Systems Engineering

How AT&T migrated 40,000 users to IBM’s IoT solutions

Share this post:

Any telecom provider must always try to avoid network downtime. But to stay competitive these companies also must constantly upgrade their software and systems. So when AT&T decided to migrate more than 40,000 users to comprehensive IBM IoT solutions—to support internal software development and replace its existing disparate solutions—the company knew it was facing a long slog.

Naturally, service outages were not an option during this protracted transition. That’s a primary reason why, over the course of about three years, the company used an agile business planning model and IoT-enabled solutions from IBM to complete this monumental project. AT&T agile tool product owner and team lead Tiina Seppalainen detailed how it all unfolded at the recent IBM Continuous Engineering Summit in New Orleans.

Seppalainen CE Summit re IoT solutions

AT&T’s Tiina Seppalainen describes her company’s use of IBM’s IoT solutions.

Deliberate and sequential planning

Seppalainen said the keys to success lied in broad buy-in from all levels of the company. This included a meticulously planned process for executing and managing the changes at various stages. “We had an aggressive and changing schedule, and we did this without any kind of formal training; we were given the tools and told to have at it, so that’s what we did,” she explained, adding that the project involved about 3,000 applications, about 100 project areas and 57 servers.

Careful and sequential planning were key.  Seppalainen and her colleagues set up about 10 scrum teams, a total of about 100 people, who were primarily dedicated to the project. “This allowed us to be nimble and change as needed, which was frequently,” Seppalainen recalled. “We regularly adjusted either what we were doing or when we were doing it. And we had a team to engage user groups and keep people apprised of the progress.” She said the company’s leaders actively supported the endeavor via internal communications, webcasts and town halls so “it would be very clear from the top down that this was going to happen, and quickly, and everybody needed to support it.”

In keeping with the agile model, the migration teams rolled out the new solutions in phases. They received feedback from early adopters and adjusted accordingly. Of course, large organizations like AT&T have many stakeholder groups with different wants and needs for their respective operations. Seppalainen reported that while they couldn’t fulfill everyone’s wish list, they were able to prioritize and deliver the most critical requests.

Coordinating the calendar

The volume of users necessitated scheduled releases and automated updates. The agile team spread these across the calendar to avoid overwhelming everyone with the changes. (Seppalainen applauded IBM’s crucial assistance in the project area design work, calling it “a key to our success.”) “We had a lot of concurrent and dependent activities and multiple work streams, and they all had to be managed,” she added. “It was a major challenge to coordinate interdependent and overlapping work efforts.”

This meant having frequent meetings, almost all of them virtual, including check-ins at the beginning and end of every work day. “It was a very agile mindset,” Seppalainen said. “That’s what made this happen; just doing that day in day out.”

Testing and training of IoT solutions

Once new roll-outs were in place, AT&T conducted extensive testing. It established training courses that included certifications, and created “small-bite” videos so users could quickly refresh their skills as needed.

Now that the heavy lifting has concluded, Seppalainen contends that her company views this massive endeavor as a success. “Using the agile approach was one of the key factors because it’s team oriented, very iterative and gives you the ability to adjust to changing needs,” she explained. “Our strong program and project management is what brought this three-year odyssey to fruition.”

To see how you can streamline operations and improve productivity for organizations of all sizes with IBMs Continous Engineering and IoT solutions, visit our landing page. And join us at Think 2018, March 19-22 in Las Vegas.

More Systems Engineering stories

AI-powered pumps deliver big ecological and economical benefits

Written by Bruce D Baron | December 9, 2019 | Asset Management, Buildings, Real Estate

Remarkably, one of the smallest elements of building operations can be altered to achieve an immediate and profound impact on operating costs. One installation using both Design Envelope pumps and Pump Manager was able to optimize pump operations to achieve annual pump energy savings of 87 percent. A university in China was able to reduce energy consumption by 78 percent. These results would not have been possible without our visionary use of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics. ...read more


Let’s discuss your greatest asset at IoT Exchange 2020

Written by Kareem Yusuf, Ph.D | November 18, 2019 | Aerospace, Asset Management, Conferences...

You’ll find professional advice, demonstrations of new techniques, opportunities to exchange your ideas with experts, and more career-enhancing activities at IBM IoT Exchange 2020. ...read more


Engineering Academy Comes to You: Update! Register now for LA and Washington, DC

Written by Mark Kovich | November 15, 2019 | Conferences, Engineering, Events

Over the past few months, IBM has hosted several Engineering Academy Comes to You events in locations throughout the world. I’m happy to tell you that these local presentations have become extremely popular and well attended learning opportunities. That’s because they provide valuable product information and one-on-one interactions between IoT professionals and their peers. If you’re not keeping up with the changes in engineering, you’re assuredly falling behind. That’s why I urge you to register now for one of these upcoming events. ...read more