Hone customer-centric view to improve IT services: Telstra

Vendors sell tools to solve problems but people and processes provide the real solution, according to Telstra's network services group manager John Romano.

"This is a message to all company managers, the tool is not the key," Romano said. "Invest in people and process. Vendors will tell you that all you need to solve your problem is a tool, but work on your process, support your process with good tools, and teach your people to use those tools and processes.

"The tool is not the solution, the process is."

Romano, who is part of the team involved in the operation and maintenance of a "huge" network made up of mobile, online, IP, telephony, ISP, and e-mail infrastructure at Telstra, said the ability to understand the customer experience to manage the technology is critical.

"It's not how the technology performs because we can do that," Romano said. "By understanding the customer experience when they use services [delivered by the technology] you can manage the technology."

Romano stressed that Telstra is not just an ISP or mobile carrier and his area of the business takes care of the operation and maintenance of most of Telstra 's communications infrastructure.

"Basically anything you've got access to, that infrastructure comes under our operations and maintenance [with some] 50,000 sites around the country," he said.

Romano said technologists have the view that if the technology is working, everything's OK whereas the service view will tell you something different and "that's what's important".

More companies have started thinking that successful technology management is not around technology but around people and process.

"Businesses have started to ask what the experience is of customers that use our services."

To find out what customers experience Telstra uses Mercury's Topaz as an automated method of testing services' performance and has some 80 'robots', or agents, around the country that act like customers.

"They access, monitor, test whether services are available or too slow, and whether the quality of the content is right," he said. "We test about 150 different things [for example] if we can authenticate to the network, and test our mail services by sending mail from one robot to another."

Romano said automating testing makes it more practical and the results are used to support processes and make decisions.

"As you can't possibly test everything, test what's key to running your business. Have data that represents the experience of your customer," he said.

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