Bridging the networks-IT divide
Tele2's internal structure also differentiates it from many of its operator peers.
When Horn was appointed Group CTIO in April 2011, he was tasked with merging the operator's networks and IT technology teams. At that time, most network operators were only just beginning to recognize that bridging the chasm (as Light Reading likes to call it) between the telco network and IT organizations would be a good idea. (See Bridging the Chasm: A Manifesto, Meet the New CTO – It's the CIO and Bridging the Chasm[s]: Easier Said Than Done.)
Horn accomplished the integration two years ago at Tele2 group level and at the operator's Swedish operations. He said it took just three months to bring the networks and IT teams together and that the staff are enjoying the benefits.
"Within weeks, I got excellent feedback from the teams saying things had become so much easier to achieve," he said. "That's because the typical projects we run in order to introduce new functionality impacts both sides of technology -- network and IT. Before it was a kind of silo approach where you had to run complex management around it. Now, we have merged the [networks and IT] teams and it has become much more synergetic to get projects implemented."
Rather than sticking with the typical networks-IT divide, Horn reshuffled his technology teams into two new groups: one for operational functions, which includes everything to do with running platforms and services; and another group for strategic activities, which includes longer-term architecture and roadmap decisions and supplier selection.
The operational teams account for about 80% of Tele2's technology efforts and were easier to merge than the strategic teams, Horn said. The operational teams "can merge quickly … because there is not a big difference whether you run a box from the network side or from the IT side," he explained. "The main target is all about ensuring quality for the customer and with the lowest possible cost."
For the more strategic activities, the network and IT teams were not as easy to merge, he explained, which is why he decided to separate these functions from operations and subdivide them into three groups -- radio and transmission networks, core networks, and enterprise architecture.
Tele2 has implemented this network-IT strategy at the group level of the company, which primarily handles the strategic activities, as well as its Swedish business. Tele2's other eight markets are due to follow this strategy and Sweden will serve as a blueprint for implementation: That at least means Horn's successor will not be executing that part of the company's strategy without significant guidance and internal experience.
In total, Tele2 has around 2,000 employees working in technology, 800 of which work in the strategic group functions. So was it Tele2's relatively small size that made the integration easier? Not really, according to Horn, who previously held CTO roles at Bharti Airtel and Deutsche Telekom. The cultural differences between network and IT were the same at those larger operators as at Tele2, he said.
"The easiness starts with who is leading this change," he said. "I was assigned to do this when I came to Tele2, so I was empowered to get this done. Also, you need to be fast, very decisive and clear. I don't believe in gradual change because there is just too much arm wrestling of opinions at lower levels.
"And we did a relatively smart differentiation to merge fully where it made sense to merge," he added. "You can merge 80% of the technology functions and you get immediate benefit. Employee satisfaction has increased steeply since then."
Next page: NFV with 'no regrets'