Getting to One Click
- From CIO Digest, January 2009 Issue (Download This Entire Issue in PDF)
When Tom Lamming joined Telstra, he assumed charge for an IT transformation initiative as far-reaching as the building of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line. The initiatives he is now spearheading as senior vice president, transformation, are game-changing moves that will help catapult Telstra to the forefront of its market space. While the benefits are far ranging, from lower costs, to improved operational efficiencies, to increased revenues, to greater profit margins, the focus is on delivering an enhanced customer experience.
Business strategy guides technology
The IT transformation trek began on November 15, 2005, when Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo unveiled a five-year strategy to transform Telstra into a fully integrated, converged media-communications company. The transformation touches on everything from networks, products, IT systems, customer relationships, and workplace culture, all based on a vision of a new customer experience. The latter includes the ability to offer customers a simple, integrated, intuitive one-click, onecommand, any-screen, real-time interaction.
Trujillo and his new management team spent the first 120 days conducting a baseline of the company. Lamming describes the process: “We took a fairly thorough review of all aspects of the company—how we tracked against world-class benchmarks in terms of process performance, where we were on the IT front, where we were on the network front.” An integral lynchpin to their analysis was IT, which was lacking in key areas. Among other issues, Lamming found more than 1,500 different IT systems in place and over a dozen different customer databases residing on myriad systems.
Lamming, who held various client leadership and practice management roles at Accenture—including the Global Managing Partner for the Communications Industry—took a very strategic rather than a tactical approach in addressing the above challenges. “Telstra is not in the business of building IT systems,” Lamming says. “That’s not our job. We are here to empower the business—to help the business deliver a superior customer experience.”
In addition, when translating business requirements into technology solutions, Lamming emphasizes the importance of ensuring that IT uses language indicative of the business—not technology. “It is not the business’ job to learn our jargon,” Lamming quips. “It is our job to be able to communicate with the business and articulate how we can help them perform.”
Changing tires on a speeding “18 wheeler”
The complexity of the IT transformation was amplified by the fact that existing business operations had to continue without any interruption. The analogy of changing a tire on an 18-wheel tractor trailer speeding down the National Highway is apropos. “We had to support the business simultaneously while evolving the IT environment,” Lamming explains. “This undertaking is one of the largest programs of its kind in the world. It goes well beyond an IT fix; rather, it is a comprehensive business and IT transformation. To get here, the IT team has gone from what I would call an ‘administered business’ to one that’s highly integrated and outcomes based.”
Working with COO Greg Winn, to whom he reports, Lamming determined they wanted to get a core set of technology providers in place at the forefront of the IT transformation initiative. Having worked together on similar initiatives before, they developed a short list and got all of the critical providers in place shortly after kicking off the program.
“Instead of a 6 to 12 month protracted RFP process, we created a short list of world-class technology providers for consideration,” Lamming remembers. “We sought global players with proven solutions and a strong reputation for delivery and performance. We didn’t want something that was ‘good’ yesterday. We wanted technology solutions and providers that would lead us into the future and that would help us in executing on our very ambitious agenda.” In addition, Lamming stresses the team looked for providers with a proven roadmap and that wanted to invite Telstra to join them for the “journey” ahead, even helping with the navigation.
Telstra ultimately settled on a dozen or so core technology providers that included Symantec. “We weren’t going to shift from our model of heavily outsourcing certain aspects of the technology environment,” Lamming says. “We couldn’t do it ourselves; we didn’t have the capability and weren’t going to spend months interviewing and hiring a team to do so.” However, leadership of the IT initiative remains in the full purview of the Telstra team. “For the Telstra team,” Lamming explains, “it was important for us to understand that leadership is not something outsourced. We needed to get the Telstra leadership in place, and then integrate the different technology providers into this team.”
A view beyond the engine room
As Lamming and his team have mapped their technology initiatives to the agenda of the business, service level agreements (SLAs) have taken on greater relevance. The performance of IT is geared and measured based on the performance of the business. Lamming describes this process with an analogy: “IT is in the engine room of the ship, and the business is at the helm. There has to be good communication between both, but it is the business that sets the direction.”
Then, when Telstra measures the results, they are done from the compass of the business. Lamming describes this using the analogy of the “hand in glove” approach, noting that Telstra has “worked very hard not to bifurcate what’s IT versus what’s the business. It’s a shared outcome, not just an IT outcome.” We must yield actual outcomes for the investment we are making.”
While Telstra is still in the process of standardizing its IT systems, it is already realizing tangible value. “The key benefit for us from a technology point of view is that we’ll have one IT environment that we will maintain around a core set of technology providers,” Lamming says. “We havestayed committed to our one factory principles: ‘do it once; do it right for the customer; do it in an integrated way; do it at a low unit cost’.”
