players.
Two projects GPRSLand, a project done for Turkcell, a local operator in Turkey, and DigiVibes, a project done for Digicel, Jamaica are taken as examples to support the model described above.
GPRSLand is the name of the Mobile Internet Portal of Turkcell, the leading operator of Turkey with 18 million subscribers. The project was the first of its kind and started in 2001. The first project in the market started with many uncertainties in 2001 and completed successfully in 6 months time. The project players were: Ericsson as the main project coordinator, Turkcell, as the mobile operator, Superonline, as the service provider, and 4 different start-ups, Tikle, Done, Noktalar, and Infotech, which are application development companies. From the project management prospective, the main challenges can be listed as follows:
– The project was first of its kind in the world. Therefore, almost everything was new in the project. This slowed the decision process greatly.
– Until this project, Turkcell and Ericsson had not worked with MI start-ups.
– The organizational structure and culture of Turkcell and Ericsson were not suitable to work with start-ups. In their previous projects, the start-ups companies were their subcontractors and not their partners.
– None of the players had partnering strategies. Partnering strategies are necessary in order to work with many companies at the same time.
– The big players Ericsson and Turkcell have always had big-budget projects. This project had a fairly small budget. Therefore, it was very difficult to create awareness for the project in these organizations.
– There were not any regulations, or standardizations done in the project to regulate the behavior of the different groups.
– There were a lot of difficulties for the players to adapt to new bodies and each other's working styles.
The biggest challenge among all of the ones listed above was slow decision process. Since every detail was new, the players needed to discuss the effect of the decisions to their existing structures and organizations. This project was completed successfully. The GPRSLand project had a big success worldwide. It was awarded with the World Communication Awards 2002 Best Service.
From the PM perspective, this project was a learning case to understand MI market and the players. All of the challenges in GPRSLand have shown that the MI projects should be handled differently from regular telecom projects. However, more project experience is needed to create a generic methodology for all MI projects. For example, international projects have different challenges than local projects. One international project example is DigiVibes portal project. This project was done for Digicel, Jamaica 2 years after GPRSLand, can be given as an example to show what additional challenges there could be if the parties were from different countries and cultures.
The players in the project were Ericsson Jamaica, Ericsson Turkey, Digicel, Jamaica, and three start-up developer companies: Tikle, Done and Noktalar. The challenges in addition the ones listed for GPRSLand include:
– It was the first international MI project for Jamaican and Turkish players.
– There were too many players in the project.
– There was a lot of unclear business issues such as support and operations.
– The time difference between Jamaica and Turkey was restricting the working hours.
– Cultural differences were slowing the decision process.
– Law system differences between Turkey and Jamaica were causing problems in coming to an agreement.
In this project, the methodology described above was applied. Although there were some additional challenges, this project was also completed successfully.
The Mobile Internet market is currently developing and creating the future revenue streams. Many of the players are experimenting with new services, building partnerships, developing business models and marketing communication strategies to pave the way for the Mobile Internet business expansion. Therefore, in MI projects, many new challenges that are different from other telecom projects are faced. Most of them are because of miscommunications between the players and the lack of regulations. Project managers are the only group who can see the whole picture and fill the gaps by acting as a stabilizing force in the market.
Classical project methodologies are not effective in MI projects because of the complexity of MI market. A specific methodology that is designed according to the prevailing market conditions is needed. Based on real project experiences such as GPRSLand Project, 2001 and DigiVibes, 2003, pre-phase of the project should be designed according to status of players, market awareness, and market maturity. Conclusion phase should be designed according to status of operational regulations, laws, and economic market conditions. Based on this new perspective, “Concordance” and “Trial” phases are added to the reference model. An important point is that the tasks listed for these phases may not be seen as project management team's responsibility. However, in developing markets like MI, a group has to carry these tasks. Otherwise, the possibility of success in projects will be low. The PM people are the only people who can carry these tasks among all the different players.
An important conclusion could be that this model can be applied in any developing market that has a multi-disciplinary business environment.
Bughin J. R., Lind F., Stenius P. and Wilshire M. J. (2001) Mobile Portals, mobilize for scale: McKinsey Quarterly Reports Number 2
Camponovo G, (2002, September), Mobile Commerce Business Models, The University of Lausanne Retrieved from http://www.hec.unil.ch/aosterwa/Documents/workshop/Camponovo.pdf
Kendall, P. (2003, December), W. European Cellular User Forecasts Strategy Analytics Market Report. Retrieved from http://www.strategyanalytics.com/cgi-bin/greports.cgi?rid=162003120621
PROPS® -Ericsson Project Management Model Guidebook
Project Management Institute. (2000) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK®) (2000 ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
© 2004, Gulay Ozkan
Originally published as a part of (2004) PMI Global Congress Proceedings – (Prague)