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Mobile network operators (MNOs) Three and O2 may have had their UK merger blocked, but on the other side of the Irish Sea the deal was done two years ago.
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Since the conclusion of the merger in 2014, Three Ireland has been kept busy delivering on some of the headline promises it made when it acquired O2.
It has delivered two mobile virtual networks (MVNOs) and created 100 roles by repatriating its customer care call centre back to Ireland from India. It also rechristened Dublin’s O2 venue – formerly the Point Theatre – as the 3Arena.
Three CTO David Hennessy says the first catalyst behind its digital renewal was the removal of the O2 brand from the Irish market, which he characterised as mostly a case of changing the letterheads.
“It was mostly repainting, but we still had two IT sets, two customer bases and two retail products,” he says.
Now, in the next stage of its digital transformation, Three is embarking on a major refresh of its entire IT systems.
To accomplish this, it has signed a €65m (£51.3m) five-year managed services deal with customer experience solutions supplier Amdocs. This expenditure comes on top of the €300m it is spending on upgrading its 4G network in Ireland.
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The agreement will see Amdocs operate as a lead integrator over the period to consolidate and modernise Three’s IT systems across all of its lines of business.
Stated goals include overcoming complexity; simplifying business processes; generating cost and operational savings; and, most importantly for the customers, enabling personalised experiences among other new offerings and services.
Hennessy says cost-savings are a key motivator behind removing O2’s IT stack, and the chance to do a ground-up refresh of Three’s systems at the same time was too rare an opportunity for him to pass up.
He picked Amdocs because, having provided the legacy billing systems for O2 in Ireland, they already had a clear idea of how the business could look and work in the future. However, the refresh will ultimately go far beyond mere cost reductions, he adds.
“This was not just a case of eliminating duplicate cost centres,” says Hennessy. “A lot of our systems have been in place for 10 or 15 years, so we need to completely reset that, which in turn will help us become more customer-focused. More modern systems means we can bring more relevant products to market quicker.
“We want to go from being a large telco to an internet company offering connectivity and services, although we don’t yet know what some of those services will look like, trends such as the connected digital society and the internet of things help us to establish a baseline.”
Much has been written about the growing amount of competition between traditional MNOs and providers of over the top (OTT) services, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which have been eating into valuable streams of MNO revenue by cannibalising more established SMS services.
“We do see ourselves competing with those guys, but we have to upgrade our own IT to be able to do so,” says Hennessy. “They tend to be sitting on much more modern technology than telcos.”
Just as retailers have readily adopted the ideal of omni-channel as they reshape their business against the competitive threats posed by the likes of Amazon, so Three is hoping its revamp will help it become more of an omnichannel operator.
This will allow it to deliver the same experience to the customer whether they are engaging with it in a physical shop, over the internet or via the newly onshored contact centre.
“If you look at how customer engagement has changed, everything is service driven and customers like to do it themselves,” says Hennessy. “We want to offer self-service capabilities that don’t exist in telcos right now.”
Shannon Bell, Amdocs marketing and business development director, says the supplier is using the project as a means to explore how to help telcos transform the customer experience towards a self-service model.
“The rate of self-service adoption for service providers tends to be low, largely inhibited by failed online transactions which put people off,” she says. “We want to know how to evolve that experience and help Three make sure everything is available in the customer’s channel of choice.”
In terms of offerings that Three is hoping to make available to customers in Ireland as a result of this omi-channel ambition, Hennessy is planning to mainly explore applications around mobile wallet services to begin with.
Later on, this could tie into Three’s event sponsorships or loyalty programmes, he suggests, offering customers discounted or early-release gig tickets, for example.
“We also want to integrate services such as account upgrades, promotions, retail partnerships, and application services, such as paying for on-street parking,” he says.