A transformational journey

A transformational journey
Dominic Smith talks to Ramana Palepu, CIO of GO, Malta, about the BSS/OSS challenges they face, and how working with Cerillion is helping them to achieve their goals.

Ramana Palepu is a Global IT executive with over 30 years’ experience in Telecommunications, Retail, Banking and Financial Services.  Ramana has been serving as Chief Information Officer of GO plc. since September 2011, having previously served in the same role during 2008-2009. In his early career spanning over 18 years at SWIFT, he executed several large scale IT programmes and strategies for the world’s premier interbank financial telecommunications network.  Ramana also founded RollStream Inc., an Enterprise Community Management platform, serving as its Chief Information Officer, and was Chief Technology Officer of Worldwide Retail Exchange (WWRE). Ramana holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering.
DS: Hi Ramana, and welcome to the Cerillion Blog. Tell me about GO, what market(s) are you in, what products and services do you provide and what is the company’s vision?
RP: GO has been providing telecom services in Malta for more than 35 years, originally as the fixed line telephony incumbent, then progressively introducing broadband internet services,  mobile telephony, Digital and IPTV. GO is the first 4P (quad-play) telecom service provider and by far the largest, most established and well-rounded communications and entertainment provider in Malta. In addition, we offer a range of business-related services both directly and together with BMIT, a wholly owned subsidiary of GO; these include data networking solutions, business IP services, M2M, cloud services, and managed and co-location facilities.

DS: This is your second stint as CIO at GO, can you tell me about your role and how things have changed since your first spell in the company? 
RP: I see it more as a continuum, a journey along a strategic roadmap. The shifting emphasis and priorities are natural, related to changes in our business environment, product evolution, and where we are in the stages of our IT systems transformation. 
Four years ago, the challenge and focus was on creating a new IT systems architecture by integrating the different lines of business which had previously been managed separately. So IT organisation change management, and application and infrastructure portfolio transformation was my principal focus. However, to quickly present a 4P proposition and to upgrade several of the backend systems took top priority. We managed to revamp disparate customer facing applications and created an “all-products, all channels” Order Management capability, albeit using a middleware layer to interface with all the backend systems.
Our current challenge is to leverage the newly established IT architecture to create an integrated Order Management system native to the billing system,  and bring to market new quad-play offers and convergent products, whilst establishing customer self-service channels for sales, billing, payments and support.  Flexibility, agility, and time-to-market considerations are now the principal focus of our IT transformation efforts.
DS: And what about the competitive landscape, what are the current challenges that you face?
RP: Our principal competitors are Vodafone, offering primarily mobile and some data services, and Melita, the incumbent Cable operator providing 4P services. Increasing competition in a limited market makes it essential to differentiate through a superior customer experience, and by offering innovative products and 4P bundles. Furthermore, competition means that time-to-market is also crucial and underlines the need for systems agility to support product and offer development.    
Another key challenge comes from the wide range of differentiated service offerings we must make to our domestic customers. These are typical of larger and mature markets, but we must deliver them in an environment with lower economies of scale dictated by the smaller market size.

