Project management in a telecommunications network environment

Concerns of Project Managers

Special Topics—Telecommunications

Preject professionals … will need to understand not only how to manage a project, but also the technology of the computer/telecommunications systems on which the project is being managed,

With the introduction of computers to the project management profession, over the years many advantageous advances have appeared to help project professionals perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Now, though, it is advances in telecommunications, especially computer networks, which provide a rich environment for increasing project management work productivity and span of control.

The Telecommunications Network Environment. With advances in telecommunications, it is easier for project professionals and other corporate personnel to extract individual work directives from company goals. In addition, each department can work independently or with other departments as required

Figure 1. The Telecommunications Network Environment. With advances in telecommunications, it is easier for project professionals and other corporate personnel to extract individual work directives from company goals. In addition, each department can work independently or with other departments as required.

Because project professionals can connect directly with local and global sources of data and information, work that may have taken days or weeks to accomplish previously, can now occur within hours. A strong example of where computer networks have been an advantageous addition to a work environment is in the construction industry. Here, many companies that have project professionals situated at distributed sites rely on integrated systems for vital information. Many project professionals at remote locations who require project management-related information use laptop computers to record data they obtain on a job site. In addition, via telecommunications networks, project professionals on location can remotely access their office computer systems in which critical information is stored. Thus, networks allow project professionals to communicate their findings and needs to home and regional offices quickly while also ensuring that information from those locations is received at the remote site on a timely basis.

Because LANs (i.e., local area networks) are commonplace within many companies, as advances in computer systems integration continue, project professionals will need to work more closely with their firm's IS (i.e., information systems) and telecommunications departments in order to better understand the effect that new technologies will have on the project management profession. In addition, both project professionals and technical staffs should understand how their respective departments are linked together to attain separate departmental directives which, when unified, accomplish company goals.

As organizational needs expand, project professionals of the near future will face a complex technical environment. They will need to understand not only how to manage a project, but also the technology of the computer systems on which the project is being managed. An understanding of fundamental telecommunications concepts (however basic this understanding maybe) will help project professionals to better communicate their needs to system and network staffs, and will ensure that all departments are working together towards a common goal.

And what does the project professional of the future need to know about a network? First, where to go for information about networks, computerized project management systems, etc. Taking advantage of training offered by universities, colleges, and training organizations can help a project professional understand the computerized environment that is influencing the project management profession on a daily basis. Second, as the networking of project management systems will become standard and will be considered ona global rather than a local scale, the project professional must understand some of the technical and non-technical issues involved in network management.

Some basic technical issues a project professional should understand include the direction that network technology is heading. Integration of multiple platforms (i.e., operating systems) will occur in the near future, with networks requiring support for multiple platforms and protocols. Of major significance will be interconnectivity among multivendor platforms and the consolidation of telecommunications network management tools into one platform. Therefore, it is important that the project professional when choosing or using a project management software system, look at its growth potential, that is, does the system run in a network environment, can the system be ported for use on multiple platforms, and does it allow for true information sharing. Understanding these issues will allow project professionals to see the capabilities and limitations of their computerized environment, and the effect that these influences have on current and future project management responsibilities.

In regard to non-technical issues, project professionals must understand that increasing systems complexity means that they will need to work more closely with LAN workgroups, information systems personnel, telecommunications teams, and the entire corporate organization to ensure that both network and business priorities are in synch. Understanding who is responsible for the technical and non-technical administration of the network is crucial. Thus, if a problem arises with the network or a system on it, project professionals will know who should be notified so that a solution can be rendered quickly. It is also important to have both the project professionals (as network users) and the network administrators work together to develop standards and procedures. These standards and procedures should address current network usage demands as well as future network expansion requirements (from both a project management software system(s) and a hardware viewpoint).

Telecommunications networks also introduce questions regarding the privacy of data across local and national borders. Thus, another new and very difficult policy issue arises for the project professional-security. This is an issue which presents a major area of research for networks in the future. For example, if a system uses resources in a network that are accredited at different levels of privacy and security, what would the overall privacy and security level of the network be; would the whole system be accredited at the lowest level of any of the components? To answer these questions, what is needed is a joint effort by project professionals, corporate management, information systems personnel and network administrators to determine telecommunications network security requirements. Ideally, this investigation should occur in the early stages of a network's development when system requirement specifications, application decisions, and general information gathering occurs. Thus, by evaluating security needs prior to a network's creation, security can be established long before any on-line transactions occur.

In those instances where a network's security has been determined previously, project professionals should feel comfortable with their understanding of the network to convey their needs and concerns to network administrators in order to ensure that project management applications are being supported properly. Some features which encourage security and which project professionals may wish to ask their system administrator as to whether they exist in their environment include: audit trail reports, password protection, command restriction, and file encryption.

For the future, project professionals will need to add another hat to the many that they wear already-one of a network user who understands the user's role on the network and who can communicate user needs clearly. By learning basic network concepts through education, working with technical and non-technical staff to share ideas and formulate solutions, and understanding system capabilities and limitations, project professionals will be able to utilize telecommunications networks to manage their projects in an unlimited, and much more productive, way.

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Rosemary Bircz is the documentation manager in the Computer Science Division of Pathfinder, Inc., a capital plant project management company located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She has eight years of progressive technical writing and data processing experience, and has assisted in software development projects for major engineering and software firms. Ms. Bircz earned her B.S. in computer information systems from DeVry Institute of Technology in Columbus, Ohio, and has received a Service Award from the Data Processing Management Association (DPMA).

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

AUGUST 1993

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