Telstra Global nears transformation finish-line

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Telstra Global nears transformation finish-line

'Heart-lung' systems transplant comes in ahead of schedule.

Telstra Global will wrap up a three-year business transformation project next month that reshapes the way customers interact with its worldwide operations.

Chief information officer Sundi Balu told attendees of Salesforce's Dreamforce conference that the telco had brought standard processes, product offerings and data structures to its operations spread across five geographies, including north and south Asia, USA, EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] and Australia.

Underpinning the transformation is a mostly new IT environment that consists of a large software-as-a-service stack.

Adopting SaaS en masse isn't just about faster time-to-market and reduced cost; it's also an enabler for a 'zero touch' business model that prevents delays in spinning up new services and puts the customer firmly in control of interactions with Telstra Global, Balu explained.

But it wasn't always like this. Prior to transformation, Balu said Telstra Global's five regional entities operated "very autonomously".

Each had its own processes, customer accounts, data structures and a "significantly siloed approach" to determining the products and services it offered.

"If you ordered a service out of the US you'd get a completely different service when you went to EMEA and a completely different service out of Asia," he said.

"As customers, that's not a great experience, especially when you start talking about [servicing the needs of] multinationals.

"What our customers were telling us in early 2011 is they wanted to ensure that every conversation they were having with either the sales or service folks needed to be consistent."

Telstra Global set about making changes. It mapped a standard end-to-end process for customer interactions "from prospect to cash" — that is, from the time they started looking for services to the time they were billed for them.

"Across the end-to-end process, we then understood that we really needed a common information model," Balu said.

"You want to make sure that as a customer, when they touch [Telstra Global] for the first time, that information is consistent across all the channels and its utilised by every function."

Balu is unapologetically "dictatorial" when it comes to enforcing regional compliance with the company's new common information model. Keeping it consistent and ensuring no geography tries to deviate from it are among the keys to the project's success to date.

The third thing Telstra Global mapped out was a "common product catalogue" for its worldwide operations. It then started to think about the IT architecture that would support the transformation.

"We wanted to ensure that the choice of the architecture supported the common information model, the common product catalogue and the common processes globally," Balu said.

Balu describes the architecture piece as a "heart-lung transplant". Telstra Global "ditched" what little legacy architecture it had and "built an end-to-end platform that is completely integrated".

"We wanted to make sure that customer data flew end-to-end — from customer initiation all the way to the point that we had to collect cash — without any touch," he said.

"That's very important because when you start to introduce a lot of touch points, that's when you start to introduce a lot of delays."

The Salesforce piece runs the portion of the process "from prospect to quote".

"The whole process for our sales agents starts with Salesforce, and that's integrated with a configure price quote (CPQ) cloud based platform [Calliduscloud], which then flows into the order management," Balu said. "We actually complete the order hand-off through Salesforce and through the CPQ engine."

CPQ software is typically used to enforce consistency over product stock keeping units (SKUs), pricing, bundles and offers, which in turn improves the accuracy of quotes given to customers.

According to Balu, the success of this portion of the end-to-end process should be reflected in book-to-bill ratio improvements — that is, orders received to units shipped and billed over a certain period.

Customer-centric design

Customer needs have been put front-and-centre of Global's transformation," Balu said.

"We have a very large customer advocacy program within Telstra and Telstra Global, and we put the customer in the middle of everything we do."

Customers that consume Telstra Global connectivity or cloud services across multiple geographies clearly benefit from a more consistent experience, owing to the underlying standardisation of product SKUs, pricing and data flows.

They also benefit from the 'zero touch' approach taken by Telstra Global, which culminates in self-service capabilities via the Customer Control Centre — abbreviated to the "C³ Portal".

"Our customers want control of the information that's associated with the service," Balu said.

"That's where they can see the status of the order, the status of any incidents they've got or billing information.

"We expose that through our online portal so they can manipulate the data without interfacing with us. The only reason we can provide that is because we've got that common information model and common process model end-to-end across the [architecture] stack".

Balu is already plotting ways to take the self-service concept further.

"We're now starting to expose APIs for our regional service providers that utilise this platform but also for our enterprise customers to be able to draw information," he said. "They don't want to utilise the portal so they can come through an API."

The APIs could be used by a customer, for example, to populate an internal IT service management platform with service information from Telstra Global.

SaaS fast-track

Balu notes that despite an architectural endstate that is heavily reliant on software-as-a-service, getting to that point wasn't easy.

"Especially being part of a large organisation, there was a lot of discussion on why we couldn't leverage what is already in place," he said.

Balu got cloud systems over the line by showing the way they aligned with Telstra Global's business strategy of customer-centricity, differentiation and productivity. The decision also paid off with the project coming in ahead of schedule.

"We started this in 2011 and we're going to wrap this up next month — we're closing transformation on December 16," Balu said.

"It was a three year journey so we're ahead of time, and that's because we went through the cloud to stand up most of the capabilities."

Ry Crozier attended Salesforce's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.

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