Burning Platforms

In July 1988, the North Sea oil drilling platform Piper Alpha exploded and was consumed in flames. One of the survivors, Andy Mochan, explained that he had to make a tough decision: “It was fry or jump, so I jumped.”

That disaster is apparently the source of the “Burning Platform” metaphor that we use in the business lexicon. Its usual context is one of a business facing certain disaster if drastic change is not undertaken quickly and successfully. I’d like to apply the metaphor to the customer service challenges facing many Communications Service Providers (CSPs). In a hyper-penetrated market in which agile and disruptive competitors are setting and exceeding expectations for customer experiences, the fight to win and retain valuable customers is fierce and the warning sirens are blaring.

In recent months I have had numerous conversations with customer service executives for CSPs about their approach to addressing these challenges. In many cases they are facing arduous – and perhaps insurmountable – challenges:

There is a fuel leak!

  • Aging stacks of legacy IT systems that are expensive to maintain, hard to change, but are load-bearing pillars of the business infrastructure; 
  • Intense executive focus on business KPIs such as customer lifetime value, costs to serve, market share and growth to meet stock market expectations and deliver shareholder value.
  • All change programs and their outcomes are delivered under the full glare of the spotlights of regulators, the traditional media and the unpredictability of social media.


  • A constantly changing landscape of customer requirements and expectations, channels and competitors that makes the achievement of customer satisfaction and loyalty extremely challenging. The rate of change is increasing because of digitisation resulting in proliferation of competition.

Many CSPs are valiantly trying to extinguish the flames while building new customer service platforms in order to escape. The trouble is that the fires are too fierce and new ones ignite every day. At Pega, we are working with CSPs that have taken a different approach and they are achieving some incredible results.

At Telstra in Australia, the existing infrastructure is left in place, supporting the business as it was intended. The magic happened when they applied rules, processes and case management from Pega to implement new customer service capabilities that allow a complete end-to-end view of the customer and their interactions at any given point in time. The pace of change achieved has been truly breath-taking, both in the speed of deployment of new applications and in the number of business challenges solved.

The results have been equally dramatic; a 70% reduction in the time taken to fulfil complex orders, and an increase of nearly 50 points in NPS for customer service episodes.

On a burning platform there are no easy decisions. If you are caught between trying to meet increasing customer expectations and stringent business KPIs and aging and inflexible CRM and customer service systems, then speak to us about how we could help you isolate and extinguish the blaze and build the next generation of super safe and productive customer service software.