In this special blog series, we’re interviewing some of the people behind the scenes here at Abtran who’ve made the past 21 years of service possible. In this issue, Bid Manager, Joanna Canny reveals how focusing on the customer and sharing know-how have remained central throughout her 14-year career journey at Abtran.
It’s 2004 and I’ve joined Abtran as a Customer Service Advisor on an exciting new Utilities account. It’s a progressive time – one of growth and opportunity. Being part of a new and expanding team means getting involved in lots of different areas from project management to quality control, administration and event management. It’s a steep learning curve but I’m enjoying the challenge.
Over the next four years I progress into a Team Leader role and specialise in the set- up and management of the Operation’s back-office administration function. As part of this role, I run a returned post pilot project working closely with the client to identify and drive process improvement which in turn leads to positive results and greater efficiency. Looking back, I think this opportunity provided me with my first real insight into the world of Quality and Business Process Improvement, an area I was to become deeply involved in over the years to come.
Outside my Operation, Abtran continued to onboard new clients across the Media, Insurance and Transport sectors. It was a time of shared learning where expertise built up in one Operation was then applied to improve outcomes and efficiencies across another.
When an opportunity came up to join Abtran’s client account in the Insurance space, I applied and was successful. Over the next 12 months, I gained the opportunity to build on my experience in a highly regulated and specialised environment and to advance my skillset through a Diploma in Private Medical Insurance.
2009 was a time of rapid expansion and investment for the company. Specialised support teams like Resource Planning and Forecasting were becoming much more integral to driving performance and efficiency across the Operation. I remember new technologies including document management and scanning solutions being tested and implemented, giving us the ability to scan and securely store high volumes of data in a fast and efficient way. By this time, I had been in the Operation for over four years so when Abtran looked to recruit a Quality Business Analyst, I interviewed for the role and was delighted when my application was successful.
In my new Quality role, I quickly set about building up the team while spending time getting to know other accounts and establishing Quality frameworks across the business in a consistent and standardised way.
In 2011, the onboarding of a new Utilities account immersed me into the heart of a busy set-up and Customer Operation. From Journey Mapping to monitoring quality and performance across the front to back office experience, I remember collaborating very closely with the client and asking lots of questions while putting in place new ways of measuring the Customer Experience across new online and digital channels.
One of the biggest lessons learned for the Quality team during this period was the importance of getting involved early on. The experience we’d gained from being involved in such a large client set-up had given us the opportunity to become more proactive and to influence and question decisions right from the get-go and by ensuring the Customer was the central focal point.
From 2013 onwards, the Quality team became known as the Business Improvement team and we became more and more involved in applying our experience to help new Utilities organisations to scale and grow in a compliant and customer-focused way, often amidst disruptive and rapidly changing market conditions.
In addition to the Business Improvement team, the rollout of Abtran’s Lean Programme in 2017 marked another significant initiative, giving people right across the business the skills and know-how to identify and drive continuous improvement from within their own areas.
Looking back, I think the last ten years in particular marked a strategic turning point for Abtran. By this time, we had gained lots of experience through managing large scale and highly complex change projects across the front-through to back office process. We also had a very strong service ethos and this gave us the courage to challenge and share know how, through the design of customer processes, supporting technology and the delivery of service excellence to our clients and their customers.
By 2014, I’d gained ten years’ experience at Abtran and was ready for a fresh challenge when an opportunity came up to join the Commercial team. Bid Management was a whole new world and while my experience in delivering commercial proposals was limited, I was well practiced at writing documents and contributing to bid tenders. In this respect, my English degree and writing skills had served me well. It’s funny but I wouldn’t consider myself a natural salesperson. Someone once remarked that I had a very clear-cut commercial nature. However, I think that was probably the customer aspect they were seeing as that’s what I’ve always steered by. So whether I’m writing a technology or service bid document, I always look to keep the customer front of mind. It’s a mindset that’s never changed.
Today, my role on the Commercial team gives me the opportunity to collaborate with a wide variety of people from right across the business and to work closely alongside the pricing and solutions team. No two days are ever the same and I pride myself on my ability to leverage long-standing relationships while creating new ones along the way.
Sense of Purpose
Looking back at my work as part of the Commercial, Continuous Improvement and Operations team, it’s quite clear to me how Abtran has grown as a company, particularly over the past 10 years. From a Commercial perspective, we’ve become much clearer about our strategic objectives; we know what we’re good at and have the confidence and experience to back that up. The regular internal communication briefings led by our CEO, Pat Ryan and the Senior Management Team also ensures we have an informed view of where the company is going and a clear and aligned sense of business purpose.
Call it as you see it
If I had any words of wisdom to offer someone new or joining the company, it’s this: don’t be afraid to put your ideas out there. Don’t be afraid to call it as you see it. While Abtran may have grown in size and scale, they’ll always be open to new and better ways of doing things. In my book, being open and staying focused on the customer are values that keep us grounded and moving forward to our next success.