The customer is at the center of Telstra’s IT transformation. “What we are doing is transforming the customer experience from dealing with multiple, product-centric systems to a single, end-to-end customer-centric solution,” Lamming explains. “Prior to the rollout of the new system, a customer purchasing multi-product holdings would need to place up to four different calls: one for PSTN, one for Wireless, one for Broadband, one for ip-TV. The different systems weren’t integrated. Customers can now place just one call, and we’re able to address everything at one time.”
This integrated approach creates enhanced operating efficiencies, more cross-sell opportunities, better margins—or even revenue—and lower costs. “We’re a ‘light standard’ here,” Lamming quips. “Our competitors cannot compete with us on networks, products, and services. Our ability to execute on the IT transformation will give us an unmatched capability.” Lamming concludes with the following analogy: “It’s like the space shuttle, all fueled up and on the launch pad. When we are operationally bedded down and our customers are migrated—which is already largely the case for consumer and small business customers—we will be ready for takeoff. And while the preparation for launch is immense, the results are beyond the world as we have known it.”
Rationalizing down to Symantec
Telstra is rationalizing down to a common set of software. For example, “rather than having five separate CRM systems, we’ll be down to one,” explains Lamming. This consolidation creates new challenges and criticalities. “Our challenges are greater from an IT point of view. By consolidating everything into one place, our points of failure become more important and service levels become much greater.”
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As Telstra built out its next generation data center environment, it tapped several key technology providers—and Symantec was one of those selected. While Telstra had a history of leveraging different storage management and availability solutions from Symantec, this historical experience was not the reason for Symantec’s selection. “[Symantec] was chosen because of the skill set of its consultants and world-class technology,” Lamming says. Considerations such as Symantec’s reputation, ability to deliver both global and local resources, and the capability to provide on-site technological expertise formed the core of Telstra’s evaluation criteria.
“There is an understanding that we have much to do, and we need to work together,” Lamming notes. “Symantec, working with the other technology vendors in the data center, was a workable solution. We knew the teams, understood their roles, and that we would not have any hand-off issues.”
The initial project involving Symantec focused on backup and restore. The previous solution had a number of shortcomings, and Symantec worked with the Telstra team and its different technology partners to consolidate data protection operations across its data center environment on Veritas NetBackup. Symantec Consulting Services provided as many as 10 consultants on site throughout various stages of project implementation. The solution backs up more than 140 terabytes of data each day, including 600 percent spikes in daily backup volumes, while improving backup success rates by 10 percent.
The Symantec team subsequently worked with Telstra and its strategic providers to design and implement a high availability and disaster recovery solution leveraging Veritas Storage Foundation HA, Veritas Storage Foundation for Oracle RAC, and Veritas Cluster Server. The solution breaks into two basic pieces.
First, Symantec Consulting Services worked with Accenture and Sun, Telstra’s preferred server platform vendor, to deploy a clustered environment that taps the N+1 technology of Veritas Cluster Server for clusters up to 15 nodes across Telstra’s business-critical Sun Solaris-based servers. The high availability cluster also uses Veritas Storage Foundation Cluster File System that allows Telstra to share data between multiple hosts. The ability to cluster multiple hosts to one or two hot spares translates into savings of millions of dollars in hardware, software, and maintenance for Telstra.
Second, using Veritas Storage Foundation, Telstra was able to gain better flexibility of its tiered EMC storage environment, moving some data archiving to tier-three storage versus tier-one storage. This enabled Telstra to avoid additional tier-one disk storage purchases, equating to significant cost avoidance.
Archiving email for storage and compliance
Recently, seeking to control burgeoning volumes of email data and comply with legal discovery requirements, the Telstra team elected to implement Symantec Enterprise Vault. Symantec Consulting Services is currently helping with the implementation, which includes Enterprise Vault Microsoft Exchange Journaling and Discovery Accelerator. Once fully deployed, the solution will provide email archiving and e-discovery for more than 45,000 mailboxes and more than 20 terabytes of email data.
Savoring the results of the journey
Ranking as one of the great engineering feats of 19th century Australia, the Australian Overland Telegraph Line involved thousands of different individuals in planning and actual construction—and took many years to plan and another two years to build. Yet despite the enormous expenditure of time and resources, the end result was well worth the journey.
The same can be said of the IT transformation journey Lamming embarked upon. While five years is a virtual eternity in technology years, the expedition for Lamming and the rest of the Telstra team and its technology partners is proving to be quite fruitful. And unlike the Australia Overland Telegraph Line, they haven’t had to wait until the completion of the journey to savor some of the results.
Patrick E. Spencer (Ph.D.) is the editor in chief for CIO Digest and the author of a book and various articles and reviews published by Continuum Books and Sage Publications, among others.