Our revenues remain stable and we retain a strong client base, a substantial portion of which is through bundled services, with an ever increasing proportion of clients opting for our HomePack offering, which is aimed at satisfying all telecommunication needs of a household. Whilst we have experienced a marginal decline in basic fixed-line voice connections as is the global trend, our on-going investments in the mobile core and access infrastructures continue to strengthen our position in the mobile voice and data segments, and we also enjoy on-going growth in TV services.   
DS: How does all this translate into your BSS / OSS strategy? What are your priorities and what projects are you undertaking within GO?
RP: We embarked on a clear transformation strategy to establish an overarching IT architecture based on the principles of best-of-breed applications, open standards-based enterprise application integration, elimination of needless redundancy, and a preference for configuration over customisation.
We zeroed-in on a select few strategic platforms, chosen carefully to conform to our architectural vision. By working with our strategic technology partners including Cerillion, we have established a multi-year roadmap and have already completed several key initiatives. We now have one billing system for all of our 4P services and will shortly have achieved an integrated Order Management system on the same platform.
We are now focused on building on this success to be able to configure new bundles and packages with greater ease and agility, and we are harmonising our portfolio and reducing the complexity surrounding various products. Our current list of priorities centres around Customer Relationship Management, enhanced e-commerce, e-billing, e-payments and customer self-service channels.
Superior customer experience is paramount in everything from ordering, provisioning, and installation, to service quality, service restoration, billing and customer care. Transforming the OSS/BSS to rise to the occasion and enable the commercial teams to execute their competitive strategies is a fundamental key success factor.
DS: GO has been working with Cerillion since 2001, how has the relationship developed and how is Cerillion helping you with your current initiatives?
RP: An excellent, trusted, collaborative and consultative relationship with companies such as Cerillion is a key enabler of our success. A good product/platform is one thing, but a superior organisation and an execution and support infrastructure is another. One, to the exclusion of the other, is unlikely to succeed. Cerillion gave us both.
The two companies have worked hand in hand over the years in the transformational effort, continually sharing our strategies and collaborating on various co-development projects. Cerillion has brought to the table its expertise and experience with other global operators and technology partners, and the Cerillion product itself has evolved to enable us to progressively take advantage of enhanced capabilities.
After upgrading to the latest version of Cerillion for fixed line services, Cerillion and GO worked together in migrating TV, Broadband and Mobile billing to the Cerillion platform in quick successive steps, and now we are in the final stages of migrating away from GO’s legacy in-house Order Management system to take advantage of Cerillion’s native Order Management. This enables us to easily configure packages and bundles to create new offers, and to leverage Cerillion’s sales manager functionality in all of our channels.
Strategic alignment; Functionality; Reliability; Integration; Performance; Security/confidentiality; Ease of use; Customer Service; Dependability; Economics - these are what we look for in a strategic technology/solution partner, and Cerillion has been and continues to be a steadfast partner in our transformational journey. The flexibility they demonstrate in adapting their product and their development roadmap to meet our needs and timing considerations is serving our purpose. IT management and technical staff are able to tap into either the onsite support staff from Cerillion or the dedicated Account Manager, and Cerillion’s technical counterparts or executive management are accessible to us as necessary. In addition, Cerillion works with GO’s commercial team in exchanging mutual product visions and sharing best-practices.
DS: What results have you achieved?
RP: Working with Cerillion our users have benefited from a reduction in back-office work through improved integration and straight-through processing of various transactions. Reduction in the number of different systems they have to use in delivering a service has meant lower complexity, improved accuracy and reduced end-to-end time taken.
With Cerillion as our 4P platform we have realised a significant time to market advantage, reducing the time to design and launch new products from months into weeks and days. We have also benefited from a dramatic cost reduction when implementing new or changed products, the result of easy configurability of new plans, offers and bundles.
Furthermore, the reliability and quality of the integrated OSS/BSS platform serving “all products, all channels” has given us increased operations efficiency, which translates into the ability to redirect those savings to deliver more in other areas, especially new commercial initiatives and projects, achieving greater IT-Commercial alignment.
DS: And finally, what do you see as the key challenges and opportunities for GO in the next few years?
RP: Several key initiatives are under way. We are embarking on a nationwide FTTH initiative, and we have deployed nationwide mobile 3G access infrastructure and enhanced mobile core network, enabling us to offer increased download speeds on both our fixed and mobile networks. Building on this foundation, we have to make strides in transforming ourselves and achieve product and service innovation excellence. Sales and customer care efficiency, automation, straight-through processing and an enhanced innovation ecosystem with superior 3rd party integration are essential.
Consistent with the enhancements in our technical network and the product/market offers, we also have to continue evolving the IT systems, our OSS/BSS platforms, to meet our commercial needs. Increasingly this requires greater convergence of prepaid and postpaid offerings; more combined fixed/mobile propositions; leveraging our ability to produce 4P single bills; introducing flexible data, voice and SMS plans; and using online, real-time charging capabilities to encourage and stimulate increased usage as well as to enable customer friendly spending controls and balance management.    
DS: Ramana, thank you very much for your time and sharing your experiences with our readers.