Running a Digital Factory - Sheila Chua

Published 03 Mar 2020 by FT

Sheila Chua is a Digital Project Manager in the Group Enterprise, Business Transformation Office.  

As a Digital Project Manager in Singtel's Digital Factory, she works on new digital initiatives that create business value with a focus on the customer journey. The approach starts with the development of minimum viable products (MVPs) – products with just enough features to satisfy customers and continuously seeking customers’ feedback to improve the product.     

She shares about one project that she is particularly excited about, the WhatsApp transaction engine that she and her team have been working on. 

Q. What is a Digital Factory?  

A. There are 7 digital factories across Singtel Group and each factory drives 3-5 digital innovations concurrently to transform and build something new for the business. It is a cross-functional collaboration and an agile facility that aims to produce innovative solutions that solve the needs of every stakeholder in the ecosystem. 

Q. What are you working on in Group Enterprise’s Digital Factory? 

A. I’m working on a couple of minimum viable products (MVPs) within our small and medium business digital factory. One of them is the WhatsApp transaction engine for our business customers, which I’m particularly excited about. This is a new engagement channel on top of our business hotline. In August 2018, WhatsApp launched a business API and we rode on this opportunity to deliver our first business chatbot. It helped us serve our business customers better. Since launching this initiative in July 2019 and we have gotten great feedback from our customers.    

Q. Tell us more about this WhatsApp transaction engine project. 

A.  We wanted to provide a new digital experience for business customers through a familiar channel - WhatsApp. If a business customer wants to apply for a roaming plan on behalf of his colleague, he no longer needs to call the hotline. He can simply enquire and transact with our chatbot on WhatsApp. We call it a transaction engine because it is able to serve beyond just the chatbot function. 

Q. What was one interesting insight that you discovered in this journey? 

A. I have prior exposure setting up the customer experience practice at Singtel, so I was able to leverage my expertise to drive this project. My team worked very hard to improve our customers’ experience through this new engagement model.  

We adopted a design thinking approach for this project and reached out to a couple of customers to understand their experience with our services. One customer whom we identified as a heavy user was calling our hotline 80 times a year. Through our conversation with him, we understood the reason — he had been calling the hotline instead of using My Singtel app, an easy-to-use and convenient platform. This was because he was trying to resolve issues on behalf of his colleagues, and couldn't use his My Singtel App which is tied to his personal account. We took this feedback on board and ensured the design of our digital product caters to such needs which is typical of business customers. 

Q. What has been a major challenge for this project? 

A. There are three teams that needed to work together to deliver this project. Given the inter-dependent nature of the teams as well as the tight timeline we were working with, we used scrum as the primary way of working. Daily stand-ups are practised which ensure us to keep each team updated of the progress. 

We are all aware of where the end goal is, but since the route to get there is still uncharted; we need to work in an agile manner to navigate through uncertainty as a team. I enjoy the opportunity to work alongside brilliant and passionate individuals, and I revel in the satisfaction of achieving the goal that we had set out to accomplish, even building on top of them. Before we embarked on this project, we already had the foresight that it would require us to change the way we worked. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to receive training, allowing me to make a positive change.    

Q. What advice would you give to others who are also driving similar digital innovation projects? 

A. There are three things that I would recommend: 

  1. Know what everyone is doing – stand-ups can be helpful to facilitate such sharing so that everyone in the team is aligned on our goals and progress. 
  2. Be open-minded and determined – Have the openness to try new ideas, accept new ways of working, and have the determination to commit to them. 
  3. Seek a sponsor and business lead –Diana Chen, a Vice President from Group Enterprise, is our sponsor. Alongside with Ng Shin, our product owner, they have steered this project in the right direction and maintained its momentum. 

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