By Michael Carroll

Telstra chief urges operators to make the most of transformation

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn pressed operators to ensure they reap the benefit from the wave of digitalisation sparked by Covid-19, lamenting a history in which the industry laid the groundwork for growth but largely failed to capitalise.

In a keynote session, Penn noted recent events in Ukraine highlighted operators can never rest on their laurels, following a two-year period in which the Covid-19 pandemic had fuelled rapid changes in the services they provide.

The Telstra chief noted operator defences “need to be stronger than ever”, citing cybersecurity, geopolitical situations and national security.

He said war in Ukraine is a “chilling reminder of how the threat landscape continues to evolve”.

Penn predicted the challenges will remain a factor over the coming decade and called for operators to avoid past mistakes by creating value from the platforms they deliver.

He pointed to T22, a transformation programme Telstra introduced four years ago as an example of how it recognised the need to change even before the pandemic.

In addition to having the ambition to change, Penn conceded “frankly we had to: we were facing an existential crisis”.

The strategy is already being reflected in Telstra’s balance sheet, but Penn also highlighted improved employee engagement, a clear nod to the operator’s social responsibility.

It is also a testament to changing corporate cultures which Penn noted are often rigidly steeped in history. “We had to change and we had to change rapidly,” he said.