Purpose – This paper summarises a doctoral research study. The purpose is to provide a summary of the scope, literature review, main issues raised in the thesis, the application of case study research methodology, key research findings and potential areas for future research. Design/methodology/approach – Research reported here is based on a case study methodology for a better understanding of new product development (NPD) projects in the Australian Telecommunications service provider (Telco) industry, and what makes their project managers successful. Theoretical conclusions from the literature review were tested using empirical data from one-on-one interview with experienced project management professionals and major stakeholders (i.e. unit of data collection). Sample projects (i.e. units of analysis) were analysed to gain a better understanding of Telco NPD projects and the skill sets required for their success. Findings – A theoretical skill set framework of technical, leadership, managerial and administrative skills, has been proposed and summarised with clear definitions grounded in the recent management and leadership literature and with a rationale of how they contribute to project management success that this thesis fleshes out. This framework was empirically proven to define successful Telco NPD project managers. Practical implications – The research study advances knowledge of projects and their practices in a specific Telco industry NPD context, and proposes a better description of successful project managers. Its results have important implications for hiring, developing and assigning project managers to projects in different phases. Generic project manager competency standards need to be complemented and adjusted in accord with the findings from this research. Originality/value – This paper alerts academicians and practitioners to this research work on Telco industry NPD projects, and their project managers. It presents an up-to-date status of this industry, and requirements for project managers.