TM’s Approach Towards Automation Began with Its People

BusinessToday interviews Hizam Bin Ghazali, General Manager Digital Services at Telekom Malaysia for an exclusive to explore the digital journey TM has taken to better serve the country and Malaysians in coming years. 

“Digital transformation undeniably had been slower for some than others and in my view, the reason for this is not from the lack of available technology out there. Especially so, for huge companies,” says Hizam Bin Ghazali, General Manager Digital Services at Telekom Malaysia.

The GM says the reasons are more primal and includes a lack of Board and C-level mindset and sponsorship, a fear of self-cannibalisation which often also expands to outdated measurement systems where companies are unable to view Return on Investment (ROI) beyond traditional means and limited expertise.

Among his observations, most companies that struggle in their transformation journey have failed to create what is called a “burning platform”. A common purpose that guides everyone in the company to come together and align towards the same goal.

“In an ironic way, that is what the pandemic has been able to do. The C of all C-levels as they call it, accelerating digital transformation for many,” he points out.

A Moment Of Reflection

At the end of the last year, the nation’s telecommunication and digital infrastructure provider started reflecting its positioning and the areas the company needs to focus on and improve, before coming up with the three-year roadmap for the new TM.

The roadmap now serves as the company’s blueprint in enabling the business and unlocking key values to fit their unique role as the enabler of Digital Malaysia’s aspirations.

Towards realising the digital aspirations, various “Value Programmes” will be supported by targeted technology enablement projects ranging from RPA, consolidation of systems, modernised Business and Operations Support Systems (BSS and OSS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) transformation, to setting up a single data lake for cognitive enablement and to engaging customers on a personalised level via analytics and AI.

“Customer’s quality of experience (QoE) has been one of our focus areas. It is all about improving our services whilst optimising costs. With that in mind, we work towards automating most of our processes especially with the use of UiPath’s RPA solutions as I alluded to earlier,” Hizam says.

TM’s initial approach towards their automation journey started with addressing their own people.

“We knew that one of the biggest roadblocks would be persuading employees and managers that automation will help them, and not resulting in job losses,” the GM highlights. And as a result, TM started putting together a communication strategy and plan, highlighting the benefits and utility it would have to the day-to-day lives of the employees.

TM’s IT and Digital team sponsored the costs of the first RPA deployments for the individual departments, concentrating on working with the teams to identify simple processes that could be automated.

Eventually, the team then started creating use cases which were propagated throughout the company, so that all departments could see how RPA could benefit them, how it was a growth lever and helped improve customer experience.

“All of a sudden, everyone wanted to jump on the RPA bandwagon, and they were lining up to automate their processes, to get rid of their mundane processes,” Hizam says.

There are now over 100 processes in TM’s automaton funnel across ten different divisions. This year, the IT and Digital department no longer needs to sponsor the automations. Instead, every department has allocated budgets towards RPA.

The telecommunications service provider is also leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning and have seen good adoption of these technologies and is expected to see it as key enablers to help the company become more efficient.

“By utilising AI to handle our network traffic, we will be able to deliver the best speeds and suggest upgrades or downgrades to our customers based on their usage. This will translate to better experience as we empower customers to make their own choices,” he says.

“One significant lesson we learnt in our transformation thus far is that in the journey of making bots, we need to be human.”

“It was important for us to communicate the purpose of automation. It was all about improving productivity and with better productivity, our people can begin building new capabilities. Put these two factors together and value is created,” Hizam tells BusinessToday

Transformation Starts With The People

“The process of change is always challenging; transformation does not happen if everyone is going about their day as if its business as usual and remain in their comfort zones. The first thing we had to do was create an environment where people felt safe to change and so we had to empower the people,” Hizam highlighted.

As part of the company’s move towards this aspiration, the Digital team works closely with TM Group’s Line of Businesses, the Customer Experience team, Human Capital and all other business and central functions to achieve a holistic and sustainable transformation which entails building a digitally aware and smarter workforce for TM.

One of the prominent initial milestones was the launch of TM’s unifi.com.my customer portal in 2017. TM’s single-all-in-one self-care portal, empowering unifi customers to request or upgrade their service, check their usage, pay bills, troubleshoot online as well as chat in real-time with TM’s bot and trained customer service professionals for assistance.

“Having the right digital talent was also critical to establish TM as a leader in digital innovation towards empowering Digital Malaysia. We embedded that digital mind-set into our people.”

“Our Digital team works very closely with the Group Human Capital Management division to develop a Digital Talent framework, placing emphasis on up-skilling existing employees whilst hiring specialist skills, offering competitive value propositions to attract and retain talent, developing specialised career paths for them and establishing TM as a strong employer brand for digital talent,” the GM says.

A Customer-Centric Focus

Internally, TM has been embracing “Going Digital” across all their functions through process simplification and digitalisation to server their customers betters and more efficiently.

As the world becomes more and more connected, customers demand according to TM must be served faster and more efficient.

“We simply cannot tolerate average service anymore. We aspire to make life easier for consumers, delivering an excellent service experience to them, and if they don’t get what they want, they will switch (to other providers),” he says.

“We are now in a true customer-driven market, and everything has to be looked at from an outside-in view. Competition is also too stiff, incumbents only used to compete with other incumbents in the past. But now, competition is also with new entrants including service disruptors and it has even gone cross-industry and geographically borderless,” he adds.

TM has anchored on the customers as the true north, creating a money trail to business while tackling the fundamental shifts the company had to make across culture, people, process, and technology.

As for 2021, the year is looking to be an implementation year for TM. With a renewed purpose of commercial sustainability to allow them to fulfil business objectives and support nation building, the telecommunications provider is aiming to be both performance and people focused.

TM recently posted a net profit of RM1.01 billion in the financial year ended Dec 31,2020, registering an increase of 60.6 percent from RM632.67 million a year ago due to improved performance of subsidiaries.

The telco service provider, who is also a cloud service provider was recently given conditional approval by Putrajaya to provide the core infrastructure of the cloud platform and the end solutions.

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