One of the inherent challenges in any major transformation initiative is that its scope is likely to be huge and the change radical (if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be a transformation).

But in the current age, change also needs to happen quickly if operators want to stand a chance of maintaining and improving their market position.

Lose momentum, and you may as well surrender.

Three Ireland believes it has got the balance right.

The company, which started its current journey when it bought rival O2 Ireland in mid-2014, is about to embark on the design phase of its digital transformation plan, having done a lot of important groundwork.

All being well, the full benefits will be ready to enjoy by the middle of 2018.

The first priority for the operator’s CIO, Stephen Reidy, and his business peers was to tease out all the synergies between the two companies, and integrate as much of the operations and business as possible, so Three Ireland could maximise its position in the market.

Conditions are fairly intense: Three’s competitors include Vodafone and eir, as well as MVNOs such as Tesco and Carphone Warehouse, and more recently Virgin Media.

“Everyone has their own change programmes; we’re all busy; we’re all in the same boat,” Reidy says.

Financial stability isn’t a given, he adds: “None of us can afford to sit back: who knows what even the near future holds? This is a market that doesn’t stand still.”

Although Three Ireland wasn’t in a position to cut corners, with operational risks and integration to take care of in the wake of the O2 acquisition, the company had its sights set on something bigger than the sum of the two organisations’ parts.

“We knew we wanted to achieve something more,” Reidy says.

“A business-led transformation was always on the cards, but we needed to start from a good place and take the opportunity to do it properly.”

So what does digital transformation mean for Three Ireland?

“Digital is a buzzword that’s overused in the industry at the moment,” Reidy concedes.

“For me, it’s about delivering the technology to allow something operationally different – internally for the business, and externally in the form of a seamless customer experience, however customers interact with us.”

Three Ireland is close to delivering the first part of the plan, which has involved consolidating and modernising its billing and CRM systems.

“When you’re a telco, CRM is the core of everything you do,” Reidy notes.

The consolidation plan is almost designed now, ready for implementation next year, and in terms of ‘digital’ transformation, partner and solution selection has been completed and design will begin in earnest early in 2017.

As well as doing things in the right order, Reidy says Three Ireland has made two other important choices that he believes should ensure success. 

One was to be very clear that changes needed to be all pervasive.

With the CEO very much spearheading all of the improvements, Reidy has been working closely with key business sponsors at each stage of the transformation.

During the consolidation phase, it was the CRM director; for the next tranche, which will focus chiefly on an omni-channel customer experience, it’s the Chief Communication Officer.

“It’s very much a team effort,” Reidy says. “This is not a special project on the side: the entire organisation is involved, top to bottom.”

In Three Ireland’s bid to deliver a consistent and tightly integrated experience across all points of customer contact, its other major strategic decision has been to invest in an integrated suite of back-office software, instead of a series of standalone applications each chosen on their individual merit.

“We didn’t want a complex set of systems which might each be ‘best of breed’ but would be complex to bring together,” Reidy explains.

“We wanted to avoid a situation where we needed a systems integrator and were dealing with several vendors, with multi-layered contracts and no clarity about who was responsible for what.

“We’ve gone for an 80/20 model, where 80 percent of the functionality maps onto our business processes out of the box and the rest is easy to adapt.”

This is an extract from an interview that will appear in Q4 issue of European Communications magazine. Click here to subscribe

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