Making Telstra customer-focused will take years: Thodey

Digital home and cloud computing the next areas of opportunity
Telstra chief executive officer, David Thodey

Telstra chief executive officer, David Thodey

It may take as long as five years for Telstra's internal culture to become customer-focused, according to CEO, David Thodey.

Speaking on ABC television over the weekend, Thodey claimed he had been working to change the company from being an engineering culture-based company to one which was sales, marketing and customer-led.

"I’ve tried to be [an advocate for the customer] and I think the company is moving, but it takes time because we've got to simplify the business, we've got to re-orientate it to the customers, we've got to find ways to delight customers and that's what we're going to focus on,” he said.

“But I don't underestimate this, it'll probably take another three, four, five years, but it's another stage for the company and that's what is so exciting and gets me out of bed every morning.”

Thodey said that with a Financial Heads of Agreement deal with NBN Co now plausible, the company would now look at possible acquisitions to complement both its core communications and new product offerings.

“It'll be more about acquiring capability rather than sort of bolt-ons, it's as the industry changes, the needs of customers change, for example in the home, the digital home, what's that going to look like in the next three to four years,” he said.

“…There may be some integration product that we want to acquire to provide a real end-to-end solution or in the enterprise space as we look at things like cloud computing…”

The appointment of Julia Gillard as the new Prime Minister would not affect the Heads of Agreement with NBN Co and the related agreement with the Federal Government on Telstra’s universal service obligations, Thodey added.

“This has been very well canvassed within caucus and I’m sure this will just keep going,” he said. “We don't have any reason to think anything else.”

The Heads of Agreement between Telstra and NBN Co, signed last week, will see the NBN Co pay some $9 billion to Telstra to have the company migrate its voice and broadband customers to NBN Co, while decommissioning its copper network and cable broadband service.

NBN Co will also gain access to usable Telstra ducts, pits and conduits and a right to acquire Telstra backhaul services and space in Telstra exchanges. The telco lwill be required to take on the role of wholesale supplier of last resort for fibre connections in greenfield developments from 1 January 2011.

Under the deal the Federal Government will establish a new company, USO Co, funded to the tune of $50 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14 (and $100 million per year thereafter), which will assume responsibility for Telstra's universal service obligations (USO) for standard telephone services, payphones and emergency call handling from 1 July, 2012.

It will also provide funding of $100 million to enable the retraining or redeployment of Telstra staff affected by the deal, but Thodey told media and analysts last week that those staff would be retained by the telco.