In the digital age, an increasing number of companies are establishing dedicated digital transformation arms to accelerate the journey for themselves, their partners and their customers. A pioneer of this approach was Canadian telecommunications giant TELUS, establishing TELUS Digital as a means to cement its position as a digital leader. “The journey started around seven years ago, and the foundation of the team was built around building up our web presence with TELUS.com,” says Ryan Kardish, Manager of the Digital Platform Evolution with TELUS Digital and experienced in the AI and analytics spaces. “In the modern world of telecom, you’re seeing customer demands and preferences, shift towards self-serve digital experiences, especially in the research and learn phase of their journey. The question was: how can we improve the customer engagement with the breadth of products and services that TELUS can offer through the digital channel? I see that as ground zero to the digital transformation story.” Steve Choi, Manager of Data Products at TELUS Digital, adds that catering to this shifting landscape necessitated the birth of the dedicated digital arm. “In the past, we didn’t have the right organizational structure to support the transformation,” he says. “That’s why there was this idea to spin off the digital group as a way to incubate new ways of working with an agile approach to delivering value, iterating quickly, and being able to experiment.”
Over time and along with shifts in consumer expectations, particularly around mobile, TELUS needed to consolidate silos, technology stacks and simplify the path to production to create consistent digital experiences. The solution, a recipient of the ‘Open Digital Ecosystem Platform of the Year’ award at the 2019 TM Forum Awards, is the Digital Platform - an ecosystem of tools and solutions that enable teams to develop and deliver cutting edge customer experiences in a seamless, collaborative manner. “As all these teams spun up to develop new functions, we recognized the opportunity to start investing in shared capabilities, shared technologies and shared resources across those teams because their needs are similar across the capabilities we’re building,” explains Choi. “Every team is looking to expand and build their digital presence, and use these technologies to better serve our customers.” Through the Digital Platform, TELUS has an exceedingly powerful tool that simplifies the developmental processes for teams across the organization and represents an exciting new level of collaboration. Through the compilation of resources that can be used again and again, TELUS has a resilient outlet for scalability and reliability in its development processes. “I always struggled with how best to explain this,” admits Kardish. “However, I now think about it in the context of: what are the steps for building a modern digital application? It’s everything from sourcing the right data from your systems of record all the way to ensuring that you’re investing in the personalization and consistency of the content and design components a customer can see, and so on.” The Digital Platform’s integrated capabilities enable each of these steps, as well as affording the opportunity for teams to contribute to the platform’s ongoing development. “Any individual who wants to build on top of the tools and technologies we have built can do so,” Kardish adds.
Choi notes that the Digital Platform also solves a challenge experienced by many large organizations: the segregation of data across different departments and teams. “A lot of teams would go searching across the organization to figure out how to build a particular experience, but there might be another group that’s already tackled that challenge,” he says. With the resources of that project being available on the Digital Platform, the reuse of those resources drives considerable efficiency in the development process of a new feature or application. Not only that, but the advancements made to those resources through their reuse can then be used again in the future. It’s an incredibly organic process, driving iterative, internal collaboration that breaks down the barriers that have traditionally limited team-based development cycles.
With the mantra ‘automate all the things’ being easy to spot on its website, it is no surprise that the expedition of the developmental groundwork for new applications at TELUS Digital is further accelerated by a robust automation strategy. Aside from the well-communicated benefits to businesses ranging from increased efficiency and accuracy to adding value to the daily tasks of staff, automation has also been deployed at TELUS Digital to gain a grip on ever-shifting customer trends. “As we look across the traditional channels at TELUS, specifically within our field tech and call center experiences, what we’re starting to see is that both our customer and team member demands and preferences are changing quicker than ever before,” says Kardish. He adds that the challenge is mitigated by the shift towards chatbots, conversational interfaces such as smart speakers, unified agent desktops, and interactive voice response (IVR) tech which offer opportunities for accruing insight-rich data whilst necessitating a scalable and reactive approach to their implementation in new offerings.
That being said, TELUS’ approach to data is not solely focused on current data accrued through its various customer-facing solutions. Through the cloud-based unification of different systems within the organization, TELUS Digital is unlocking the value of data that Choi says can even be decades old. “Historically, there’s always been a separation of what I consider operational data systems and analytical data systems; traditionally, the latter were second-class citizens,” explains Choi. “That was a practicality issue because, in the past, your compute and storage would be relatively expensive. With cloud, that’s changed. We now have the ability to build intelligent systems and applications that really take advantage of data that we’ve had all along but never had the means to use effectively. The scale of data, the velocity of data, it’s always been there, but now we have the means to keep up with it.”
The key takeaway from TELUS’s transformation efforts, and indeed of the development of its staggeringly effective Digital Platform, is that unifying technology reaps dividends. Across an organization as large and internally diversified as TELUS, the value of a platform that brings together the expertise and resources of each of them for the benefit of the company, its partners and customers cannot be overstated. “We’re starting to truly recognize what it means to digitally transform, to collaborate and coordinate across the many teams and businesses TELUS operates,” enthuses Kardish. “Recognizing that a lot of great work has been happening across the entire organization, taking the best of each world to create a set of solutions, best practices and standards that help define the guiding principles of how we can work and operate better as an organization, that’s when you get the big wins.”