A lot of very smart people seem to be buying into the idea that Telstra
is headed for a train wreck under Sol and team. All this nasty and
unkind regulatory rhetoric; hasty and dodgy deal making; no advertised
tenders; ill-conceived transformations… Oh, and did I mention that
some of the team is American?

Please! It wasn’t so long ago that the industry conversation
revolved around Telstra’s bureaucracy, lack of imagination, seeming
indifference to global trends, its slow inexorable decline. Its idea of
a vision was buying the Melbourne Age!

So a new team
comes in and delivers… CHANGE! They do things differently. They want to
transform the company, go all IP, standardise and enhance the core
mobile offering, increase bandwidth speeds, research customer
preferences on a hitherto unprecedented scale, opt out of the
regulatory pantomime and write a new script. And, as an inevitable
consequence of change, TREAD ON TOES.

Oh no, can’t do that! The
old ways were so much better! How can they give Alcatel a new contract
when Alcatel was so nasty with its (allegedly) broken promises,
overcharging, dodgy software and systems integration and its persistent
excuse making for upsell? Well, Alcatel apparently did all those things
under this much lamented “formal tender process” with its pure,
methodical outcomes and fair & superior multi-supplier bias!

course, the media and some senators see it differently… how could one
hire a company that did all those nasty things in the past? Well kids,
here’s the news: sad to say, the telecom vendor community is mostly a
bunch of frogs, snails and puppy dog tails. Scan the headlines of the
past few years – multi-billion dollar stock frauds, accounting
scandals, intellectual property theft, bankruptcies, corporate
collapse, collaborations with brutish Third World dictators. That’s the
multinational telecom vendor community! Something for everybody.
Nothing a nice polite tender process with lots of meetings, paperwork
and cushy field trips to Nordic factories can do about that. It’s a
hairy world out there.

So, I return to my theme. Change. Sol
and team would appear to have a vision for an overall network
transformation. It seems fairly intelligent and coherent. It does
entail risks. The new contracts seem to move some of that risk on to
vendors. Decisions have been made quickly, and that obviously increases
the risk of misjudgement and error.

But what the critics forget is that there are costs attached to not
making decisions, as well. As Telstra’s director of business and
financial services, Geoff Nicholson said “it is very important in any
transformation to make haste. Of course, it needs to be done right. The
scale of the transformation is very large and wide ranging through the
company. In all the changes I have experienced in Telstra, the best
effected changes are the ones that are done probably in the least
amount of time, because what tends to happen over prolonged periods of
time is that you lose the impetus”.

Now I will make a prediction that over the next couple of years you’ll
be reading a lot of news about teething problems and hiccups with the
Telstra transformation. But imagine what you’d be reading if they
didn’t move at all?