When T-Mobile US, Inc. Needed a Partner to Streamline Billing, Improve Efficiency and Create a Continuum of Process Improvement, Amdocs Answered the Call
“Although outsourcing is a partnership, you have to make sure that you, as the customer, maintain control.”
Habib Sarkis, Vice President, IT Operations and Support, T-Mobile US, Inc.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another industry that is more competitive or moves at a faster pace than wireless telecommunications, or a company that navigates this ever-changing industry with more dexterity than T-Mobile US, Inc..
For many years, T-Mobile competed against three big players for its piece of the telecommunications pie. Then came the mobile explosion, ushering in a converging marketplace and a broadening competitive environment that now included hardware and software developers as well as the traditional carriers.
While the company itself was agile, a period of unprecedented growth and a disproportionate infrastructure investment had left T-Mobile with a fragmented and outdated billing foundation. And in the new world order of telecom, this was a problem.
“The billing system is the heart of every telecom company, and we had gotten to the point where ours couldn’t support our next-generation billing strategy. We needed more automation and efficiency, processes that would reduce cycle time and a means to get new products to market more quickly,” explained Habib Sarkis, vice president, IT Operations and Support for T-Mobile US, Inc.. “So, we decided to explore the potential of moving to a managed services model with Amdocs.”
T-Mobile had a strong collaborative partnership with Amdocs, dating back to 1999. Although everything, at the time, was managed in-house, Amdocs had long provided the billing system and ancillary support.
“We already knew that Amdocs software was highly rated in the telecommunications industry. But, we wanted to confirm that our companies had the right chemistry for a managed services partnership,” Sarkis said. “That combination of technology and chemistry is the secret sauce in any outsourcing arrangement, particularly one with the magnitude of ours.”
After interviewing everyone who would be working on the account, including the executive team, T-Mobile engaged Amdocs to provide multiple billing-related outsourcing services for its postpaid billing platform. The initial contract began in 2008, with a goal of expanding contract scope if this initial engagement proved successful.
Creating One Cohesive Team
The first challenge, back in 2008, involved transitioning 150 T-Mobile employees to Amdocs, without making these valued staff members feel like they were being sent away.
“No question, our people love working here. Having tenure of 10 or 15 years with T-Mobile is not unusual. So, it was hard to tell the people who’d been running our billing system that they’d being doing the same thing, just as Amdocs employees,” Sarkis said. “We took the time to listen to their concerns upfront and promised that it wouldn’t be a situation of “them” and “us” —that we would be functioning as one, cohesive team.”
Sarkis also chose not to move everyone. He kept around 10 percent of the transitioning staff as a liaison team to bridge the gap and keep the communications flowing.
“In an outsourcing partnership, the ‘one team’ theme can’t be all talk. You have to back it up with action,” Sarkis said.
And that they did.
“When we have meetings, we meet as one team. If something goes wrong, we both go in front of the committee to explain what happened. If one succeeds, we all succeed; if one fails, we all fail,” Sarkis said. “I said from the beginning, the minute our customers can’t identify who is an Amdocs employee and who is a T-Mobile employee is when we’ll know that we’ve succeeded.”
Transparency and Collaboration
According to Sarkis, collaboration and complete transparency is the only way to make a partnership of this scope work.
“Everyone on the team has to fully understand what we’re trying to accomplish, and then we augment each others’ talents to reach the final goal,” Sarkis said. “We are also totally transparent. If there’s a change at night, we’re alerted through email. We don’t believe in waiting for month-end reports.”
Through this ongoing communication, collaboration and business model in which both T-Mobile US, Inc. and Amdocs financially share the risks and the rewards, the companies have created a partnership that most aspire to but few achieve. In fact, within the first year of the outsourcing engagement, Amdocs received T-Mobile’s prestigious Enterprise IT ‘Partner of the Year’ award.
The evidence? Some very impressive metrics, by anyone’s standards.
Delivering Some Amazing Results
To date, Amdocs has created more than 300 innovative enhancements to T-Mobile’s billing system, resulting in greater billing accuracy, increased system stability and faster rating—enabling customers to view usage in near real time. Billing cycle time has decreased by 20 percent, and the incidence of delayed billing has nearly been cut in half.
System availability has continued to increase year over year, with fiscal year 2012 availability actually hitting the 99.999 percent mark for seven months of the year.
Of course, these and other improvements didn’t happen overnight but resulted from an atmosphere that encourages innovation and creative thinking.
One good example is the team’s approach to reducing the incidence of trouble tickets.
“Instead of dealing with the surface problem, we created a triage team who separated the tickets into ‘buckets’ to look for patterns, so we could identify the root cause,” Sarkis said. “We discovered that 20 percent of the tickets were actually a training issue, not a system issue.”
Creative thinking is evident near everywhere in this award-winning partnership, with Amdocs oftentimes delivering much more than the initial request.
“We used to take our wireless down at night to refresh and introduce new features. That meant for a period of time, our customer care was down. The original plan was to create a twin system to eliminate this downtime, but the T-Mobile/Amdocs team came up with a better solution.” Sarkis said. “We accomplished the same thing at a fraction of the cost of a full-blown, parallel system. That’s a true partnership. ”
As lengthy as this list of accomplishments may seem, it’s only a fraction of the many innovations this partnership has achieved to date, with more on the horizon.
“It’s an exciting time here at T-Mobile, and with our relationship with Amdocs, we’re positioned to take on the future,” Sarkis said. “We’ve created an atmosphere of innovation that continues to accelerate year after year.
Clearly, T-Mobile chose the right partner in Amdocs. But, Sarkis is quick to point out that true innovation is far more than just passing an issue to another team.
“I will leave you with one last thought: Although outsourcing is a partnership, you need to make sure that you, as the customer, maintain control. You have to know what’s going on, to see your world from A to Z,” he said. “We have the right partner, and we’re embedded in that effort. That’s the formula that has made us successful. That’s the formula that drives innovation.”