CIO50 2022 #9 Richard Dean, amaysim

  • Name Richard Dean
  • Title Chief technology officer
  • Company amaysim
  • Commenced role October 2018
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 70 staff in IT function, 6 direct reports
  • Related

    When he was working his first job as a developer, Richard Dean wrote software that sent out automated notifications telling clients that their equipment needed to come in for recalibration, which was normally an annual event.

    “I made a coding error that accidentally sent out a large number of incorrect notifications to multiple contacts at our biggest client,” he admits.

    Fortunately, following the batch job run, he recognised his mistake and notified his boss. He then told the account manager at the client he’d sent erroneous alerts to and worked through the issue. He then produced a revised list of the correct equipment which he resent to clients.

    “The same day, I wrote a detailed post-incident report outlining why the mistake had been made, how it was resolved in the short-term, how we would prevent this happening again in the longer term – such as better validation, automation and testing – and shared that with the client. 

    “I then followed up with the client a few weeks later to inform them both short- and long-term fixed had been applied. The client was happy with how quickly we responded, our transparency and also with how much ownership I had taken of the issue,” he says.

    “They later cited the same response in their decision to renew their contract with us.”

    Dean says there were a number of learnings from this experience. First, own your f***ups, he says. Take ownership and accountability for whatever has broken before finding mitigations and forming a considered plan and path back to status quo, or better.

    Second, bad news travels fast.

    “Don’t try and sit-on or hide issues. Own them, be transparent, form a team behind the issue – that will propel you through to resolution – and most importantly, talk to customers impacted (either internal or external) ASAP and set expectations around when their normal service will resume,” Dean stresses.

    Third, every failure is an opportunity to be a success. Doing both of the above can turn every failure into success.

    “In our case, the result was greater trust from our customers and a belief that we were doing the right thing for their business,” Dean recalls.

    Four, automate and test everything. He notes that if he had had better automation and testing in place, this could have been avoidable. It’s a great learning that has followed him ever since.

    And five, be the first to know when something breaks.

    These are lessons that Dean has applied to good use in his current role as CTO with mobile services company, amaysim. 

    “We have a mantra at amaysim that we (the technology group) should always be the first to know when a system isn’t performing. If we find out through our customers, then we have failed. In this instance, we found out before our client and we were able to get ahead and minimise the impact.

    “This is so important in terms of having confidence in your systems and also being able to detect, triage and rollback/resolve any issues as quickly as possible.”

    Customer Data Platform

    In recent years as chief technology officer at amaysim, a role he began some four years ago, Dean has driven the mobile telecommunications service provider to become a leader in cloud native, serverless and devops.

    “Over that time, amaysim has consistently adopted an innovative and agile mindset in applying technology to solve business and customer needs. My strategic approach is to iteratively ship enhancements to our tech stack on a continuous basis. This reduces risk and allows us to quickly unlock value,” he tells CIO.

    In FY22, he and his team started implementing a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which delivered immediate value. The ‘jewel’ in amaysim’s technology crown and data strategy, the CDP provides a single, unified view of customers based on aggregated, high-quality data from many sources. It has delivered highly-personalised and relevant marketing communications, increasing customer retention and overall value.

    “We have now automated 90% of marketing communications, reducing $7.3 million per annum in [customer] churn and saving $5 million in annual marketing spend,” Dean notes.

    “To deliver our new ‘data supply chain’ to fuel CDP’s success, I jointly established a cross-functional squad, including CRM, data, technology and service teams to deliver use cases and operationalise.”

    Mobile app re-platforming

    Meanwhile, Dean has pushed amaysim towards being an app-first organisation while creating a new CX (customer experience) strategy. Amaysim’s mobile apps have been re-platformed using Flutter, which has transformed the organisation’s ability to deliver rich native experiences to customers faster than ever before.

    “A single developer can now build a feature once and release for Android and iOS simultaneously. Flutter allows us to easily upskill existing developers, increasing productivity, and reducing the impact of a competitive job market,” he explains.

    New payment gateway

    Dean initiated and led the simplification of amaysim’s technology stack onto the Stripe payments platform with more than 1 million customers migrated.

    “There was no downtime or customer disruption and we reduced operational expenditure by $1.2 million in the first year; improved customer experience, features and future flexibility, decreased our compliance burden, and increased fraud mitigation abilities,” he boasts.

    Integration following acquisitions

    In the past two years, Dean has played a significant role in four complex acquisition, integration and divestment programs. These include the purchase of Jenee and Ovo Mobile, totaling 115,000 subscribers (full customer migration, including app and systems migration), the sale of the amaysim and Click energy business to AGL, and amaysim mobile to Optus.

    “The Australian Financial Review called the sale of amaysim to Optus the most complex deal they’d seen in 37 years. I led the technology strategy and implementation that saw us analyse and separate hundreds of inter-dependent systems, migrate thousands of customers with little disruption, and ensured that each transaction was well executed and exceeded its business case,” Dean recalls.

    Innovation through COVID

    One of our proudest achievements Dean and his team managed during COVID was transitioning 600+ offshore call centre team to fully remote in under three weeks.

    “This required significant technical innovation and agility to deliver new tools, workstations, and processes in a very short timeframe," he notes. "The result was that our customers experienced minimal disruption during a challenging period. We were even able to grow our industry leading net promoter score.”

    Byron Connolly

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