Chief Technology Officer Clive White discusses Arqiva’s ongoing digital transformation and the benefits it is bringing for itself, customers and suppl...
Arqiva is a supplier of critical communications infrastructure and media services . Having recently divested its telecoms business, it is now focusing on two market segments; the Utilities sector, leveraging its smart metering and satellite data communications operations, and the media and broadcast sector, leveraging its long history in the provision of service to the UK’s Public Sector Broadcasters (PSB) and the broader media industry, as Chief Technology and Transformation Officer Clive White explains. “We’re the leading broadcast provider in the UK covering TV and radio. That also extends to other digital delivery services through satellite and over the top services. The other focus area is more broadly called utilities, which today is a focus on smart metering across gas, electricity and water utilities.”
In a changing industry caused by the introduction of new technologies such as streaming services, Arqiva is ensuring that it remains on top of innovation. “We are positioning ourselves to be the bridge between traditional and modern,” says White. “We do everything from analogue radio all the way through to video on demand services delivered over IP and satellite. So we've got a broad range of technologies and services that we can integrate and help the industry segments we serve in support today’s traditional delivery as well as position for the future as well.”
The digitalisation of the industry has revealed the potential of commensurate internal changes. “As we've moved into a more connected world, silo and legacy systems have become more exposed,” says White. “The Board recognised this shift and created a new role on the executive committee to own and drive enterprise-wide business transformation.” Arqiva is in the midst of a multi-year, large scale transformation of both customer-facing and internal services. “We’re delivering an integrated programme of change covering finance transformation, which involves the implementation of a modernised Oracle system, a transformation in our site asset management capabilities underpinned by a technology called Siterra and we’ve just launched a new integrated service automation platform on ServiceNow which has enabled us to retire four separate legacy systems. On the back of that, we’re integrating all of our network OSS systems into ServiceNow to drive further automation and efficiencies.”
Alongside that already comprehensive overhaul is an initiative to marshal its data through an ambitious programme of change referred to as Data and Orchestration. This is identifying, cleaning and centralising all critical business data into an ecosystem of connected data stores leveraging “golden sources” of mastered data on a technology from Information Builders called Omnigen. “We have aggressively moved to a cloud-based suite of integrated systems, wherever we can” he says. “We are now in the process of joining up our business processes via the integrated data platform, leveraging process re-engineering opportunities created by adopting ‘out of the box’ services. So, we're going from a quite manual and legacy set of discrete systems into highly automated, digitally interconnected systems, enabling frictionless business processing wherever possible and desirable”.
Also built into the transformation is increased preparedness for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “Wrapped around the transformation is a digital workplace initiative,” says White. “So we've moved to Office365, deployed mobile interfaces and digitised a whole bunch of processes, including starting to deploy digital signatures across all of our procurement systems.” Digital Workplace is continuing to evolve, as White explains. “We’re going into the next round of Digital Workplace, where we face up to the ugly history of analogue telephony and digitising that into our new infrastructure. The ultimate goal is to make our entire operation digitally enabled and able to work flexibly and remote if and when we need it to be.”
While Arqiva was impacted by COVID-19, like most organisations worldwide, the existing digitalisation efforts provided a great deal of resiliency. “We'd previously built that momentum around business change, which was somewhat fortuitous in terms of timing. On Friday the 13th of March we flipped the entire workforce - minus a small number of critical operations and field teams that needed to be on site and in the field - to working from home overnight, with minimal interruptions to service operations.” White emphasises that the pandemic has not impacted the scope of the company’s transformation plans, but rather the timeframe, with an extension of around three months to ease the introduction of new technologies and pace of change during lockdown.
Having spun up remote working so quickly, White believes that the technology has more than proved itself. “For too many years, the fear of remote working revolved around the perception that the technology would not work reliably at scale and that managing a remote workforce would be too challenging. But that was wrong on both counts.” Notwithstanding individual and personal circumstance challenges, such as those with kids at home, it’s provided the ability to work smarter and more flexibly while still delivering.”
White credits a focus on culture as driving the transformation programme through. “Many organisations of which I've been part will spend a lot of money and time deploying systems and tools, and then wonder why they’ve not been fully effective, not been liked and have come in over budget and late. So making sure you have an organisational change programme wrapped around your technology change is essential.“ Another factor in the transformation’s success has been the strength of key collaborators, such as integration partner HCL. “Given it's probably the biggest change and transformation Arqiva has seen, we wanted to make sure we brought on board an experienced partner to be part of our ‘change spine’,” says White. “We went through an extensive process to pick the right partner for Arqiva in terms of our size, geography and “fit”, and HCL came out on top. They are integrated into our delivery teams, bringing best practice where appropriate and capacity where we don't have it to maintain the volume and concurrency of change that we've got in flight.”
White’s immediate focus is on landing the transformation in the next 14 months. “At that stage, we'll have replaced all of our core systems, going from a legacy, siloed set to a fully integrated, automated and work-flowed business. We need to make sure that we're maximizing the benefit that this investment gives us, with some big changes in terms of efficiency and ways of working that we’re deploying internally, but also starting to connect to our suppliers and our customers differently.” On that point, White is clear that the benefits are not just internal but extend to outside stakeholders. “We're now starting to connect to our customers digitally, and we can get them to ask us to do things automatically via APIs. We're starting to kill the phone and email to improve the level of connectivity between us, our customers, partners and suppliers. It’s about fully embracing the digital landscape and making sure that things are as automated and efficient as possible to offer more value to our customers.”