Optus has restructured its enterprise business into a series of “digital practices”, areas of “deep specialisation” that are set up to work collaboratively on both internally-facing and external customer projects.
Speaking as part of the CXO Challenge series on The iTnews Podcast, Optus Enterprise vice president of customer solutions and cloud Theresa Eyssens talks about her arrival at the telco, the new structure of its enterprise business, and ongoing efforts to train thousands of staff in the cloud.
Eyssens joined Optus in August last year, coming from Salesforce where she was vice president of customer success in Australia and New Zealand. She also previously spent a combined 26 years at IBM.
Upon moving to Optus, she inherited a staff of almost 100 but saw some fragmentation in their structure.
“I realised that we needed to restructure ourselves and it was really around this concept of deep specialisation,” Eyssens said.
“My background is IBM, 26 years in consulting and systems integration. I'm used to working with the concept of ‘capability practices’. [At Optus], I call these digital practices.”
Eyssens arranged staff among three digital practices: workplace of the future, contact centre of the future and hybrid cloud.
The structure was chosen “not to create silos but to create collaboration”. Client projects might require deep skills across one or more practices, and the new structure enabled that cross-capability collaboration to occur.
“It's been interesting because what we're actually creating is a digital business inside a telco,” Eyssens said.
“The reason we exist as digital practices in Optus is to really leverage the investment in the carriage - data, voice and mobile.
“With all of the investments that are going on in 5G and IoT, how do we bring that expertise also to our customers that are transforming contact centres and cloud environments? That's the value proposition that we're trying to take to clients that we're not just a telco, but thank gosh we're a telco because we have that telco expertise as well.”
Eyssens said the skills of the digital practices could also be brought to bear on internal projects as well as those for paying customers.
“I think there's always opportunities,” she said.
“I call it the ‘Optus on Optus’ story.
“For example, Optus Consumer is going to go through a transformation themselves around how they interact with their customers. Given the fact that we are a very large contact centre of the future practice, we can provide advice and guidance to our colleagues in Consumer to ensure that they get the best guidance around how they manage their own transformation.”
Also coming under Eyssen’s remit is Optus’ cloud training program for staff, ‘cloud university’, which is running in collaboration with AWS.
“When I joined Optus, I realised that - and you know, in the market, and in Australia - we've got a real lack of what I would call deep cloud technology capabilities,” Eyssens said.
“There’s a lot of acceleration to cloud, a lot of cloud-first strategies, and a lot of digital transformation - even though that's a phrase that's often overused - but finding skill is one of the biggest challenges my clients and our customers have.”
Cloud university was set up to train Optus’ own staff in cloud skills, as well as “ to give our customers an opportunity to skill up.”
“If we don't, as organisations in Australia, take the opportunities like AWS with its cloud university to skill up, we're not going to have enough skill to help with the cloud transformations that are absolutely required to really digitise the Australian business community,” Eyssens said.
Eyssens “took a very active role” in the training, and brought in an AWS program aimed at women in technology called ‘She Builds’.
The program offered cloud practitioner certification to participants; Eyssens drove the program internally and managed about 40 sign-ups, who all sat AWS exams to become certified.
“We were the biggest organisation in Australia that took up She Builds, so that was exciting,” Eyssens said.
“I think, as leaders, it's important that we lead by example, and I'm very excited about opportunities for women, especially women in tech to have to skill up.”
For the broader cloud university, Optus has so far reached about 1000 staff with training.
“The intent was getting 2000 trained and we're reaching about 1000 that are in process of being trained [already],” she said.
Optus is also hoping to over-achieve on its target of 600 staff becoming certified, citing the success of the She Builds program internally at driving certifications.
“The targets are ambitious but I think they're realistic,” Eyssens said. “I'm really excited about the amount of accreditation.”
Eyssens’ background at Salesforce places her in good stead to drive further uptake of cloud training.
Salesforce has invested considerable effort into training and certification in its own ecosystem under its ‘Trailhead’ initiative, which offers a gamified experience to learning Salesforce skills and SWAG - stuff we all get - like hoodies and stickers to prove it.
Eyssens believed there were lessons from the Salesforce approach that could be applied in an Optus context.
“When I was at Salesforce … we often talked about starting the [learning] journey with identifying what we called trailblazers, and getting people onto Trailhead and gamifying it, making it fun,” she said.
“I'm often surprised at what people will do for a piece of SWAG … but I think it's also a representation of the fact that people want to have goals, and the gamification is a way to track it.
“On a lot of large implementations, we want to have leaderboards and make it fun and make contests out of it.
“I see the same opportunity here at Optus. When we’re advising and guiding our clients around the journey to the cloud, when they're starting to embrace it or they're new in the journey, how can we help with this education and training opportunity with cloud university, and how do we make it fun?
“At Optus, we have SWAG that we can provide. We can help with gamification.
“So it's really bringing in not just that technology and implementation advice and guidance, but also the adoption and success of the programs as they move to that cloud-first environment that a lot of our organisations and our customers are trying to get to.”