Telstra: IT transformation pay-off a "work in progress"

Billing system migration to be complete by end of 2010

Telstra chief executive David Thodey has defended the company’s heavy investment in its IT transformation program, claiming that it has delivered benefits to the company.

Responding to questioning on the benefits of the multi-billion investment Thodey claimed the company would have been a worse position had it not made its investments in IT.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that the transformation we began on five years ago has not delivered,” he said. “In fact I would say its to the contrary…

“If we hadn’t spent $1.5 to $2 billion on the wireless Next G, $1 billion on the IP network. All these things that we have done have allowed us to be in a position to compete on a technology level,” he said.

Thodey did, however, admit that the company’s investments in IT – millions in investments in the year to 30 June 2010 - were not delivering on schedule.

“In all cases, probably the one that has taken longer and hasn’t delivered as quickly as we would have liked would be the IT side.

"Yeah we still have a lot of work to do. A work in progress. It’s a hairy old issue to work through but we are bit by bit making progress.”

Thodey attributed this lag in IT to shifting goal posts, caused by a number of factors in the marketplace.

"Prices have moved enormously, behaviours have moved far faster than we expected. These trends are not new, but they have accelerated in the previous 12 months and that is why we have had to reset things through the year," he said.

Commenting on the progress of Telstra’s move to a single billing system, Thodey said the company was “going hard” to get the migration of all its customers completed by the end of the calendar year.

“The last ones are the hardest as they have multi-product holdings and some very old legacy products but we are feeling pretty comfortable about that and the team are working well,” he said.

“Unfortunately too many of our customers know whether they’re on an old legacy or a new billing system and they should never know. So, we have to get that done.”

Thodey said he would not characterise the company’s customer management issues a “billing challenge” as the company had also put in place related systems such as a new Siebel CRM system, the new billing, and a provisioning system.

“I can’t declare victory yet as every time we put a new software drop in sometimes we get errors just due to the complexity of the system but we are getting better at stopping the impact on customers, and we hold the issues, get them fixed and get them out,” he said.

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