Five Lessons from AT&T Wireless's Project Failure

Have a plan B. AT&T Wireless’s Siebel system upgrade involved vastly complex systems integration and testing that pushed up against, and crashed through, an immovable deadline: wireless number portability. An alternate means for accessing customer data or a plan to be able to roll back to the earlier, more stable version, if necessary, would have saved the company millions.

Keep testing requirements strong-even when projects fall behind. When projects run late, testing always suffers, with often disastrous results.

Reduce integration wherever possible. When all of AT&T Wireless’s major competitors chose another company for wireless number porting, AT&T Wireless should have rethought its choice of a competing vendor, which meant extra layers of integration that ultimately failed.

Postpone layoffs and offshore outsourcing until a vital systems project is completed. Morale and productivity among the AT&T Wireless IT staff were shattered by rumors of offshore outsourcing and layoffs that swirled around the project but were left mostly unaddressed by IT leaders.

Keep the communication lines open and clear. If layoffs or outsourcing is unavoidable during a project, communicate that news clearly and get the changes over with as early in the project as possible. -C.K.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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