Telstra takes major step on Digital First path

Telstra took a major step in its Digital First strategy today, with the opening of its Sydney digital transformation centre, where the company's digital team will come together with its other business units to design and build new digital tools.

Telstra today hit a major milestone in its Digital First strategy, opening its Sydney digital transformation centre, one of two centres that the company announced in March.

Telstra's executive director of digital Gerd Schenkel cut a ceremonial ribbon opening the centre — situated on Sydney's Liverpool Street — along with NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance, tech evangelist and blogger Robert Scoble, and Telstra's director of Digital First Brett Cooper.

Schenkel, who has been charged with overhauling the telco's digital sales and service offerings, said that the opening of the centre represents the official start of its Digital First agenda.

"The transformation centre is now the one place where all of that comes together," said Schenkel. "There are four floors where several hundred people will work together to build this future for our customers."

Schenkel said that he believed the incoming digital service model, which he is spearheading, will dramatically improve the company's customer experience. It is also expected to "reduce cost dramatically" for the company, according to Schenkel.

"We'll give our customers far more control over their services with Telstra, by giving them access to digital information such as usage, but also access to control of accounts by making changes as they like in a far more easy way than was ever possible before," he said.

Telstra ribbon cutting
(L-R): Telstra's Digital First director Brett Cooper, tech evangelist and blogger Robert Scoble, NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance, and executive director of Telstra digital Gerd Schenkle. Image: Telstra

The rollout of the Digital First strategy will see Schenkel's team work closely with "every part" of the company in order to digitise everything that relates to its customers, starting with its retail stores.

"We're launching a new store in mid October in George Street, and the store will be digitised," he said. "That will mean the store will be connected to a shared digital service ecosystem."

From Schenkel's perspective, corporations in Australia should be on the front foot when it comes to supporting local technology innovation, with Telstra working to take a lead in that space.

"Corporations in Australia should step up to their accountability, innovate, and invest right here at home, as opposed to looking to the Valley and lamenting brain-drain and other kinds of conditions," he said. "It's actually up to us to develop an ecosystem right here ... and create high-value, high-paying jobs right here at home.

"We have all the ingredients to do that, and we believe that Telstra is at the forefront of doing that. This country will play a very important role in the future of the digital economy, and we're going to have a very, very bright future."

Meanwhile, Constance said that the state government would be able learn how to improve its own customer interaction services as it works on its own digital strategy by looking at how Telstra rolls out its Digital First strategy.

"Without a doubt, the NSW government will learn from what happens in these four floors in terms of improving the customer experience," said Constance. "From my perspective, I think government can be completely transformed within the next five years, in terms of how the community interfaces with government. And it's all going to be done by smartphone applications.

"I'm very pleased that Telstra has chosen Sydney. We have without doubt one of the most ambitious, aggressive, progressive, innovative digital strategies that you'll ever see. We're throwing open data to the sector to develop and enhance the customer experience for our citizens, and it's only in its infancy.

"I think there's enormous scope, and enormous opportunity ahead for government and how we interact, and also, of course, how it relates and intersects with the sector," he said.

Scoble, who sat on the judging panel of Rackspace's Small Teams, Big Impacts startup pitch event in Sydney last night, said that Australia is playing host to a rapidly growing number of innovative technology startups.

Scoble told ZDNet that between last year's Rackspace startup pitch event — for which he was also a judge — and this year's event, the standard of the companies pitching their ideas had increased dramatically.

"I'm seeing a whole new raft of startups like Shoes of Prey — that's making custom shoes for women who are ordering them all over the world — and there's a lot that's happening on the mobile front around the world.

"This is a new age. We're in the middle of a mobile revolution and at the beginning of a new wearable revolution. It's going to be exciting to see what you guys do here, and congrats on helping the startups and helping the community get to the future," he said.

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