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T-Mobile: From IT to Advantage

An interview with the telco’s former chief information officer Gary King
Gregory Brail
Jul 19, 2016

When the U.S. government killed AT&T’s $39 billion bid to swallow up rival T-Mobile in 2012, the would-be target had arrived at a major crossroads.

“Innovation and development had pretty much taken a hiatus,” said Gary King, former T-Mobile executive vice president and chief information officer. “When that merger was not approved, the company really had to rethink the way it went to market and fundamentally change how it addressed its customers.

"Otherwise it was just going to be competing against two big incumbents, and it had been doing that for a number of years without a lot of success.”

The telco responded by rebranding itself as an “uncarrier,” and offered lower prices, contract-free plans, free music streaming, and a host of other features aimed at attracting customers. The need to eliminate customer “pain points” and handle the resultant influx of new customers (T-Mobile’s subscriber based doubled to around 60 million in 2013, King said) required some serious changes in how the company’s IT organization worked.

Speed was key, so gone were the days of large quarterly releases, King said. They were replaced by almost daily implementations of application changes, he said. 

“This fundamentally is the vision of what you want do do when you are rapidly responding to the marketplace,” King said.

Adding to the challenge of transforming IT was the fact that T-Mobile sells through nearly 70,000 outlets—and only 20,000 of those are operated by the company or its MetroPCS unit. 

“A change in an application associated with contracts or data provisioning or with free music streaming … all of those points of presence are potentially impacted," he said. "The ability to rapidly enable testing of those remote systems was also a big component of moving faster and eliminating IT pain points."

For my complete interview with King and discussions with a host of other technology leaders, please check out CIO Upload.

CIO Upload is a podcast series by technology leaders for technology leaders. Apigee chief architect Greg Brail interviews technologists to learn best practices, challenges, and tips for meeting the demands of the evolving digital world.

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