by Jennifer O'Brien

CIO50 2019: #26-50 Mauro di Pietro Paolo, Foxtel

Nov 14, 2019
Technology Industry

Mauro di Pietro Paolo
Credit: Foxtel

Foxtel CIO Mauro di Pietro Paolo is on a mission to expand customer openness and increase flexibility in Foxtel’s customer relationships – and he’s been getting down to business over the last year.

“Our goal has been to broaden the flexibility of our relationships,” di Pietro Paolo told CIO Australia.

Di Pietro Paolo said Foxtel operates in an extremely dynamic market.

“The Australian entertainment landscape is expanding rapidly with new entrants across SVOD (subscription video on demand services) and customers have become more and more selective and expect choice, and flexibility in how they interact with us, and engage with our content.

“Competition is fierce, and [with the rise of video on demand services] customers expect choice, and flexibility in how they interact with us, and engage with our content.

“Foxtel IT is leading the development, and execution of a multi-year transformation of our customer engagement model. Fundamentally, changing the way Foxtel drives sales, servicing and marketing,” he says.

As such, he said the team is working to build a platform capable of supporting continuous innovation of its products and services, enabling internal teams to create and market consumer offerings that empower customers.

“Traditionally, we would stand-up a large-scale project. Implement a state-of-the art omni-channel digital CRM technology platform designed specifically for modern Pay TV operators.

“And, well, yes, that’s exactly what we will implement. But the days of ‘big bang’ transformations are gone. They generate significant ‘change stress’ across business processes and technology platforms, and on our people and culture.”

Instead, he said Foxtel IT is taking a two-phased approach – which initially commenced in 2016 – to implement a new CRM platform. The goal is to strengthen foundations and incrementally innovate and change.

“Our goal was, and is, to create a strong, adaptable foundation, on which to transform our customer engagement model. We began this process in 2016, collaborating with business groups to identify key platforms that were (or could be made) fit for purpose in supporting transformation.

“And we worked to understand how we could continually improve these systems not just to support this transformation, but to provide a flexible base to drive additional change to how we operate.

As a result, the team has applied this process to three core platforms: API layer; identity management; and billing systems consolidation.

On the API front, the team has achieved its goal of delivering a modern, and open API integration platform, capable of on-boarding external services securely.

“We can wrap existing customer services as standard TM Forum Open APIs. This has already enabled partnerships with Netflix and Telstra.”

On the identity management front, the company has a secure digital identify platform capable of supporting profile management and viewing data for every consumer in a household.

“This has opened up opportunities to improve customer experience even further and innovate new product offerings,” he said.

On the billing front, he said Foxtel has taken the lead role in consolidating multiple, highly complex, customer billing systems, into a single system, over a five-month period.

With these three pillars in place, he said the company is considering the opportunity for a staged implementation of its new CRM platform. Its Omni-Channel Digital CRM platform will be a sales, service, and marketing engine, providing a holistic view of the customer.

He said the goal is to implement a new platform that would support constant change, and innovation via a flexible product catalogue that supports rapid iterations of customer offers as well as offering a consistent customer experience across multiple contact channels (e.g. digital, social, community, web chat, in-app messaging, SMS etc.).

There’s also the ability to apply AI and ML algorithms to drive better decision-making and improve end-to-end customer experience, he added.

“This transformation is about putting our customers first with every interaction. They will choose how, and when to engage with Foxtel and they will get a consistent experience regardless of engagement channel.

“We’re staggering the implementation with our focus on close collaboration between IT and our marketing group. The goal: To deliver the right message, via the right channel, at the right time. We’re implementing the capability to deliver automated and personalised multi-channel customer communication, driven by real-time events and key insights. We are linking viewing data, and customer insights, to drive this personalisation across all communication channels.

“For Foxtel, this is a game changer. But it is only the start.”

Indeed, di Pietro Paolo can’t stress enough the importance of change – historically Foxtel’s customer relationship model was built upon a more linear billing and inventory model, centred on smartcards.

“Earlier on, every time our business needs changed, we built customised solutions and bespoke applications to support those needs; however, it became overly complex to support with all of the different layers of customisation.

“We need to be able to respond rapidly, and at low-cost, to changes in the market so we’re moving towards a holistic, customer-centric CRM and billing platform, to drive sales, and provide great customer service.”

But the changes needed an innovative approach to ensure a seamless transformation, explained di Pietro Paolo.

“Our great challenge is maintaining our legacy systems while transitioning to the new. We have worked hard to address the infrastructure impact by modernising our key systems. These key systems support both current processes and our goal-state.”

Operationally, he said the team re-designed how it utilises partners. It leaned on delivery partners more for commodity work, maintained lean (but key) legacy SMEs; and reskilled its own workforce to support its new vision.

“Identifying open-minded, and capable, delivery resources and partners is critical to our transformation,” he explained.

“Culturally, we are blurring the line between business and IT. Change, from conception, to delivery, is guided by a ‘fusion’ team of business and IT resources. The outcome is responsibility, and success, of us all.

“We have applied this culture successfully, in working with our marketing group to redefine our marketing domain, and how we communicate with our customers.”

Asked how he collaborates and influences the organisation and its leadership team, he said in the digital era, a CIO serves as both business and IT leaders. That belief system “fundamentally underpins the ways IT collaborates across our organisation.”

Essentially, he said he “thinks like a business-person, but executes like a technologist at heart.” This mantra involves a three pronged approach: Building partnerships, breaking the knowledge silos; and having a clear purpose.

Speaking about silos, he said for areas of unknown, Foxtel needs a ‘map’ to help navigate from point A to B optimally.

“For an organisation-scale like Foxtel, we have historically spent significant effort piecing ‘puzzles of information’ on how things actually work today (technology, process and people).

“For the last two years, we’ve brought the technical SMEs (architects, developers, operations and security) together with the impacted business to collaborate and review all projects’ solutions regularly.

“This highly collaborative process has not just created a library of re-usable ‘knowledge maps’ but it has fundamentally broken the knowledge silos between technology areas and across the business units. Of course, we indirectly gain speed and agility.”

Asked how he influences other c-level executives, di Pietro Paolo said he likes to influence with facts and cognitive empathy.

“Always try to focus on the facts which generally gets us to the ‘real story’ behind a conflict or an issue. That said, having a strong cognitive empathy allows one to observe and take into consideration our audience’s signals (written, verbal, body language), especially how they perceive my thoughts and communication style.”

Be solutions-orientated, he added. “This is simple but can be uncommon. I’m a great believer in not always bringing issues to the table, but bringing solutions. Everyone should be accountable. This is an important trait to build trust and credibility.”