Delivering Successful Cable Projects

By Greg Otto
December 2, 2021

Interdependent Project Workstreams

Delivery of successful submarine cable projects requires diligence across a multitude of skills as there are numerous sub projects within even the simplest of submarine projects. Aside from delivering the “System Supply Contract” which typically delivers beach manhole to beach manhole along with transmission gear, other critical portions of the project include:

  • Governance – Informing key stakeholders so they can make critical decisions;
  • Supply Contracts – going to market for all portions of system delivery and resources;
  • System Definition – defining end to end functional and non-functional requirements;
  • Land Acquisition – securing land rights for all onshore infrastructure and routes;
  • Onshore Construction – engineering and constructing outside plant and cable sites;
  • Permitting – obtaining permits and licenses for system construction and operations;
  • Commercial Agreements – obtaining customer and end user financial commitments;
  • Operational Readiness – Having contracts and skilled resources to operate post RFS; and
  • Terrestrial Interface – Constructing interface to terrestrial telecommunication services.

As is further understood through deeper analysis, the above workstreams are highly interdependent and require an overarching project delivery methodology to be in place and referenced by project teams.

Examples of interdependencies are:

  • Procurement process requires significant completion of the System Definition in order to properly and completely detail scope for potential suppliers.
  • Land acquisition is required to confirm System Definition and specifically route and shore end construction along with completing onshore permitting.
  • Operational readiness is needed to be in place once RFS is achieved if not prior so that the system can immediately be put into service and generate revenue and value for customers and stakeholders.
  • Onshore facilities and routes need to be in place prior to cable landing so that final splices and testing can immediately be completed to order timely repairs as necessary.

The Delivery Framework

While it would be ideal to close each issue prior to moving on to the next issue, this could result in projects taking twice as long and losing significant front-end value. To consolidate this schedule, a certain level of risk has to be carried and managed through the project. This is where the project delivery methodology establishes its role. It provides a framework under which the project operates and provides guidance and direction to the project team. At a minimum, the project delivery methodology should document the following six items:

  1. Documenting critical workstreams and their critical interdependencies;
  2. Defining criteria and methods to achieve acceptable levels of confidence for interdependencies;
  3. Risk management plan using a model that identifies risks with prevention and contingencies actions;
  4. Organization and resource plan including internal and external resources;
  5. Procurement strategy including how work stream are aligned to supply contracts; and
  6. Governance model including criteria for decisions and information requiring notification and approval from governance.

Establishment of the project delivery methodology starts day one with the project during the earlier project development phases. It will be common for there to be open items in the early versions of the methodology and how and when these are to be resolved. For example, the first approved version will focus on procurement strategy and may have some decisions such as an open item on the approach for onshore construction which will be resolved based on the responses received. However, the strategy will explain this and indicate how the go to market will be structured to deliver on this decision such as RFP requests to multiple types of companies such as terrestrial and marine providers.

The methodology is refined throughout the project with several work-in-progress versions through the time when the project goes into full execution mode. At this point, the methodology should be generally complete and accepted. In addition, it should be written in alignment with the outcomes to date so as to be relevant. Ideally, the stakeholders as part of governance will approve this methodology as part of the approval package including the supply contracts, system definition, project plan and budget.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 121 of the SubTel Forum Magazine on page 54 or on our archive site here.