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Spark completes NZ$200m digital services upgrade

Spark has migrated 100 million customer records from decades-old IT systems onto new digital services as part of a four-year, NZ$200 million program.

New Zealand telecommunications provider Spark has completed its four-year, NZ$200 million re-engineering program, having upgraded its customer service IT platforms and shifted all customers onto the new system.

Under the program, 52 legacy customer management systems were retired and 41 systems were consolidated, with 100 million customer records migrated. The re-engineering program was in the initial planning stages in 2012, commencing work in 2013 and finishing a week ago.

Managing director Simon Moutter called it a "huge milestone" for the company, saying the modernisation of its customer management systems will be a foundation for improved services.

"It's a quantum leap that ensures our customer service systems are now fit for the digital future," Moutter said. "It gives us significantly better customer management capabilities, with all our customers now on one system and our front-line staff having much better visibility of their products and services with us.

"Ultimately, it will provide us with a terrific platform to build the innovative and improved digital customer services that our customers want from us."

Moutter added that it ties in with the new Spark Platforms business unit, which will begin operations at the end of this week, on July 1. The managing director had in February flagged a "strategic transformation" for the business to move away from being a traditional telco towards becoming a digital services provider, saying that to achieve this, the Spark Connect business would be split in two: Spark Connect and Spark Platforms.

Spark Connect will focus on core connectivity, while Spark Platform's role will be "to design, develop, and operate best-practice digital platforms and the core products enabled by them", he explained.

Spark's current GM of Change and Technology Claire Barber has been appointed as chief digital officer of Spark Platforms, also effective as of July 1.

According to Barber, several thousand customers needed "urgent post-upgrade assistance to correct minor problems" during the migration of records for the re-engineering program.

"Like others in the industry, we know we have ongoing customer service challenges, primarily because of the increasing complexity of new technologies and the increasing demand for those complex services," Barber said.

"We have plans in place to fix pain points and do a better job for customers, and this program helps give us the tools we need to do so."

Moutter also pointed towards the fact that Spark is "now arguably the only major telco in NZ with fully integrated and modern customer management systems providing a single view of the customer".

Last week, Spark claimed that it will have earned NZ$35 million more in mobile revenue than rival Vodafone New Zealand as of the end of June, making it the number one mobile provider in the country in terms of revenue.

Spark said it expects to report more than NZ$1.1 billion in mobile revenue. By comparison, documents revealed due to the proposed merger between Vodafone NZ and Sky TV have shown that the telco will earn NZ$1.065 billion in mobile revenue over the same period.

Spark said it has added almost 500,000 connections over the last three years, reporting net earnings of NZ$158 million for the first half of FY16 on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of NZ$455 million and operating revenue of NZ$1.723 billion.

Moutter had previously said Spark is prepared to compete with the media offerings of a combined Vodafone-Sky entity, because it has been competing with the bundles offered by the two companies for years already.

The Spark MD added that should the merger occur, Spark will be the only major New Zealand-based telco.

"We also note that in effect it is a proposal for a Vodafone Group reverse takeover of Sky TV, with the multinational Vodafone UK retaining a 51 percent share of the merged entity and Vodafone executives earmarked for top jobs and board appointments," Moutter said.

"Should this proposal clear the hurdles in its way, it would mean that Spark remains the only major industry player controlled from New Zealand, with 2degrees controlled out of the US, Vocus out of Australia, and Sky TV/Vodafone NZ out of the UK."