Inside Sprint’s Digital Transformation Journey
“For us, transformation has meant spending some money to have a longer-term, better customer experience,” says Sprint CDO Rob Roy. More specifically, that has entailed changes and investments in five areas.
by Giselle Abramovich
Posted on 01-02-2018
This article is part of CMO.com’s February series about mobile. Click here for more.
When telecom giant Sprint set off on its digital transformation journey in 2015, its goals were to build a world-class experience to attract customers, make it easier for them to work with the company across all touch points, and improve its brand reputation.
But to deliver on this goal, the company realized early on that it would take time, money, and a company-wide shift in mindset.
“Many companies start off thinking about digital transformation as a means of cutting costs,” said Rob Roy, chief digital officer of Sprint, who is leading the company’s efforts. “The thinking is that if you can get more people to interact with your company digitally, it would be a cost saver. That’s really a myopic way of looking at it. For us, transformation has meant spending some money to have a longer-term, better customer experience.”
More specifically, that has entailed changes and investment in five areas: technology, people, organizational structure, processes, and culture.
Sprint began to invest in its technology stack almost from the start of its transformation, with a focus on building the company’s data architecture. The company invested in analytics, a DMP, targeting capabilities, and web management—a huge implementation that took about one year.
Roy stressed the importance of spending the time and energy on implementation. “You can have the Ferrari of technology, but if you’re driving it like a Yugo … you only get so far if you don’t implement it correctly,” he told CMO.com.
As a result, Sprint now has a more comprehensive view of its customers than it ever did before, with the ability to track multiple channels within a single view of the customer, Roy said.
Also part of Sprint’s digital transformation: a new website.
“Our website is more flexible to all of the data we are getting, taking the human interaction out of it and letting the machine provide the information on what we should show visitors based on the segment that came in and the type of activity that we were seeing,” Rob explained. “We are seeing a lot of benefit from taking that data-first mentality and focusing our technology build around that type of environment.”
People And Internal Structure
To support this data-first mindset, Sprint added a new team in cognitive analytics, responsible for parsing through the data, creating algorithms, and presenting the insights in a way the rest of the organization can benefit from.
The company also began to beef up its digital marketing team, bringing in experts to run various channels in-house. “Let’s face it: If we own and control our own data, we can make more real-time decisions and make sure that our spend is highly optimized,” Roy said. “We’ve also got people in-house skilled in front-end development, and we have brought in designers as well, rather than solely relying on agencies.”
In addition, Sprint added a product management arm to its organization, which focuses on AI and machine learning. “We’ve also reorganized our product management team to be more data-driven around how they build out their experiences,” Roy said. “So we’re bringing in some new talent that’s more focused that way and thinks that way.”
The company looks to hire staff who have worked in agile environments, he added. It’s also important to Sprint that people have worked across multiple industries and have “been through adversity in previous businesses and seen the other side of it,” he said. “We’re trying to run like a startup within a large behemoth of an organization. Bringing in people with that type of mindset has been a key driver of our digital journey so far.”
Sprint also added what Roy calls the “digital adoption team,” who is on the hook for looking six to 12 months out—and beyond—and deciding which technologies would be a right fit for the brand. “They are spending time with different groups within the organization and outside the organization to guide us on what’s next and where we are headed,” Roy said.
Culture And Process
Sprint’s digital transformation also has taken into account optimization of processes, Roy said. “It’s really been a lot about improving all of our end-to-end processes, whether it’s internal or external, and leveraging digital touch points to make them more streamlined,” he explained.
In the early days, Roy said, Sprint was “building things just to build them.” Today, Sprint’s product team is leading with a data-first focus on the customer’s “moment of truth.”
“We review what’s happening on a daily basis,” Roy said. “We’re watching what customers are doing, looking at their fallouts, looking at where we can improve, using that data to better understand how we can influence or improve those flows, and we’re building our enhancements and our priority lists based on that customer moment of truth.”
Sprint also has a number of programs in place to foster agility among its culture. That includes basic training around agile methodology and monthly “lunch and learns,” where a specific department or team within the organization talks about what they’re working on, how they’re running their teams, and what they’re doing differently to hit their goals. “It just gives us an opportunity to step outside our group and learn a little bit,” Roy said.
Another program, called “Level Up,” brings in people from outside companies, such as Amazon, to learn about what their organizations are doing, how they’re doing things differently, and what they’re doing to be more successful.
“We try to take an approach of having more technology-first companies come in and talk to us a little bit about what they’re doing,” Roy told CMO.com. “What’s been really great is the product management team will start to think more agilely, think differently, do stand-out [work]. They bring their development counterparts in and then those dev counterparts take that feeling and the way we’re doing things back to their organization, and they start to do things differently. So it starts to become contagious.”
The Road Ahead
As for Roy’s strategic priorities over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, Sprint will be focusing on, first and foremost, building out its digital channels and creating online experiences that allow customers to self-service. This move reflects feedback the company has received from its customer base. A good experience will manifest in customers who continue to come back, Roy said.
“Creating that ease of interaction will bring about a halo of brand goodness,” he added.
In addition, Sprint is focusing on becoming a leader in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space. “And that doesn’t mean just in chatbot execution of conversations with customers,” he said. “We would like to leverage machine learning to create better processes for us internally, make us smarter, and parse through data more quickly.”
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