Perfect Synergy of Planning and Execution
Telecom infrastructure company Synergy Telecommunications completes project within time and budget.
Synergy Telecommunications, a Punjab-based telecom infrastructure-building company, applied project management effectively to complete a turnkey rollout of telecom cell sites before estimated time and at lesser than the estimated cost. In recognition of its success, the company received the runner-up of the PMI India Best Project of the Year Award for 2010 during the PMI India Project Management Conference in Mumbai in November 2010.
Key project statistics
Total planned budget: Rs. 1,386 million
Actual expenditure: Rs. 1,309 million
Cost savings: 5.6 percent of budget
Client-defined timelines for ground-based towers: 45 days per site
Actual timelines achieved: 40 days per site
Client-defined timelines for rooftop towers: 25 days per site
Actual timelines achieved: 22 days per site
Time saved: Completed 12.5 percent ahead of schedule
Synergy Telecommunications is part of the Synergy Group, founded by Harpal Singh, a mechanical engineer who has directed the growth of the company. Synergy Group, which started operations in 1987 as a manufacturer of steel sheets, has over the years diversified into various engineering products and services, including turnkey solutions for telecom cell sites. Synergy Telecommunications has its presence in 15 states in India and in neighboring countries, such as Bangladesh and Nepal, employing more than 1,000 people.
The telecom service provider (TSP) business units have been successfully using project management for new site rollout, infrastructure upgrade of existing sites, and site approvals for the sites before commencement of work.
The TSP division took up the turnkey rollout of telecom tower sites for three TSP clients, namely Indus Towers Limited, Dishnet Wireless Limited (Aircel), and Wireless Tata Tele Infoservices Limited. The rollout would be across India and for a project duration of 12 months starting 1 April 2009. The estimated cost of the project was Rs. 1,200 million, which went up to Rs. 1,386 million after including a risk contingency of 10 percent of the estimated cost and management reserve of 5 percent of the total cost. However, by the time the project completed, the entire project cost Synergy Telecommunications Rs. 1,309 million, which meant a budget saving of 5.6 percent.
There was savings even in terms of the time taken to complete the project. Clients had defined a timeline of 45 days per site for towers that needed to be erected directly on the ground. For rooftop towers, where the need for civil work was much lesser, the timeline defined was 25 days per site. Synergy Telecommunications completed ground-based towers in 40 days and rooftop towers in 22 days. The project was completed 12.5 percent ahead of time in 40 days.
A cell site under construction
The scope of the project involved site planning, survey and design, infrastructure development, vendor management, acceptance testing certification, quality control, risk management, warehousing and logistics, operations, maintenance and warranty support, and end-to-end project management.
The different stages of the project involved getting designs and design approvals conducted at the Structural Engineering Research Centre and Indian Institute of Technology; liaisoning for approvals from state authorities, such as the pollution control board, municipal council, and electricity board; surveys conducted for soil and engineering drawings; commencement of civil work with foundations for tower, diesel generator set, and shelter; installation of battery banks, diesel generator set, shelter, and air-conditioning units; electrical work for earthing cables, aviation lamps, lightening arrestor, and shelter connections; and finally testing and deployment of the cell sites.
The challenges the company faced at various stages were: stringent timelines, stringent quality checks, maintaining all the key performance indicators as defined by the clients, geographical spread of the project, maintaining adequate cash flows, work scheduling, manpower hiring and scheduling, liaisoning with local authorities, and vendor management.
Synergy Telecommunications facilities in Nalagarh
in Himachal Pradesh and Mohali in Punjab
The company used several project management best practices to overcome the challenges and achieve success. The management used daily project progress report to monitor situation, quality management through a three-tiered quality control system, regular site audits, risk management/risk mitigation plans, monthly performance reviews, revision of forecast based on change request from the client, and a well defined set of vendor selection criteria. A linear team structure helped bring synergy into the project team with no overlap of responsibilities and a clear, well defined role for each team member.
The following are some of the lessons learnt during the project:
- Human resource planning needs to be immaculate. The company ensured that the deviation in the planned versus actual manpower requirement was not more than 1 percent.
- The management drew up a list of preferred subcontractors and streamlined its vendor selection process, leading to improved vendor management with a regional advantage.
- Analogous costing has to be carefully balanced by keeping in mind the change in market conditions for cost of material.
- Streamlining/redefining key result areas at various functional levels.
- There is a need for better insights into warehousing and logistics of materials that will help in identifying and modifying the lead times for equipment supply based on state regulations.
The success of the project has brought recognition for the company in the industry. One of the clients, Indus Towers Ltd., which has a portfolio of over one lakh telecom towers, awarded Synergy the Best Emerging TSP Award last year. The credit for the success of the project goes largely to the project management principles that the company applied at each stage of the project.