Monday, April 16, 2007

Sprung on the 'net

So I've been 'found' on the 'net. Juha Saarinen - a regular contributor to the media landscape in NZ on all things telco and internet based has tracked down my very poorly updated blog and made some very pertinent comments about a couple of things in the piece.

1. Why does Telecom not have a Corporate Blog?

This is a funny one as last year Theresa got a few random people together to get their opinions on how we could get our people better engaged with the direction that we are taking. I was pretty adamant (in a 2006 kinda way) that a blog that was written by TG (ie NOT ghost written) would be a great way to go. It would take some investment and discipline but would be a great way for Theresa to get her message out. Her biggest issue was the supposed lack of authenticity of this medium. I have to say, based on a couple of comments I have received on this blog, that a direct way of commenting with her people (and I use that word in the broadest sense to include her staff, customers and broader stakeholders in NZ) would be a great way to gauge public sentiment and to explain why we do some of the stuff we do. Doesn't make it right or wrong but it most certainly means that you get your message out.

2. Juha thinks I should relax a bit

I must ask him about this as it could mean a couple of things

a. I am being too earnest in what i talk about (very possible)
b. I need to be more overt about my real opinion

This second bit is a little more problematic - and cuts to the core of this media - how do I express my opinion about something that pays for my family to eat (without being too dramatic). I guess the only way to do it, is to do it - so I'll be testing this boundary and seeing how my buddies react. A few of my posts have been too veiled which leads to the next point...

3. A commentor on Juha's blog, Michael, posts that I am a representative of another type of employee

The new generation of institutionalisation is the opposite - excited, passionate believers but so deep in their own corporate culture ("drinking the Kool-Aid") they can't see outside the walls or can't truly empathise with customers.
This had me more concerned that anything else as the thing I truly believe in is that for Telecom to survive (let alone succeed) that empathy with what customers really want is needed. I have an opinion that lots of people join Telecom for a whole lot of good reasons about how they can improve the lot of Telecom and its customers. But when they get in there, the path of least resistance kicks in and they find it easier to ensure customers don't leave us as opposed to make things so good that customers want to stay. You might think that is a subtle distinction but it's massive. And its time that it stopped. My response to Michael's comment is what I am doing to make that change stick.

Which leads me to the proposal on Friday for structural separation. There are lots of good reasons why you might want, as a shareholder, to keep Telecom in one piece. But there are a hell of lot more for splitting it off. Over and above the cost of making it happen (just think number portability x 10 - and its interesting to see that only one party has got that deployment right). One of the most important is that it would completely remove the temptation to try and 'game' the system. And I think that it would completely drive the right market behaviours like the following

A. The Network business would be solely responsible for building and maintaining bandwidth. Nothing more, nothing less. Its a big enough job that is fairly capital and resource intensive and if you got the right structure in place (ie must only ever be a wholesaler, never retailer ; ideally separate ownership) then you'd have some pretty good conditions that would work for the whole industry. And don't underestimate the issue about being able to make a reasonable rate of return - that would have to be directly linked to re-investment.

B. It would remove a huge constraint from the Retail side of the business. It's funny - you look around the 'net and see all the suggestions that people make for what Telecom could do and you realise being inside the business that if you didn't have to spend all your time lining people up to get commonsense stuff done that there are huge gains to be made in terms of innovation and Innovation (purposefully distinguishing between the 2). My own personal preference is for Retail units not much more than 100 people in size with truckloads of non-core services outsourced, running on a very lean internet based model with the same flexibility of our competitors. Would probably make some of them who used to work here a little uneasy if they knew we had the same nimbleness that they enjoy.

Looking forward to seeing how the market reacts but TUANZ's reaction was a very pleasant surprise. Some leadership here is great to see, especially when you wouldn't pick many bold moves with only 2 months and a bit to go until Theresa moves on...