Building the network
When you're building a major infrastructure project, you need someone to head it who knows how to deliver.
NBN Co scoped the field and placed its bets with Patrick Flannigan, who as head of construction will bear overall responsibility for the entire NBN build across Australia.
Flannigan, who left school at 15 to start his career as a boilermaker at a Williamstown abattoir and played for the Williamstown Lacrosse Club for over 20 years, re-entered the business world after completing a business degree at Victoria University as a mature-age student. He worked his way up the ladder quickly, with a number of management roles culminating in a position as CEO of $600 million telecoms and utility-focused integrator Service Stream.
That job put Flannigan in the thick of the action when it came to actually getting telecoms services connected: Service Stream's customer base is a who's who of Australian telecoms. The company even scored a $1.2 billion deal in 2007 to manage copper and fibre networks to Telstra customer premises. Clearly, Flannigan has the chops and knows his way around a complex telco network.
Of course, it's worth noting that Flannigan stepped down from his role just months before his NBN Co appointment, due to what he called "very disappointing" financial statements for the company. Nonetheless, with someone else handling the financial side of things and Flannigan freed to do what he does best, he may well offer crucial experience such as the ability to deal with all kinds of workers and the unions that represent them, which have been watching the NBN project very, very carefully. Interestingly, Flannigan could well end up working with his old colleagues again, as Service Stream is one of the 21 companies shortlisted in June for the design and construction of NBN Co's fibre-access network.
If Flannigan is engaged on the mainland, Doug Campbell is remaining engaged in Tasmania as chairman of the state's NBN Co. One of NBN Co's better-known hires, Campbell has nearly 50 years' industry experience including 18 years as a senior executive at Telstra, where he ran business divisions including Network and Technology, Wholesale, International and Telstra Country Wide. His service in the latter division earned him membership in the Order of Australia to recognise his services improving capabilities in rural areas.
Campbell is well-respected in the industry, with analyst Paul Budde calling him "most probably Australia's foremost national infrastructure expert" in a 2008 commentary; Campbell was also the highest-profile backer of a bid by mystery group Acacia to build the NBN under the government's original fibre-to-the-node plans.
Of course, nothing gets built without something to build it with. Alasdair Fuller joined NBN Co in January as chief procurement officer after a decade spent managing procurement with SingTel Optus. During his time there, Fuller's work included managing a team of four lawyers that offered pro bono legal work for Optus-affiliated charities.
Procurement is a key part of NBN Co's business, with rapid growth requiring progressive and efficient procurement strategies. Fuller has the pedigree NBN Co needs: a member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, he is formally qualified to lead what one industry journalist called "the largest single procurement project in Australian history".