Investigating critical success factors for project completion in a South African telecommunications company

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

With the growth of the internet and the proliferation of mobile devices, network operators are constantly building and upgrading mobile network technologies. To provide quality voice and data services for increasing customer bases, and to cope with the growing demand for data, network operators embark on capital-intensive base station roll-out projects. The success of these technology projects is critical to the success and sustainability of network operators. These projects involve diverse project teams, vendors and contractors who contribute to the success of the project. The project teams consist of different departments within the organisation, each having their own perceptions of the factors required to complete projects successfully. The lack of agreed upon project success factors from these different stakeholders has resulted in project delays. Therefore this study set out to answer the questions of: 1. What are the success factors that are required to ensure successful project completion in telecommunications Company X in South Africa? 2. How can these factors be managed systemically to improve project success? The approach adopted in this study was first, an integrative review of literature on project success and critical success factors to identify the most important success factors that contribute to the success of projects. A context was given to the literature study by focusing on success factors in developing countries. A total of 71 success factors were identified and condensed into nine literature success factors. Thereafter, a survey was conducted to elicit the perceptions of project team members on success factors. A total of 65 success factors were obtained which were condensed into 10 empirical success factor categories. Both sets of data was analysed using qualitative techniques including content analysis and comparing and contrasting. The literature and empirical success factors were synthesised into nine success factor categories. The nine success factor categories developed from the synthesis process were: managing project constraints; aligning projects with strategy; managing external factors; management support; strong leadership; project team competency; continuous learning; implementing project management bodies of knowledge and stakeholder management. To address the second research question relating to the systemic management of the success factors, systems ideas were drawn upon in the form of a causal loop diagram to develop a project success model. Systems theory was used to determine the relationships between individual success factors and their overall effect on the system in focus. The system behaviour of the project success model initially predicts project success, but as the limiting conditions in the balancing loop take effect in the system, the overall success of the system is negatively affected. The system behaviour of the project success model matched the pattern of behaviour of the “limits to growth” systems archetype. The high leverage system intervention for the “limits to growth” systems archetype is at the limiting conditions of the system. Thus, the proposed system intervention targeted the system limiting conditions which were the “Managing project constraints” and “Managing external factors” variables. Through the implementation of the synthesised success factors and the effective management of project constraints and external factors, the project success model contributes to the success of projects in the context of the telecommunications industry of South Africa. The study concluded by finding that the research questions and concerns were addressed. Recommendations were made for the implementation of the synthesised success factors. Lastly, it was proposed that future studies use multiple case studies and examine the various systems archetypes in the project context.