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ATT: A Philosophy of Partnership

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 2009-09-29 Print this article Print

The AT&T philosophy of information technology governance can be summed up simply: Make IT part of the business process, not an afterthought.

Since 1885, the two T’s in AT&T have stood for “telephone” and “telegraph,” but those T’s have seemingly merged to become “telecommunications,” representing the company’s involvement in every aspect of modern telecom—from wireless devices to telephones, Internet services and digital television.

These subsectors all move exceedingly fast, with consumer preferences changing as quickly as the next app or gadget is tweeted or blogged about. So, a great idea that takes years to develop may very well be outdated months after it’s brought to market.

To deal with this challenge, AT&T’s strategy is to incorporate its nearly 30,000 IT employees into every aspect of the business process in order to make all aspects of the process move more quickly and achieve the ultimate goal of a successful product launch that brings home a targeted profit.

“We constantly stress that technology is there for the sake of our business goals—as opposed to our business existing for the sake of our technology,” says CIO Thaddeus Arroyo. “If anyone in our company asks our top executives what our IT resources are for, they will say that it’s all about creating business velocity. We must use the technology to transform our business processes in a way that creates market offerings more quickly, allows us to better serve our customers and delivers the ROI that justifies the investment.”

As diverse as its range of products and service lines are, the AT&T philosophy of IT governance can be summed up simply: Make IT part of the business process, not an afterthought. As a result, strategic planning throughout the product cycle is one of continual collaboration, with technology staffers sitting in on business-focused conference calls as the next version of a product like the iPhone is planned and discussed.

IT people are there when phone service departments are trying to come up with better ways to reduce dropped calls. They participate in analyzing the way consumers surf Websites. They also interact with the sales staff at retail locations to see whether there’s a quicker, easier or better way to bring consumers to the point of sale.

“At our retail centers, for example, we’ll have our IT staff watching the interactions to get a sense of what the customers are asking for and what they’d like to see,” Arroyo explains. “Then they’re in on the planning to use available resources to create an experience to match those expectations. That way, they become part of the business strategy.

“This approach has resulted in the installation of kiosks at these retail locations to provide a quicker way for customers to make payments or process warranty returns.” These kiosks have had a remarkable savings and revenue impact, taking in 1.7 million payments in a recent month. This enables in-store reps to focus on sales instead of processing payments and handling administrative duties.

Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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