We spoke with Mike Hosie, Partner at Mentor, about the ways in which coupling the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies with an appreciation for the human beings behind a programme is the key to successful delivery

How many programmes have you seen that are months late or millions over budget? In the telecoms industry, these stories that are all too common, with programme execution often overshadowed and only truly assessed after failure has already taken place.
But by coupling human expertise with the latest analytical technologies, this need not be the case.
“Programme execution is a neglected management discipline. Programme management is dynamic – it’s as much about people, what they do, how they are organised, how they interact and how they behave, as it is to do with technologies and markets,” explained Hosie, Parter at Mentor, a team of UK-based programme management experts with over 30 years’ experience. “These things can be measured using modern survey and data analysis techniques.”
Given the vast amount of data that a telecoms operator collects every day, harnessing AI effectively is, of course, becoming a growing feature of a modern, digital telco. But the insights and efficiencies that AI can deliver go much further than just customer experience.  
“Our industry is increasingly using digital transformation to help make better use of data in addressing customers’ needs and companies have been using these technologies to deliver new revenues for years now – so why not use them in programme deliver?” asks Hosie.

Incorporating AI effectively into programme management and execution is the next natural step in a company’s evolution, with the proportion of projects managed using AI is expected to jump from 20% to 40% in the next three years.
“Artificial intelligence is increasingly finding its way into project management tools, handling everything from scheduling to analysing working patterns for a team and offering suggestions for improvement,” said Hosie, noting that, by creating these efficiencies, AI will help free up time for programme managers to make more high impact contributions to the programme, such as problem solving. 
But while the importance of these efficiencies delivered by AI cannot be underestimated, the real key when it comes to programme execution is to take the technology beyond simply automating manual tasks. 
“Over 70% of programmes still fail to deliver. That’s not to say that the methodologies and the tools aren’t valuable, but sometimes it’s clear that things are missing,” said Hosie. “Traditional project management typically focusses on tasks, scheduling, and technical planning, and AI will automate a lot of this. At Mentor we’re now using AI to go beyond process and tools, and are using it to apply knowledge, expertise and experience.”
Mentor’s approach with their Mentor Execution Index (MEI) seeks to blend the human experience of those contributing to a programme with the precise insights gained by AI and deep learning. The tool can create an objective view of the programme, without necessitating unproductive debates over judgement calls and subjective decisions, and then creating a clear mandate for future action. 
Hosie expained how the MEI goes beyond the initial diagnosis that other methods commonly provide, instead delivering something more akin to an x-ray that confirms the diagnosis and can recommend the necessary steps to improve that programme’s health. 
“MEI is not a programme management tool. It provides an end-to-end assessment of a complex programme with input from the programme team, including its customers and suppliers. It looks at what is driving failure and is designed, importantly, to take account of human behaviour,” summarised Hosie.
Programme failure is incredibly costly, yet so many telcos are content to simply gain insights post-mortem, after the damage has already been done. But for Mentor, the MEI’s strength is that it can deliver AI and human-driven insights during the programme’s life cycle, helping companies to avoid costly delays. 
With so much of the telecoms industry focussed right now on their 5G and fibre rollouts, programmes reaching completion smoothly has never been more important. 
“The benefits I would expect to see for the fibre and 5G rollouts that are happening on our streets today would be an increased speed of deployment, improved quality of deployment, more project gates being passed as they were planned, and better programme management that will ultimately lead to fewer delivery dates being missed.
You can watch our full interview with Mentor’s Mike Hosie from the link above. To learn more about Mentor and their Mentor Execution Index, click here.
Also in the news: