Saturday, December 11, 2010

Telstra and the NBN

Research , tells us that the sale of Telecom Australia which was established in 1975 (to eventually become Telstra) had been an issue of public policy debate for well over a decade. It was talked about in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the Hawke Labor Government implemented a micro-economic reform agenda that included the privatisation of a number of Commonwealth assets including AUSSAT, the Commonwealth Bank, Australian Airlines, the Commonwealth airports, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) and Qantas. Labor generally opposed any sell-off of Telstra, but did consider the splitting of Telstra on a number of occasions

From the attached link here we can see that the Australian Senate has passed the legislation to split Telstra into a retail and wholesale (network assets) parts, Telstra, the monopolistic legacy provider of all Telecommunications infrastructure in Australia.

To me this whole situation is moot.

The Australian Government sold Telstra when it went private under a former Australian Government, and the government was paid for this assets and the remainder of this , though there is not that is left (approx 10%) is owned by the  Future Fund a government entity which was established in 2006, basically to meet the long term commitments of Public sector Superannuation payments…. see here.

My point is that we are using some of the same money that went into the coffers which we ere paid when Telstra went Private to exchange the Privately owned monopoly that was Telstra for another monopoly which is the National Broadband Network … the only difference being that this one is a government monopoly.

In a few years when the Government has spent tens of billions of our dollars on the NBN and its implementation, they will probably privatise it. Then essentially we will be back where we are now, with a Private enterprise monopoly –  funny does anyone else see something here that looks like Telstra, feels like Telstra and smells like Telstra  –  ah… then its Telstra by another name.

Surely it would have been cheaper just to buy back Telstra, just wait a while, until its shares lose more value they will be giving them away with your breakfast cereal.

Or perhaps they didn't want the aggravation of trying to institute the massive structural and cultural changes that would be necessary for Telstra to change from the former monopolistic anachronism into a relevant, sustainable, transparent, accountable customer focused organisation, in short into a viable business model … Wow !! No wonder they are going for an alternative, actually I agree, it seems to be an almost impossible task.

For this to actually happen would perhaps require the board of Telstra instituting (and paying for) the changes, they would have to care and give a dam, a necessarily focused team would have to be imposed on Telstra –  independent of the operational structure, and finally the will and commitment to spend many billions of dollars over perhaps 7– 10+ years.  Then if successful, Telstra might have a possibility of resurrecting a worthwhile business model … this is part of what I do …. I am so aware of the enormity of the task. However there is no choice, Telstra has to be rebuilt from a organisational, structural and most important a cultural point of view, otherwise it will be as relevant to the future of communications technology as is the current manufacturer of buggy whips. Personally I see much of Telstra's problem is a lack of a coherent vision, including the active involvement of all stakeholders, until this happens Telstra will not be relevant and competitive - long term.

Such transformations are possible, I once had hopes that the culture of the ANZ Bank which I considered such a success story, however my previous article about Green-washing here - has shown me, that the changes appear to be only skin deep, the culture has not appeared to change as I had hoped... greed is still greed - a sustainable accountable culture does not seem to have taken ... very sad.

Well back to the article, I foresee a long term career here, as after working on Telstra for about 10 years a few short years later (or even sooner) we would have to do it all over again, to refocus and change the culture of the NBN after it goes back to private ownership …. so I could move from Telstra to the NBN … to institute similar organisational and culture changes …. then I could retire and write about the experience ... but what an experience it would be.

Does anyone else see a cycle here…. ?  The real problem is that these decisions are not driven by anything other than incompetence, short term strategy, expedience, and ego –  after all,  they are politicians.  Could it be that the Labor Party is trying to correct the fact that Telstra was privatised in the first place ?

Essentially the problem is that nobody learns from the past, they always think this time it will be different …. without a underlying commitment to an ethical and sustainable culture as the basis for the paradigm, our egos, will screw it up … do you think it is possible for us to put aside our egos and actually work together  … pretty please ?

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