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What M1 Singapore Learned from their Digital Transformation Project 

Brendan O'Brien

26 October 2022

As communications service providers (CSPs) confront the reality that consumer connectivity alone can no longer be the sole driver of business growth, they are pursuing digital strategies and expanding their ecosystem of partnerships to develop and deliver new value-added services to subscribers and enterprises. M1, one of the largest mobile operators in Singapore, is ahead of the curve in that it has transformed its business amid the commoditization of basic voice and data services and stiffening competition from new market entrants.  

During a lunch briefing co-sponsored by Aria Systems and Salesforce at this year’s Digital Transformation World, Nathan Bell, M1’s former Chief Transformation Officer, detailed the lessons learned from M1’s efforts to digitize, modernize, and position itself to compete and thrive in a new and evolving telecommunications marketplace.   

For M1, a provider of consumer and B2B services across both mobile and broadband, there were no half-measures in its approach to digital transformation.  

From the outset, the company pursued a holistic, all-in approach to shifting to an entirely digital business, replacing all inflexible legacy systems with cloud-native options, and establishing an in-house digital office to manage it all. Opting for a best-of-breed strategy, M1 selected individual point solutions providers, including Aria, which enabled the company to build a more flexible business architecture capable of easily supporting evolving business requirements.  

Despite the challenges and restrictions posed by the global pandemic, M1 successfully deployed a minimally viable product just nine months after project inception, and launched the digitized consumer-focused business in just under three years. As Bell put it, the team “built a brand-new house next to the existing house.” 

As a result of this digital transformation, M1 consumer subscribers now have the freedom to build their own mobile plans, choosing from any combination of pricing packages, usage models and billing options. Equally significant, customers can select and procure their plans without the need to engage a customer service representative, as all customer care activities now take place online. This has resulted in a significant reduction in call center volume and costs.  

From an operational perspective, the entire business architecture has been significantly reduced to the point where it can be managed by M1’s in-house team, and new products can be launched into the market in a matter of weeks, rather than months. 

Bell highlighted several key learnings the M1 team took from their successful digital transformation and evolution. Most important is the need to ensure alignment across the business from the CEO’s office on down. Ditching legacy services and processes can be a difficult proposition necessitating tough conversations. A degree of resistance is inevitable. Ensuring that all stakeholders, from IT and marketing to finance and customer service, understand how new processes will work, business practices and revenue recognition will change, and how the newly digitized operation will impact individual roles and responsibilities, is critical.  

Secondly, Bell stressed the importance of building cohesive, trusted partnerships with system vendors to ensure all parties are working together for a common outcome. Convening regular governance meetings and collective discussions among vendors, data analysts, engineers, and software developers will enable the organization to fully access and leverage all available expertise.   

Finally, Bell implored CSPs to heed lessons from other industries that have embraced cloud technologies and software-defined networks. The benefits are clear and are transferable to the telecommunications industry. 

M1 is now gearing up to initiate a similar effort on the B2B side of the business.  

Brendan O'Brien

Chief Innovation Officer & Co-Founder at Aria Systems. Brendan leads the product direction and drives the launch of new products. He introduced the world to cloud billing, and innovated database-driven, enterprise-grade web applications – before the concept of “cloud” was even on the horizon. Brendan is at the forefront of the recurring revenue revolution that is empowering enterprises — and specifically enabling information systems and new business models to secure predictive revenue streams while improving business processes.

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