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AT&T's Thaddeus Arroyo: Tech will transform customer engagement

Mary K. Pratt | Dec. 11, 2014
Thaddeus Arroyo, president of technology development at AT&T, believes IT leaders must show their organizations how technology will transform both how they do business and how they engage with customers.

So we start by changing our thinking in how you approach a problem, and we have numerous programs and methods we wrap around our employees to foster innovation. For example, we have TIP — the technology innovation pipeline. Think of this as the ultimate employee suggestion box. This allows them to post their ideas, then employees vote the ideas up and down, and those with the highest-rated ideas each quarter can pitch their ideas to senior leaders.

Personally, I don't want people to limit their visions to what I think is possible. So I look for people throughout the organizations to bring great new ideas to the table, and we're giving those a chance to flourish.

What's your approach for getting innovation off the drawing boards and into reality? For me, execution is one of the most important areas. At the core of our approach is the culture of prototype, assess, iterate, build and scale. That really helps us drive execution. That's really important as we develop technology today. From a crowdsource engine that allows employees to vote, to experiential-based methodologies, to a proof-of-concept engine. We've instituted these practices that made innovation part of the DNA as well as the ability to realize that innovation. More than 50% of our IT projects are completed within six months, and the rest within a year. Very few go beyond a year.

You talk a lot about transformation. How do you address process change as you use technology to transform? When it comes to creating a culture that manages change, it's not about discovering the next big things; it's about identifying and acting on the opportunities to use the big things.

I'll give you a deeper dive here: All of our store representatives are equipped with mobile tablets that connect them with relevant information about customers and recommended solutions to their needs and concerns; it's all tailored to that customer. That's tapping into that next big thing. The representative can complete that sale without leaving the customer's side. We no longer have behind-the-counter registers.

Our approach is to constantly evolve our IT strategy to take advantage of the next big thing. Since 2007, when I came into the job I do today, we've eliminated over 50% of our application portfolio, and by 2020 we'll eliminate another 40%. It's taking complexity out and allowing us to move even faster.

And we're not stopping there. We're changing the way we develop our technology. We've been evolving the way we develop, putting in more agile tools. We're driving that to new levels.


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