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Telia keeps service quality at the heart of automation strategy

Malin Fransén-Kronberg, Director Service Assurance and Chief Quality Officer at Telia, shares how the company is assuring service quality amid transformation and how it is using automation and AI to improve customer experience.

Michelle Donegan
13 Sep 2023
Telia keeps service quality at the heart of automation strategy

Telia keeps service quality at the heart of automation strategy

Telia is picking up the pace of transformation this year as it works to reinvent itself. The operator is well into the second year of a strategic plan unveiled in 2021 to become a “Better Telia” for its customers, employees, owners, and society. Malin Fransén-Kronberg, Director Service Assurance and Chief Quality Officer at Telia, shared her views with Inform on the importance of service quality in the ongoing transformation and an update on how the operator is using automation and AI to improve customer experience.

The telco operates in seven countries across the Nordic and Baltic regions: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden. As an indication of the new strategy’s progress, Telia said it returned to revenue growth in each of its markets in 2022, according to its Annual and Sustainability Report 2022

One pillar of the strategy is “transforming to digital,” which aims to reduce the number of products, processes and platforms that it uses to be less complex and more agile. For example, the operator has so far cut legacy products by 40%, while more than half of new products have been deployed on common platforms and two-thirds are delivered in more than one market.

Fransén-Kronberg’s job is to ensure product and service quality are integral to the overall transformation. She described her role as the “link that connects quality and big picture decisions.” Within her remit, she leads the service management framework and process implementation across Telia’s international operations, implements “quality checkpoints by design” and makes sure customers get a consistent, high-quality experience.

“For our transformation journey to be effective, quality needs to be integrated seamlessly. The Chief Quality Officer plays a critical role in aligning quality initiatives with Telia's overarching strategic goals, ensuring consistent quality standards, and driving overall organizational excellence,” she said.

That requires “fostering collaboration across our organizational functions through the setup of a robust governance,” she added.

Service assurance goes proactive

Fransén-Kronberg’s career at Telia started in 1997 and she has held senior service assurance positions for the last nearly ten years. Looking back, she said her role has changed in many ways as service assurance has evolved and quality has become a priority.

“The focus has moved to a more proactive instead of reactive quality and resilience culture, and reshaping how the organization works and boosts the importance of quality. It is about building further relationships, improving processes, and guiding tech changes that enhance quality across the whole system,” she said.

The shift in her role is in line with the technology changes going on in network and IT systems. Services have been traditionally delivered within dedicated technology domains. Now that networks are moving to softwarization, services use shared resources that span multiple tech domains and processes, she explained.

This makes services more enhanced and complex, which drives the need for real-time data analytics and automation to ensure service quality and resilience. “We use technology to manage the more complex service value chains so that we can support the users better by delivering more proactive actions and faster resolutions by leveraging automation,” she said.

Update on automation agenda

Telia is working towards zero-touch automation, whereby workflows are triggered by specific events invoking actions through dedicated APIs. Ultimately, its goal is to achieve intent-based, closed-loop autonomous operations.

The operator has established the foundation and governance for zero-touch automation and implemented some zero-touch use cases, such as “Order to Activation” and “Trouble to Resolution” processes. However, it is “not yet fully utilizing the entire range of functionalities to deliver full-scale, zero-touch automation,” said Fransén-Kronberg.

To date, automating processes has reduced the number of service incidents by almost 20%, increased the number of hours saved through automation by 65% and has been a key driver of a 30% reduction in call volumes into the operator’s Swedish customer operations.

The operator is also leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). “This is part of our journey to AIOps [AI Operations] and the Autonomous ‘intent-based enforced by closed loop’ operation stage, where the AI algorithms can make controlled decisions and match the ‘intent’ in terms of service quality and restoration,” she said.

Telia has recently started on the path to autonomous operations with a set of radio access network (RAN) use cases for anomaly detection using Google Cloud Platform capabilities.

Listening to employees

It is a necessity and an ambition to “do less with more,” which is driving Telia’s service assurance automation roadmap.

“As we offer new and complex services, the demands for security, resilience and robustness continuously increase both from society and our customers. At the same time, we generate a vast amount of real-time data in an increasingly complex technical ecosystem. These are proof points that we need to increase our use of automation and ML solutions to maintain a competitive edge” she said.

But as automation and AI development marches on, there is a risk that some employees could be left behind and unable to adapt to new ways of working. It is particularly challenging for employees in the current “hybrid model” where legacy and new environments co-exist. This is why it is “important to listen to their needs and work closely with our development teams,” she said.

“I believe that the technology advancements and especially automation are not only inspirational but will also empower our employees to meet the growing demands from society and our customers. In addition, we put a lot of effort into our workforce planning and work closely together with our employees to create individual development plans,” she said.

“Learning and adoption of new technologies is a never-ending cycle, even with (and for) automation,” she said.

Malin Fransén-Kronberg is speaking at DTW23 – Ignite taking place from 19-21 September 2023 in Copenhagen.