BH Telecom: championing digital transformation in telecoms
Located in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), BH Telecom was founded in 1992 with the vision of providing high-quality telecoms services using the most up-to-date technology available. Now, 28 years later, the company has risen to become the country’s leading operator and its dedication to providing the best for its customers has not wavered. A shareholding company but 90% publicly-owned, an integral component of BH Telecom’s motivation for success is the betterment of national network infrastructure, which it facilitates through competitive fixed phone, mobile, internet and IPTV services. With over 3,200 employees and a managerial strategy which prioritises innovation, fast R&D and comprehensive solutions, BH Telecom has indelibly left its mark on B&H’s telecommunications sector.
Part of the BH Telecom journey for over 16 years, Adnan Huremovic joined the company as an Associate for Access Networks and steadily worked his way up to his current role as Chief Technology Officer in 2018. “The telecommunications field was my primary professional interest when I started,” he explains. “From my first role when I was working in infrastructure, then later to project planning and finally as a board member, my life and career are connected to communications.” A true expert in his field, Huremovic has maintained a relationship with his alma mater - the University of Sarajevo - as an academic and teacher, which, he states, continues to shape his approach to the CTO role at BH Telecom. “On one side, I have the opportunity to share ideas and my practical and business-related knowledge with future engineers. On the other, the students of the telecoms department are potential future employees.”
It is, perhaps, this openness to change and fresh perspectives that has led to BH Telecom’s superlative workplace culture - the driving force behind its success, Huremovic claims. Striving to create an atmosphere which encourages and rewards the collective progress made by teams, whilst still taking the time to recognise the contributions of individuals, the company has succeeded in fostering an environment where innovation can develop naturally. “As a result, we have a lot of technical service solutions that are made solely within the company. For example, our web-based TV service, our web portal and payments, also – f-commerce (mobile prepaid recharge through fixed line, IPTV etc.), billing systems and mobile apps are completely developed in-house by our engineers.” Another factor of its success stems from a highly customer-centric ethos, a natural consequence, states Huremovic, of BH Telecom’s status as a government-owned organisation. “We are a public company; our values are not solely oriented to profit. Rather, our vision is the prosperity of all society.”
Despite BH Telecom’s impressive status and standing as the leading company in its market, it has steadfastly refused to rest on its laurels or become complacent. Formulating a clear and successful digital transformation strategy has been instrumental in cementing the company’s position. “The most important thing we needed to adapt was mindset,” says Huremovic, “across all levels, from workers up to managerial staff.” Providing intensive training and workshops across BH Telecom, the company was able to illustrate why tech progression was integral for business continuity and what benefits it would bring. This included enhanced efficiency through the digitalisation of paper-based processes, which streamlined myriad operations within the company, including procurement, payments and billings, sales, customer service and more.
The goal of becoming faster and better also emphasised the importance of BH Telecom’s partner ecosystem, which has been invaluable as a source of innovative new technology. BS Telecom, a manufacturer and supplier of integrated telecom systems for data processing, and one of BH Telecom’s key collaborators, has been instrumental in supporting its projects, both past and present. “BS Telecom has been one of our most valuable partners for a very long time,” says Huremovic. “It’s already helped us achieve some great projects, such as our previous SMS platform, and our existing ADMS platform. Currently, we are working on a very difficult project for a new billing system. It’s one of the most complex IT projects we’ve had for a couple of years, but, because of our strong past relationship, we are very confident that this will be another joint success - that’s the high level of confidence that we have in BS Telecom as an integrator for this endeavour.”
Already utilising hybrid cloud computing and IoT within its digital transformation journey for the past five years, the company is planning to explore artificial intelligence (AI) applications as its 5G capabilities develop further. As part of its commitment to liability and providing its customers with the best experience possible, BH Telecom has also rigorously developed in-house end-to-end cybersecurity, including DDoS protection, state-of-the-art application firewalls and fraud detection. However, one of the primary challenges of the modern telecom industry is the fast-paced nature of tech development and its ability to completely transform old paradigms of working. Emerging global trends, such as 5G, have the ability to reshape the customer experience and the task, states Huremovic, will be for BH Telecom to prepare the necessary infrastructure to utilise it. “The big challenges are likely to be the regulatory and legal issues,” he says. Therefore, BH Telecom has a didactic role to play, along with its partners, in introducing this revolutionary new infrastructure to the public and authorities. “At the end of the road, we expect to see a fully-covered high speed, low latency network. From that, we’ll then have the basis to build newer services.”
Trust and its standing within the community is paramount to BH Telecom. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult experience for everyone, Huremovic says that the company also recognised it as an opportunity to prove its mettle. “Interestingly, we didn’t experience many problems or delays as far as technology development was concerned. I believe that this crisis actually motivated our employees to demonstrate that BH Telecom is something people can rely on.” Throughout the pandemic so far, the company has managed to avoid data congestions and network dropouts on services which have become vital as customers live and work primarily from home. Additionally, BH Telecom has granted access to critical services free-of-charge to schools and students.
Through its actions, BH Telecom continues to manifest its values and mission; one of the few government-owned telecoms in B&H, its position and prestige as the best is a reputation that it intends to keep. Foreseeing a shift in the sector, the company is diversifying to include investment in domestic fintechs and focusing on expanding its capacity to include content production. Regarding the latter, Huremovic adds, “We already have some investments in local and regional content companies that we plan to build or even acquire. I see a global orientation toward content as something that will benefit every telecom’s portfolio.” Concurrently, fintechs and domestic startups will be assisted by BH Telecom’s ‘Start IT Up’ initiative, a programme which the company hopes will position it as a central platform in B&H’s startup market.
Reflecting on the challenges of 2020 so far and how it will shape the market moving forwards, Huremovic is proud of what BH Telecom has managed to achieve and feels confident in the new direction it has selected. “If there's any silver lining in this pandemic situation for the telecoms industry,” he concludes, “it’s that the integration of digital processes and digital transformation has been accelerated dramatically. During this time, it'll play an important role in keeping the economy healthy and allow the company to flourish. I think, after this situation has passed, BH Telecom and its partners will be on a whole new level.”