Project New becomes "business as usual" at Telstra

290 million, 500-staff project results in continued staff reductions, business simplicity

Telstra's program to simplify management and employment structure has become "business as usual" since its inception in September, according to chief executive, David Thodey.

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The $290 million 'Project New' program, announced to combat loss of revenue in key areas like traditional fixed-line telephone services, involved 500 staff implementing 27 business simplification processes across the company.

Among the changes were a combination of the telco's consumer and regional telephony businesses, and the replacement of 950 middle management roles with 33 area general managers. Some 300 managers were also made redundant in the process.

The program has been run by Robert Nason, Telstra's group managing director of customer satisfaction, simplification and productivity.

In its half-yearly financial results for the six months ending 31 December, Telstra revealed reductions in amounts of staff by 3500, or 8.1 per cent of the company's total workforce and in particular a decline in domestic staff of 954 personnel over the year.

The cost of service contracts and other agreements at the company also increased by 6.7 per cent, amounting to $75 million, as a result of early investment in the project.

A cultural change management program within the company is also underway, with Thodey hoping to create the notion of "one Telstra" among staff.

"That takes time but it's really getting embedded in who we are as a company," he said.

According to Thodey, 'Project New' has allowed for faster decision-making and the ability to respond to market concerns more quickly as a result of a simpler management structure.

"If a customer now wants to get global roaming, they don't have to ring the front of house," he said. "They can go online and use a simple Web form and get that activated. That sounds simple but when you're taking millions of calls each year..."

The telco has looked to move further customer interactions online in order to relieve its customer call centres, which also moved to 24/7 service as part of continued customer retention measures.

Despite the continued changes and positive movements toward key goals outlined by the company, complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) increased during January this year.

"Some of it is driven by the floods," Thodey said. "More importantly, I like hearing about issues and how quickly we respond to them."

The company intends to reduce TIO complaints by 30 per cent year-on-year as part of the business simplification's key indicators of progress.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

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