Bruno Schenk, Head of Digital Transformation at UPC Switzerland, explores how the company successfully navigates a digital transformation... By Dale Benton
In today’s technology-driven world, many stakeholders are seeking answers to the question: what is digital transformation? It is something that we hear more and more as companies look to embrace a new era of business and industry through digital transformation. The challenge for many is discovering what it means for them. Over the last few years, there has been a shift in the role of the traditional CIO, moving away from managing an isolated business unit and becoming more of a business enabler. This is certainly the case for Bruno Schenk, Head of Digital Transformation at UPC Switzerland. Having started his career in the healthcare sector, Schenk moved into the technology space with UPC almost seven years ago. Over this period of time, his role has evolved and he is now tasked with leading a transformation of business through a Simple & Digital program, called Catalyst. He has seen first-hand, the changing perspective of IT and, in particular, the definitions of digital transformation.
“It takes discipline to re-think, re-design, re-model and re-shape the business while ignoring IT restrictions in the first stage,” he says. “The digital transformation is a continuous innovation process, where you revolutionize the business by focusing on defining new values, efficiencies and customer needs to create a unique customer journey and experience, mainly focused on digital touch points.” Schenk’s role requires him to act as a business-centric person that makes all the triage system decisions, driving the right streams and initiating the right trades in order to bring the ideas on paper to the lives of both internal and external stakeholders of UPC. A key part of his role is driving the digitalization program Catalyst. The program prioritizes data-centric and future-forward technology such as AI and machine learning. Along with a future-ready digitized customer experience, the program aims to unlock higher revenues by supercharging sales, increasing efficiency and optimizing the entire customer lifecycle.
“Where once manual processes and switching screens made selling a cumbersome process, today guided selling and automation have transformed sales productivity. Sales professionals can now worry less about processes and focus on selling and providing value for customers,” explains Schenk. “We had a mixture of legacy systems, self-built CPQ engines and contract solutions that we needed to replace with a cloud-based solution. These systems were built to fulfil specific needs and couldn’t change to meet evolving customer expectations and technology requirements,” he explains. Schenk ascertains that a clear way of increasing revenue is through intelligent marketing and customer-based interaction, such as journey automation and innovation in customer interaction. For example, digital offer approvals cut customer approval times from 3 days to 15 minutes, reducing up to 3 steps. The disjointed patchwork of systems, glued together with mainly manual processes, slowed the sales cycle and clouded data visibility.
Fragmented technology also made launching new products and the provision of a fast, accurate and coherent customer experience across every channel increasingly difficult. The Catalyst program is a concept developed by the TM Forum, which sees a number of proof-of-concept projects developed collaboratively by TM Forum Members worldwide. The TM Forum currently has more than 850 companies generating around US$2 trillion in revenue. These projects bring together companies large and small to create innovative solutions to common challenges, demonstrating how this can be achieved by leveraging key TM Forum best practices and standards. Naturally, being part of a globally collaborative forum has its advantages and Schenk highlights one clear boon: vendors with the right capabilities to drive value for UPC.
“A big benefit for us and the telecommunication division of the TM Forum is that there are a number of major vendors that can deliver the right capability to your business in order for you to drive the change,” he says. “From a cost perspective, you can reduce your investment costs needed to bring up a system and benefit from proven solutions in other markets.” UPC embarked on this transformational Catalyst program in late 2018 when the company created a road map on how to drive the program. The first item identified was the need to replace its current sales CRM systems. Expected to be completed in autumn 2019, UPC will have a new system in place that will increase the efficiency across the entire marketing, sales and operations. Following this, UPC will look to implement the marketing automation suite and in 2020, the company will aim to have completed the digital step forward from self-care to self-service. In around 12 months’ time, the goal will be to have implemented an entirely new CRM system.
In any transformational program, particularly one centered around new and improved systems, it is important to be able to understand what is and what isn’t the ‘right’ technology. Schenk admits as much: “The right technology is a complex question which needs to fulfil the requirements of your business, governance, customer, legal and more,” he says. “No matter what the technology is, the program challenges remain the same to ensure continuous improvements, and the introduction of future-proof capabilities, communication to the business and involvement of the organization and more.”
“We don’t rely on software questions of what, when, or how they need to be adapted because new technologies evolve faster. You need to find a simple and digital way to adapt your entire business processes, operating models, and more in a short time period. That’s why we focus our transformation on designing the next 20 years of our business and driving the changes across the organization to achieve our ambition. All this with the help of an IT architecture vision based on an 80/20 out-of-the-box solution. We design an almost full end-to-end digital customer journey. The approach taken drives us to shape the business and the operating model, each time.”
A key challenge in any transformation is trying to strike a balance between performing and transforming. After all, while a business looks to improve internally, it cannot simply press pause on its entire operations. “The challenge here is nothing new for us. The difficult aspect lies in understanding how you can move or alter the service model behind the technology to make it simple and digital,” explains Schenk. “So, let’s say we have 150 different portfolios from a service base of around 200,000. In the end, it’s a question of understanding your technical drive and on which level you need to stop in order to do a hard, technical migration. We tried to achieve a smart way by approaching the challenge with a commercial approach to secure a portfolio uplift by means of marketing and sales automation.” Here, UPC looks to a commercial migration because it can contact 60-80% of its customer base with the remaining 20% contacted through proactive calling. If a base of around 5% remains in the end, UPC will then move to hard migration and look to move or terminate the customer’s service. “This is necessary because you need to bring the old data source to the new systems with an almost completely new data structure,” says Schenk. “It’s difficult because if you remain within the legacy structure (e.g. data, processes, values) then you have a problem sustaining the new system and introducing new capabilities based on new data structure. That’s why you need to think about how to make the transformation smooth and simply digital.”
With a clear roadmap laid out, Schenk can already begin to think about work beyond the Catalyst project. He is convinced that the business is well on track to completely roll out its programs and have one self-care and self-service portal in place so that customers can manage their portfolio services and needs in one single portal, thus reducing all manual or agent interaction by around 80%. As a technology professional in an industry that continues to rapidly evolve, Schenk knows it’s easier said than done. What then will remain key to success for UPC? “The main key would be to have an innovative solution for the customer so they can manage their services more independently and effectively; a digital customer journey,” he says. “I do see a challenge coming from the introduction of 5G, not from the technology in itself, but the new customer behaviors and needs that will arise from it. We will have to be ready for that and so we are already working on it!”