Telkomsel’s digital core for flexibility and nationwide-scale

The largest mobile telco provider in Indonesia, Telkomsel, serves over 168 million customers. Indonesia’s total population is distributed across an area measuring nearly 2 million square kilometres. On top of that, this world’s largest island country (with over 17,000 islands) is home to the fourth largest population, globally.

The country comprises a relatively young population (median age of 31 years).  Latent demand  from these increasingly digital-savvy customers, raises the the unenviable challenge for Telkomsel, of addressing their evolving needs.

For example, just a decade ago, customers interacted with the Telkomsel brand via contact centres or branch office/walk-in centres. Today, customers demand interaction through a variety of digital channels as well, like mobile apps, websites and social media.

This raised the immediate challenge of ensuring the customer experience at physical channels and digital channels were seamless and consistent. For example, if a customer started a transaction at a walk-in branch and completed it on their mobile app, they would expect the experience to be a seamless transition from physical to digital.

They do not want to have to enter their personal details all over again and repeat their service request when they are on the mobile app. But the telco’s legacy architecture would not have been able to provide this ubiquity, not to mention flexibility or scale.

So, how did Telkomsel do it?

The telco turned towards TIBCO integration, API management and fulfilment order management software to achieve ubiquity, flexibility and scale. According to Telkomsel’s VP of IT Enablement, Metra Utama, they had to establish a digital core, first and foremost.

“This would allow us to expose capabilities that we have at the backend system, and expose them via APIs to the front end which is all the channels. “Therefore whenever there is a new channel, we can onboard it easily. We just only need to configure settings, and there is no need to add more development, because the same APIs can be reused.

“So, that’s the benefit.”

In 10 months, TIBCO Cloud Mashery and TIBCO BusinessWorks Container Edition software simplified the connection between APIs and microservices for the integration of a channel orchestrator layer, business service layer, and backend layer. This way, the architecture is now able to provide capacity and flexibility for up to 30,000 transactions per second, and more.

Working with the business at Telkomsel

Metra explained, “The digital core requires us to collaborate with the business as well. Just like the previous legacy vertical stack (architecture), it is siloe based on channels. “If the marketing team develops a product within one channel, let’s say USSD text messaging, it will not be immediately available in the other channels.

“This is because the product has to be replicated first, to other channels,” he said. Something called a product catalogue is consolidated into one single catalogue for the enterprise now. “So now the marketing team need only define the new product once and it will be available for any channel,” Metra said, explaining that previously, each channel had their own category which severely complicated operations

“This is why we need to collaborate with businesses. There could be more than one business unit that owns a channel like the mobile apps channel. “So, the product ID or SKU that we need to merge (across different channels) may be repeated in the catalogue. We had to rationalise the products.”

This way, Telkomsel was able to reduce their total SKUs from 11,000 to over 1,000.

Addressing market segments

Metra shared that when they are the only provider in the area, they can monetise the advantage, but in competitive areas, they need to price their products and services competitively.

Products are customised according to geographies, customer types and price points which gives rise to many, many permutations. Being able to offer tailored products now has seen Telkomsel growing their customer base by three times. Telkomsel’s CIO Monte Hong had also shared, “’We have greater agility. We can change our digital properties and traditional channels on a daily basis.”

Working with unicorns

Metra observed that to become part of the digital ecosystem, then collaborations are key. “You will not be able to survive by yourself.” Collaborations with unicorn companies and over-the-top players, is also something that Telkomsel explores. At the moment the telco provider recognises their potential as another form of channel via which to sell their products.

Unicorns are privately held startups valued at USD1 billion, and two such companies Telkomsel works with are Gojek and Traveloka. Metra said, “For example, when someone wants to buy a roaming package, they can do so via online agents, Traveloka. We just expose our APIs to Traveloka and they become part of our channel.

“This way, they help you expand your retail reach.” Metra also added that sometimes, these companies want to leverage the insights that Telkomsel generates from their customers’ behaviour. “So, we also sell insights services to them, since two years ago,” he concluded.