Back in 2016, Openreach was facing growing pressure from two directions at once - the customer base for its business networking services and Ofcom, the regulator which oversees the telecoms and ISP sector. The reason was a consequence of poor operational performance when installing ethernet, a key product line for larger businesses.
As Jason Teoh, head of business intelligence at Openreach’s fibre and network delivery division, recalls: “Our operational performance was not what we would expect or what our customers and Ofcom expected. We had poor lead times and an out-of-control work stack. We needed a way to understand where the problems were originating and to help operations get them back under control.”
One of the biggest issues it faced was with jobs that were taking over 140 working days - or nearly half a year - to complete. Teoh had a belief that better use of data and analytics could form a key part of the solution and help to transform the service being given to business customers.
“I realised the importance of equipping the operations team so they could adopt new ways of working and then have a strong story to tell their peers and other stakeholders, including how to use the tools to unblock bottlenecks,” he explained to DataIQ. “One of the things we found was that Excel was our analysts’ tool of choice, but it has limitations around how much data it can store and problems managing and sharing versions.”
A consultancy familiar with Qlik’s data analytics tool, Qlik Sense, suggested to Teoh it could have an impact within Openreach. “We recognised that we needed to do something different with data - Qlik offered a way to analyse and visualise things. It was the first time we had used it here,” he explains.
“We started with the delivery problem and found we could use Qlik to create new ways of looking at the work stack, such as volume, distribution, how those changed over time and whether they were increasing or decreasing.”
Once the operations team had access to data and a user-friendly way to analyse it, they started to examine the real issues they thought needed to be addressed, for example, those jobs over 140 days. Once they had got that queue down from several thousand to several hundred, they started to develop other ways of using analytics that they hadn’t thought of before.
“One of the things they started to understand was that it was not just about those overdue jobs, but also about the ones running at between 100 and 140 days,” says Teoh. “If they could stop those going over the threshold, it would help. It was the first time they had been able to look at the problem from a different perspective.”
"We use NPS and used to be rated minus 100 - that’s as low as you can be. Last time out we had hit plus 30."
By 2017, the impact of this new approach was really beginning to be felt, with the average job time reduced from 75 to 35 working days overall. The operations team was also able to reduce the stack of extremely overdue jobs, pulling the average down to meet the regulatory target.
Says Teoh: “That has produced a real turnaround in our customer satisfaction. We use net promoter score and used to be rated minus 100 - that’s as low as you can be - and last time out we had hit plus 30, which is a massive improvement. We can see it in our customer forums and feedback, too. Where we used to face a series of issues and problems, now customers are much happier.”
Introducing Qlik was part of a wider transformation which included addressing data issues, including integrating data in a structured way, applying data quality and making it easier to feed data into Qlik so the business can use data visualisation more widely. As he explains: “We have since expanded in a small-scale way - not across the whole operational base, but to more managers. A lot of people are being exposed to the tool and to data for the first time.”
With the merging of the ethernet and retail teams to create the current fibre and networking division in 2017, a more strategic view was created. But it also surfaced that there were multiple different tools in use. By the end of 2018, these had been successfully consolidated to make Qlik the supported option.
It is part of a journey for the division towards becoming data-driven and analytics-oriented. As Teoh says: "We are not yet at the stage of democratising data, but having seen what can be done, I am confident we can get there. We can scale Qlik across the whole of the fibre and network delivery division - it fits with our culture. The whole idea is to change the culture and its level of performance and to make data and analytics part of that transformation.“