Mahinda Herath reveals the collaborative framework guiding Sri Lanka Telecom’s digital transformation – TM Forum Inform

Mahinda Herath, Group Chief Planning & Digital Officer, explains how Sri Lanka Telecom has implemented a collaborative framework which is driving organisational change and guiding them towards their vision of being the preferred digital lifestyle provider by 2022. How would you describe your organization’s enterprise-wide digital transformation strategy?

As a group, we offer a complete portfolio of quadruple play services. We have developed our group-wide digital transformation strategy to cover all the companies within the Sri Lanka Telecom Group, including the mobile arm Mobitel and several other subsidiaries. The envisaged digital capabilities and outcomes of our digital transformation journey roadmap are closely anchored to the Digital Maturity Model (DMM) devised by TM Forum, whereas the related investment timelines are aligned to a five-year group strategy (running up to 2022) already in place.

What targets does your organization have to guide this strategy?

We are guided by the vision to be the most preferred digital lifestyle provider in our market by 2022. Going deeper, we have set specific targets on the revenue contribution from digital services out of the total revenue pie, progressively increasing along our digital transformation journey – with specific milestones. These targets are closely coupled to our digital transformation maturity roadmap.

How does TM Forum help you to achieve your digital transformation objectives?

We rely on resources, guidance and expertise of TM Forum to help manage our digital transformation journey. We believe that the collective problem-solving approach of the Forum leads to well-rounded solutions, with a 360-degree view, for the problems of digital transformation. Sri Lanka Telecom is an active member of the TM Forum and derives immense value out of that relationship.

TM Forum’s DMM facilitates traction and management of our digital journey. Going deeper, we rely heavily on TM Forum’s Business Process Framework (eTOM), Application Framework (TAM), Information Framework (SID) and the evolving Open Digital Architecture (ODA) to chart our roadmaps for strategy, technology and operations underlying our digital journey. Being a member of the Forum, we constantly engage our team members in events, training and Catalyst projects.

What’s the biggest ‘win’ you’ve achieved so far?

We have established an inclusive and objective framework for traction of digital transformation within the organization, owned and managed by relevant stakeholders, and I consider the creation of this solid foundation our biggest ‘win’ so far. Aligned to TM Forum’s DMM blueprint, we have created the five constituent and intertwined roadmaps of the digital transformation journey; namely the customer roadmap, strategy roadmap, technology roadmap, operations roadmap and the culture/people/organization roadmap. Each roadmap was created under the leadership of the most relevant C-level officer and a team representing all the other relevant internal stakeholders – in order to harness and build upon the existing domain knowledge, create capacity, promote inclusiveness and establish ownership of the roadmap.

What are the biggest challenges you face in achieving your digital transformation aims?

The biggest challenge faced by a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) in achieving digital transformation goals is tackling the misconceptions harbored by the top decision makers regarding the essence of the digital transformation. Digital transformation entails creating an ecosystem that could incubate sustainable ‘digital life’ and nurture intelligent evolution, however, top level decision makers from time to time tend to take a more narrow view so it is up to the CDO to take on this challenge proactively and facilitate quick wins without disrupting the holistic approach needed for the digital transformation journey.

Bimodal strategy, agile development and DevOps practices are some of the tools available for the CDO to facilitate meaningful quick wins without disrupting the transformation journey. For instance, we have achieved several quick wins such as the omni-channel presence for mobile customers, analytics based on big data for churn management – including customer profiling for personalized customer experiences, digitized document management, a Digital Money Platform, a resource team for mobile application development, a self-care application for mobile customers and an API gateway, just to name a few.

Leadership is clearly paramount, but what makes a good digital leader?

A good digital leader needs to envision the company’s digital future and bring other executives and users on board with that vision. The digital leader needs to understand the digital transformation objectively and play an evangelical role in the organization to spread the message. In a nutshell, the digital leader should adapt, disrupt, transform and disappear!

Digital transformation is not just about changing processes and technology; it also involves a shift in organizational culture. How is your teamwork changing and what’s your role as a team leader?

As mentioned, a culture/people/organization roadmap based on TM Forum’s DMM blueprint is driving our organizational culture change. This roadmap was developed collaboratively with the Chief Human Resources Officer and other related stakeholders, under the umbrella of the digital office, and the ‘Digital Transformation Traction Team’, headed by the CDO, is proactively assessing progress along the roadmap, forming the feedback loop for traction and course corrections.

In terms of the wider societal impact of digitization, what are you looking forward to over the next decade?

A digital economy will be the future world order. The underlying digital technology will continually transform itself, branching out progressively to boost productivity across all sectors and industries. The proliferation of digital technology across the economy has the potential to deliver immense social impact, improving the value proposition and the quality of life of the people.

In terms of the wider societal impact of digitization, what concerns you?

Digital transformation has the potential to boost entire economies. However, unless the masses find “applicability” in the digital transformation, the journey will be difficult. This is especially true in the developing world where a majority of the masses are in rural settings and poverty is a social problem. The key here is to create digital applications that would add value to the day-to-day lives of the masses – applications in high social impact areas such as e-government services, healthcare and education. Furthermore, the underlying driver to digital inclusion is the availability and affordability of broadband connectivity. Governments should put in place policies and strategies to progressively reduce the digital divide while creating an environment to engage the masses in an inclusive digital economy.

What is the next big idea you are working on?

One is the full-portfolio ‘Smart Home’ solution which was commercially launched in April 2019 for apartments, hotels, office complexes and shopping malls. We have also finalized our softwarization roadmap, so widespread adoption of NFV and SDN technologies across our network will commence shortly, moving from the current pilot deployments.

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