Telstra sees resiliency as a 'monetisable differentiator'

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Telstra sees resiliency as a 'monetisable differentiator'

Runs through its options.

Telstra is set to treat network resiliency as a “monetisable differentiator”, particularly in the way it services its enterprise and government customers.

Speaking at TMForum’s Digital Transformation World conference overnight, Telstra’s group head of networks and IT Nikos Katinakis said the pandemic had driven network resiliency to the top of government and corporate agendas.

“Is this an opportunity for us? We believe it is because resiliency could be a monetisable differentiator, and we believe it is,” Katinakis said.

One way of creating that resiliency may be in the way that Telstra architects its network, such that a problem in one part of the infrastructure may be isolated to a small group of customers, lessening the potential for widely-felt outages in the future.

“We believe ...that the network of the future will be a lot more distributed than what it is today,” Katinakis said.

“I call it the distributed network with small blast zones, so when you have an incident you minimise the impact to as few people as possible. 

“In order to achieve that and make sure that the customers continue to function properly, especially if they are large enterprise customers spread all over the country, it’s very important you have resiliency top-of-mind in how you design the network and also how you design those edge locations.”

Resilience will also come from having direct relationships and joint go-to-market strategies with the cloud hyperscalers, Katinakis said.

He called out Telstra’s “absolute partnership” approach with Microsoft, AWS and Google, comprising “unified go-to-market models, co-creation of services, identifying problems that we can solve together” and the potential sale of services to each other.

“We have chosen to partner with them to bring value to our customers jointly because we think that both sides will optimise [for that],” Katinakis said.

“That ecosystem has to include more entities, whether that’s an infrastructure partner or a systems integrator. But at the core, a telco and a hyperscaler going together to the market provides some unique opportunities to provide truly unique use cases for the market at a much faster pace than doing it by ourselves.

“It also changes the business model, and that’s another thing we all need to understand and accept. 

“It’s not only going to be a monthly fee or postpaid and prepaid and all these things. We are looking at very unique and different business models.”

One of the combined models that Telstra is keen on for enterprise customers is workload portability.

“You have to have the ability to move workloads to the right location at the right time with the right triggers,” he said.

“That’s resiliency for the future. I would encourage everybody to take a harder look at how we’re going to do it.”

Chasing transformation

Katinakis used his DTW appearance to also tout some core “competencies” that Telstra had chosen to invest in within the networks and IT portfolio, despite cost-cutting elsewhere in the business under its T22 transformation.

“We identified five-to-six competencies that we wanted to invest in and actually grow,” he said.

“Things like cloud engineers, data engineers, security, software development, some network engineering capability etc.

“Those functions we’ve continued to grow even as we cut costs across the company.”

Katinakis said that focus was “supplemented by a foundational change in culture.”

“The signal that we’re sending to everybody [at Telstra] ... is that everybody’s job will change,” he said.

“We all have to change the way we work because otherwise the future is not going to belong to us.”

Katinakis also called out ongoing simplification efforts at the telco, which have been largely pursued through the T22 transformation.

These include to its core underlying technology platforms as well as substantially paring back the number of products offered to customers.

Katinakis said that Telstra staff were “a lot happier” post-transformation due to the “dramatically changed” career opportunities on offer.

Internal allocation of funds for capital and operating expenditure is also now “a lot more transparent”.

“There are no black holes, there are no secret projects, there are no pet projects - none of that takes place any more,” Katinakis said.

He also said there were less internal barriers to progress, particularly with staff re-arranged into cross-functional teams.

“The moment something gets stuck, the team tries to resolve as many things as possible by themselves,” he said.

“I’m not suggesting it’s perfect - please don’t misunderstand me. You just create a bunch of new issues, but it’s a much better and different environment, and things seem to work a lot faster.”

One way that Telstra had kept on-track with its change process was by publicising its scorecards and metrics, effectively creating a publicly-trackable set of commitments

While not entirely “pleasant”, Katinakis said that “externalising all these commitments” with “super detailed scorecards which we have shared with the market”, auditors that checked up on progress, and regular market updates, had been crucial to the telco’s transformation to date.

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