Telstra shifts 30 percent of business to agile methodology

Telstra is aiming to move 400 teams encompassing around 4,000 to 5,000 employees to Pivotal's agile software development platform, with the partnership also focusing on bringing the technology to external customers.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Pivotal CEO Rob Mee and Telstra CEO Andy Penn

(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Telstra has moved 100 of its internal teams to Pivotal's agile software development platform since partnering with the enterprise software company two years ago, with the telco saying this accounts for around 25 to 30 percent of its business.

Under the partnership, Telstra's teams have been trained in Pivotal Labs to build software using agile methodologies on Pivotal Cloud Foundry, with an end goal of shifting 400 teams encompassing around 4,000 to 5,000 staff members to the cloud software-development platform.

Speaking to media in Sydney on Tuesday morning, Telstra CEO Andy Penn said the partnership with Pivotal has both an external and internal focus, as Telstra must reskill its workforce in order to help its customers undertake their own digitisation.

"Like any large, traditional corporate, we're going through the same process that the other corporates are in other industries -- which are many of our customers -- and so at the same time we're looking to transform Telstra from a technology perspective, we're also supporting our customers on that journey to buy virtual products and services that we provide," Penn explained.

"So we're on a journey of adopting agile methodology within the organisation, but also working with our key corporate customers in conjunction with Pivotal, so within our enterprise sales force we support Pivotal and particularly the Pivotal cloud software-development platform as part of our offerings to our customers."

Penn told ZDNet that there has been "enormous" interest from corporate customers to utilise the platform, including across financial services, telecommunications, retail, agriculture, and mining, as they want to move away from their core legacy systems to better serve their customers.

"A lot of the stuff we're doing in mining today is about actually how do you move mining to a much less manual process to a highly automated process, and of course then what you would need is the new software development method to actually support that," Penn told ZDNet.

"Where I see most digital disruption occurring is actually in transforming customer service experiences ... this is what I think is exciting about the methodology: It's very, very customer oriented."

Telstra has also signed a "major bank" as a customer, Penn said, with the telco now not only providing network infrastructure, connectivity, managed services, and applications to such customers but also "consulting-type services" to aid them in adopting new technologies.

This stage is where the Pivotal software-development methodology steps in, he explained.

Penn said Telstra is additionally "doing a lot in agritech", also pointing to the telco's recently launched Cat-M1 IoT network, and argued that telco infrastructure is now one of the most important parts of the agriculture industry.

"I was in Queensland recently meeting with the chairman of the Queensland GrainGrowers Association, and historically the most important infrastructure for grain growers ... was water and irrigation. He's saying now that the number one infrastructure in grain growing is actually telecommunications technology and connectivity, because you can actually run the irrigation with the technology because of the sensors we're deploying," he told journalists.

"So again, the ability to use Pivotal and an agile methodology fast tracks solutions into market."

Thanks to its partnership with Pivotal, Telstra said it has also sped up the development timeframe for some of its software, from between six and eight months to between 10 and 12 weeks -- which will again benefit its customers, Penn said.

"One of the critical points is that the world is moving so fast and technology innovation is moving so fast that you can't afford to wait six or eight months to get a product to market," Penn explained.

"What the methodology enables you to do is to be much more interactive with the customer needs, get out to market much more quickly with a viable product, and then iterate and innovate and be much more up to speed with developments and functionality improvements for customers."

Telstra first partnered with Pivotal in August 2015, saying they would collaborate on an enterprise software platform. The telco subsequently became a member of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, which was launched in collaboration with Linux Foundation under a non-profit banner with members including EMC, HP, VMware, IBM, and SAP.

"By partnering with Pivotal, who are global leaders in agile development and cloud-native platform, we will enhance our innovation offering for our customers and create a pipeline of skills to grow our development capabilities," former Telstra COO Kate McKenzie said at the time.

Pivotal -- a big data, cloud, and agile development enterprise software services provider that was spun out of EMC and VMware -- said its most recent project with Telstra involved upgrading the telco's service status page, which informs consumers of service disruptions and helps them to resolve issues themselves.

In terms of the next step in their partnership, Pivotal CEO Rob Mee told ZDNet that it will involve further expansion of its agile methodology out to Telstra's customers across the nation.

"I'm hoping that we can take this to many other companies across industries in Australia," Mee told ZDNet.

"This is actually the first joint venture of a Pivotal Labs that we've ever done, so it's something unique and special, and I think with Telstra's scale and reach in Australia, we can really take it out much more quickly to industry in Australia."

Beyond Telstra, Pivotal's Australian customers include Macquarie Bank, the Digital Transformation Agency, and CoreLogic RP Data, while its Asia-Pacific customers include Yahoo Japan, Samsung, and NTT Data Corporation.

In the US, Pivotal has worked with tech giants Twitter and Google, as well as Verizon, eBay, Boeing, Rackspace, VMware, Ford, and GE, with more than 30 percent of the Fortune 100 working with the software company. European customers include Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, and Orange.

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