LIVE FROM DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION WORLD, COPENHAGEN: Telia CEO Allison Kirkby (pictured) called on fellow operators to identify a sense of purpose and ruthlessly address their failings to reinvent for the digital age, as she opened up on the steps taken to transform the telco.

Kirkby, who is leaving Telia in January 2024 to head BT Group, stated when she took the role as CEO in 2020 the company had no capex to invest in 5G, despite being a telecoms business, due to investment in advertising funded TV channels and rights to show European football.

To change the situation, Kirkby said the company put a focus back on the core, “because that’s how we believed we could first get back to growth”.

“For too long, Telia like many other telcos acquired growth in regions and sectors where it did not have a right to win either in the medium or the long term,” she explained.

Despite also inheriting “complex and slow massive legacy technology” that made the customer experience cumbersome, frustrating and ineffective, “network leadership was still a key brand strength”, so going back to basics was an obvious first priority.

Kirkby said she did not have a silver bullet or blueprint for growth, but did offer some learnings for peers.

Firstly, she said it should all start with being clear on why the businesses exists and what can be done uniquely for those served.

“Follow this with an honest assessment of what your unique assets and unique strengths really are. And then double down on them because focus and consistency is key.”

The outgoing boss also pointed to the need for collaboration, as well as reinventing and nurturing corporate culture so that growth becomes sustainable and “not a flash in the pan”.

“Culture can at times be softer and intangible, but it’s not. It’s especially key to transformation success in these large, once incumbent telcos, because you’re not just having to transform what you do. You’re having to transform how you do it.”