NBN spurs business process overhaul at Telstra

Telstra is two years into a "journey" to become more responsive to market changes.
NBN spurs business process overhaul at Telstra

The NBN has driven Telstra to overhaul internal processes to become more competitive, according to Telstra director of products and IT enablement, Jenny Wood.

At an Australian Computer Society lunch in Sydney, Wood said the telco is two years into a “journey” to promote a culture of agility throughout its business.

“With the advent of the NBN and the rapid changes we are seeing in consumer technology, to have any hope of thriving in the 21st century we must be more adaptable, responding fast to our competitors to meet new demands, level of quality and service [experience] expected by our competitors,” Wood said.

“In the next few years as fibre rolls are passed the premise,” customers will “have a choice unlike any other, and to win their business, we’re going to have to be the best,” she said. For Telstra IT, “this means being a source of competitive advantage.”

Keeping up with technology change is a constant challenge at Telstra, Wood said. “The increasing pace of adoption of ... newer technologies is literally an order of magnitude faster than the ones that preceded them,” Wood said. “And the use of Internet from desktop computers is rapidly becoming marginal compared to mobile usage.” Telstra estimates that mobile traffic will grow 26 times over the next five years, she said.

Becoming “agile” means “being responsive to change,” Wood said. At Telstra, it’s “a systematic way of working that encourages collaboration, helps to detect early failure—learning, correcting and reducing waste—and allows early identification of risk and project delivery. But most importantly, [it] focuses on delivering useful business value much earlier and incrementally in the project.”

One example of a fresh policy at Telstra is “reverse mentoring,” in which recent graduates mentor the executives, Wood said. The company has also implemented an “upward feedback” system to give lower-level employees opportunities to make an impact on how the company does business, she said.

Streamlining processes at a company as large as Telstra has been no easy task, but there has been progress, Wood said. “Changing methods is easy, but changing the culture is hard.” The movement “can feel glacial to some of those seeking to drive the change, but from a helicopter view, the change is visible" and "encouraging”.

Adoption of the new polices has moved quicker in some parts of the business compared to others, Wood said. “It really comes to having a compelling need. One of the areas where we’ve had the best adoptions is in our product area where speed to market that is something that is absolutely essential for them.”

Telstra is seeing great return on investment since it began to focus on agile business practices, Wood said. The telco realises benefits and discovers risks much earlier in the process, she said. “Financially, the reward’s there.”

Improving process is “contagious,” Wood added. It’s not just Telstra CEO David Thodey or IT leadership driving the changes, anymore, she said. “When they see the outcomes, people are willing to give it a try.”

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