Cingular Wireless: Developing IT Expertise
With more than 52 million subscribers nationwide, Cingular Wireless is one of the largest wireless service providers in the United States. And of course, Cingular’s seasoned group of IT professionals plays an integral role in supporting its large digital voice and data network, expansive group of customers, and various products and data services that include ring tones and graphics, games, interactive messaging, short messaging and multimedia messaging. With approximately 6,000 IT workers nationwide, Cingular not only continues to raise the bar in the wireless service and data services industries, but for its employees as well.
Cingular IT does more than oversee the IT infrastructure. It also works closely with business leaders to develop new products and services. In order to ensure that employee development initiatives align with the needs of the company’s IT infrastructure as well as the overall demands of the organization, Cingular continues to leverage and strengthen its existing learning infrastructure and governance and focus its energy and resources on carefully prioritizing training needs for each business sector.
According to Shailesh Grover, senior director of IT methods, processes and quality for Cingular, the company’s IT department has a unified end-to-end framework called Wireless Unified Process (WUP). Spanning across Cingular’s IT governance, systems development lifecycle and production operations, the WUP is a combination of industry best practices and frameworks that are derived from the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of standards for IT service management; the Rational Unified Process (RUP), an object-oriented and Web-enabled program-development methodology; and CobiT, an IT governance framework and supporting tool set. All three served as the groundwork for WUP, which has seven phases (ideation, request, inception, elaboration, construction, transition and production) and 19 disciplines. The 19 disciplines include release management, analysis and design, software quality assurance, configuration and change management, and many more. Cingular requires IT employees to possess the basic capabilities specific to the skills, processes and tools that align to the 19 disciplines of its WUP.
“Because Cingular IT operates using one framework (WUP), there is a clear definition of all the roles, responsibilities and skills required to perform a job function and training for that specific function. Having the definitions in place ensures that the ‘what’ of employee development is in place,” Grover said. “We also have a standard set of quality criteria that enables us to create a successful team that understands the basic values, goals and objectives and works well together across functions within the company.”
In fact, Grover said Cingular IT seeks candidates who will maximize talent and drive results and strategy, as well as possess technical acumen and knowledge of compliance. “We look for people who display team skills, people that possess a passion for their profession and a desire to grow as professionals within the Cingular IT organization,” he said. “We seek to hire individuals with leadership and management abilities to support employee growth and development. Project management is one of the 19 disciplines that make up the WUP framework, and it is extremely important for the success of all Cingular IT projects. A project manager is a key role within Cingular IT and is accountable for the quality of the project deliverable—be it a SDLC project, an infrastructure project or any other. A project manager manages a cross-functional team that is spread across various functional groups and manages the project budget, schedule, team and quality.”
It is important that employees at Cingular exhibit the defined basic capabilities specific to skills, processes and tools that align with the 19 disciplines of the WUP. According to Grover, based on an employee’s specified job function, he or she is expected to know more about certain disciplines than other areas of study. And in order to ensure that the company’s IT professionals are aligned with its WUP and overall business objectives, the company continues to build a comprehensive yet concise learning roadmap for every employee.
“We continuously build and refine our content based on the analysis of the data that is accumulated by our enterprise quality function that monitors and measures various projects for their performance,” Grover said. “We have an in-house instructional design team that works on making the content ready for delivery as well. We have various training methods in place. Some of the methods we have in place are top-down communication of the organization’s short- and long-term goals and objectives, on-the-job training aids that include—but are not limited to—Web-based on-demand training, a ITMaP Roadshow, Web-based content delivery of reference material and project- and role-specific kick-off sessions.”
On-the-job training is the central part of IT employee development. According Grover, Cingular IT not only encourages on-the-job training, but it also has set employee-learning targets within the IT department that are specific to each job function. “In addition to Web-based training that allows employees to access training content on demand, Cingular IT has a monthly training event called the ITMaP Roadshow that provides instructor-led training across all Cingular IT locations,” Grover said.
Cingular’s ITMaP Roadshow delivers training to the entire IT organization and, according to Grover, enables them to ensure that their staff has the development opportunities to be successful in their job functions and for the career path they wish to pursue. “The ITMaP Roadshow uses various channels for delivery of training: instructor-led, Web-based learning on-demand, video conferencing, teleconferencing, project kick-off sessions and more,” Grover explained.
In 2005, Cingular rolled out more than 60 new training sessions, had 6,500-plus workers attend the ITMaP Roadshow instructor-led sessions and participation in Web-based learning on-demand sessions increased as well. One of the initiatives launched in 2005 was the ITMaP Professional Certification program that requires all Cingular IT employees to be certified by role incrementally. Grover said that education, on-the-job experience and certification all play a critical role in an IT professional’s career, regardless of the company. But at Cingular, the role and the importance of education, experience and certification varies based on a person’s job level. “For someone at the entry level, the experience needs are much more relaxed compared with someone that is at a leadership or managerial level,” he said.
Cingular IT uses certification around the 19 WUP disciplines as a strategic tool to enable employee growth, drive change and achieve quality results. Cingular has three primary certification categories: role-based certification, project/release-based certification and delivery tower-based certification. In addition, each of these categories has three levels of certification—bronze, silver and gold—that are based on required competencies.
“For example, role-based certification for the project manager role at the bronze level: The project manager achieves this level of certification by merely taking the required training for the role, which is based upon clearly identified requisite competencies,” Grover said. “But at the silver level, a project manager achieves this level of certification when he or she meets all of the following requirements: bronze certification, successful completion of the project manager role for at least eight months and projects managed by the project manager meet set standards. Set standards include cost variance (plus or minus a specified percent), schedule variance (plus or minus a specified percent) and defec