Posted on Wednesday, September 30, 2015Blog written by Rob Swenson
SDN Communications has grown significantly since its start 26 years ago. The broadband provider’s service offerings as well as service area have steadily expanded.
With 180 employees, more than 30,000 miles of fiber to connect the region’s leading businesses, and complex and changing customer needs, keeping new projects on track and progressing efficiently can be a challenge. So, in early 2014 SDN created a Project Management Office to coordinate its in-house efforts.
”What we’ve learned in 18 months is that it breaks down silos within departments and gives us visibility to projects going on in the company,” says Vernon Brown, vice president of marketing and member relations. “Most importantly, it aligns what we’re doing with the corporate vision and mission statements.”
Kelly Wiese (pictured) was hired as PMO manager to establish and run the new office. Her professional background includes a stint with a consulting firm at the very high-tech Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, or EROS, near Garretson. Her duties there included identifying and analyzing risks in a satellite program. She also has down-to-earth experience as a political organizer.
Her job at SDN is essentially to champion project-management processes from beginning to end. She summarizes the duty as helping the company “do the right things right.”
Wiese is assisted by project managers Amanda Witt and Becky Keen. The three-member team identifies and uses best practices in managing projects and in assisting with strategic plans. The goal, of course, is to help create innovative services that are valuable to SDN customers and member companies.
Wiese and her team focus on three things: people, processes and tools. Ultimately, however, projects are about serving the company’s clients.
“The customers’ experience should be front and center of all projects, in some way shape or form,” Wiese says. “It all gets back to the customer.”
Among the PMO team’s latest projects was to coordinate the development and launch of a significant new service: Managed DDoS Protection.
DDoS is short for Distributed Denial of Service, an increasingly common and destructive form of cyberattack. DDoS attackers try to disrupt online services by overwhelming their targets with electronic traffic. DDoS attacks can be launched cheaply on a company by unsavory competitors, unhappy customers or disgruntled former employees.
SDN Managed DDoS Protection is designed to help clients’ networks screen out infected traffic while staying open to customers. Developing a top-of-the-line DDoS solution required that SDN experts in areas ranging from technical operations and product delivery to legal services and sales all work together.
“It’s just pulling in the different teams to make sure the project, as a whole, is ready to go,” Witt says. “I don’t know that we have a department that’s not involved.”
Among other projects, the PMO team is integrating billing processes into single, uniform system, which might be trickier and more delicate than it sounds. In addition to blending technical procedures, the appearance of customers’ bills could change, for example, and impacts on customers can never be treated lightly.
The PMO office is also assisting with SDN’s plan to open a Customer Experience Center on its three-building campus on West 10th Street in Sioux Falls. The idea is to allow prospective customers to come in, see and try devices such as office phone systems or maybe log into a cloud service.
“We’re just in the initial stages of it,” Wiese says.
Brown, whose duties include overseeing SDN’s product-development team, has been pleased. The PMO provides a clear process but leaves developers the freedom to take risks and possibly make mistakes to achieve the larger objective of making good products to help SDN continue to succeed and grow.
Some of the potential benefits of a PMO still are emerging, Brown says. But he’s convinced that creating the new office was a good move.