ASHBURN, VA., AND CLINTON, MISS. --
It's a deal that's been quietly shrouded in secrecy, long known only by its codename, "Project LightSpeed."
Now the once-confidential project has gone public, and it's a blockbuster:
) has almost completed a US$900 million, 13-facility rollout of its Internet-space network that spans some 1.5 million sq. ft. (135,000 sq. m.). The 13 facilities are sited in 12 locations -- Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; New Jersey; St. Louis; San Jose, Calif.; Seattle and Northern Virginia.
The huge rollout announcement came only a few days before WorldCom revealed that it will probably cut as many as 10,000 of its 77,000 existing jobs. CEO Bernie Ebbers, however, projected that the No. 2 U.S. long-distance phone company would likely end 2001 with total employment near current levels.
At the heart of Ebbers' rebound hopes is WorldCom's drive to transform itself from long-distance company to data carrier. The 13 new facilities in Project LightSpeed are designed to capture that data market.
Stunning Speed, Under Budget
The size of Project LightSpeed, touted by some as the largest-ever Internet-facility rollout, is arresting enough.
Noting the rollout at the recent WorldCom Executive Forum in Ashburn, Va., WorldCom Senior Vice President of Business Marketing Brian Brewer said, "Our global facilities-based network footprint sets us apart from new and established competitors."
For the larger real estate industry, though, the bigger story is the project's blinding speed. Conventional wisdom has it that such technical facilities normally require 18 to 24 months to complete. The 13 new WorldCom facilities, however, will be online in only nine months. And most of the new space -- 1.3 million sq. ft. (117,000 sq. m.) - is brand-new construction. (The remaining 146,00 sq. ft./13,140 sq. m. is in leased space.)
On top of that, the project is coming in under budget, WorldCom officials reported.
WorldCom Exec Praises WorkPlaceUSA-
Citadon Project-Management Teamwork
Behind that dazzling speed was the Internet-enabled project-management support provided by Dallas-based WorkPlaceUSA (www.wp-usa.com
) and San Francisco-based Citadon (www.citadon.com
"WorkPlaceUSA and Citadon manage these multiple, fast-track projects and provide WorldCom with the ability to control costs, achieve a reduction in time to market, and realize revenue from these facilities more quickly. We are extremely pleased with these results," said WorldCom Vice President Brooks Warren as the rollout went public.
Todd Miller, an industry analyst with The Yankee Group (www.yankeegroup.com
), said that WorldCom is gaining an edge from its rapid build-out of its "Generation D" network.
"WorldCom is in a position to capture a significant portion of IP-service market share," said Miller. "WorldCom's ability to leverage its assets to bridge the gap between traditional and IP networks will determine its market share as companies increasingly use IP services to do business."
Projects Processed Online
WorkPlaceUSA, a 2000 Site Selection
/Dorsey award winner (see January 2001 Site Selection
), achieved its eye-popping speeds by linking its efforts with Citadon's project-management software.
That software enabled WorldCom and WorkPlaceUSA to communicate instantaneously with Project LightSpeed's small army of consultants, contractors and government officials. The mountains of paperwork involved in each of the project's myriad steps were processed online. Approvals that might've taken weeks to secure through paper channels were accomplished in only a few days.
Said WorkPlaceUSA President John Amend, "Project LightSpeed is a testament to our expertise and the potential behind our integrated project-management system. Utilizing Citadon's collaboration platform, we work with WorldCom on a daily basis to ensure complete customer satisfaction."
Added Citadon President and CEO Doug Sabella, "Our open technology platform allows WorkPlaceUSA to conduct and manage core business processes while seamlessly collaborating, and communicating knowledge to multiple parties. Citadon is a natural fit for WorkPlaceUSA and WorldCom's network-information-center project."
ABOVE LEFT: "Utilizing Citadon's collaboration platform, we work with WorldCom on a daily basis
to ensure complete customer satisfaction," said WorkPlaceUSA President John Amend.
ABOVE RIGHT: "Seamless collaboration" was part of what drove Project LightSpeed's striking
pace, said Citadon President and CEO Doug Sabella.
A Project-Management 'Revolution'?
"Project LightSpeed will revolutionize traditional project management and the definition of superior service," Amend contended.
And the project will likely have a major impact in the industry. The real estate business, after all, is nothing if not incestuous: Imitation is the most sincere form of profitability.
Parts of the business, however, have been late and often reluctant movers when it comes to technology. But the incestuous nature of the industry can certainly jump-start technological uptake.
Consider the example of Bidcom (which merged with Cephren last October to form Citadon) in working last year on Boston Properties' $600 million Times Square Tower. Bidcom reportedly found that the building's curtain-wall consultant didn't even have PCs, much less the e-mail and broadband Internet connections needed for the job. Only with the threat of losing the contract did the consultant suddenly become a technological convert. Other players in the New York construction industry quickly followed suit.
Project LightSpeed's striking size and pace are likely to similarly inspire emulators.