SAN JOSE -- Digital Disruption -- T-Mobile has its vocal CEO John Legere to thank for its new attitude and marketing tactics, but the unsung hero of the uncarrier's transformation is actually inside the company: the IT department.
The Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) changes T-Mobile US Inc. had to make were immense, as Melissa French, T-Mobile's director of IT marketing solutions, explained to Digital Disruption attendees here this week. That's mainly because they were starting from a place of complete disarray owing to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s failed takeover attempt in 2011. (See AT&T Drops Bid to Acquire T-Mobile.)
T-Mobile had the highest churn in the industry, and it wasn't attracting high-value customers. According to French, behind the scenes, it also had low employee morale and high turnover. The carrier was operating six major IT systems and a variety of shadow IT apps. It took six to 18 months to launch a new campaign and, since it didn't have the right employees, it would bring in contractors that took three months to get up to speed.
"Our methodologies were broken and our technology and people were not in a framework to be successful," French explained.
Then, John Legere came on board in September of 2012 donning a magenta superhero cape (at least how French made it seem) and radical ideas for change within T-Mobile. Everyone knows what came next: the Uncarrier strategy. (See T-Mobile's New CEO to Lead Challenger Strategy.)
As she described it, the Uncarrier strategy has so far has had four iterations:
- Uncarrier 1.0: getting rid of the contract (See T-Mobile Kills Contracts, Launches LTE Network.)
- Uncarrier 2.0: implementation of JUMP plans with the ability to upgrade devices twice a year (See T-Mobile: Might As Well JUMP.)
- Uncarrier 3.0: allowing free unlimited data in 100 countries across the globe (See Bills Don't Lie: T-Mobile Drops International Roaming Charges.)
- Uncarrer 4.0: 200MB of free 4G LTE tablet data (See T-Mobile Zeros In on Tablets.)
Inside the Uncarrier
The Uncarrier strategy may have bolstered T-Mobile's image with consumers, but it caused a lot of problems on the backend, French said. She brought in Deloitte Consulting, which introduced guiding principles to T-Mobile as it undertook dramatic changes. These included to keep it simple, don't over-architect, and utilize inherent capabilities, according to Angel Vaccaro, principal for Deloitte Consulting.
A big part of T-Mobile's SPIT transformation necessitated bringing the IT department much closer to the business department. Rather than explain that they changed the backend to a service layer with APIs (which they did), they told the business team, "making this change will add one week of training. Is that okay?"
"Our job as consultants was to go to [the business team]," French said. "We understand where the bleeding edge is and what the benefits are, but in the end the business has to make the decision on how much risk, investment, and the time to market they want."
They also brought all their data into one place, including web, social media, network, and customer data. French said they don't have all the data they need -- for example, they only know 0.06 percent of their customers' Twitter handles -- but it's an ongoing process. And, as they add more data, it'll all goes into one common data-landing zone.
T-Mobile also tapped Deloitte's pre-configured SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP) management solution to converge its six CRM systems into one. But, French also made sure they had an out by keeping its old system up and running. She said she wouldn't contaminate the old system by integrating it with the new.
The result of T-Mobile's internal changes, according to the two women, include more empowered, engaged team members with more accountability, more work happening between the IT and business teams, reduced manual processes and work flow steps, and lower opex and costs to serve customers and generate customer loyalty.
"This project takes a lot of empathy and compassion for business users and IT," French said. "This is very hard… It's about getting the right software built that meets the right business needs with a quality bar that's been decided."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading