Harnessing automation

Who better to shed light on the benefits of advanced automation for telcos than a problem solving theoretical physicist on a mission to maximise value from data and systems. Enter Traverse Automation CEO John O’Neill.

Every telco should take a serious look at their approach to automation, believes O’Neill, especially when you consider how these problem solving tools are evolving. And especially when you take into account his authority on the subject. O’Neill began his career as a theoretical physicist and entered the industry as a mathematical modeller working in the defence and nuclear industries. He then moved into software development and over time worked as an analyst, architect and consultant. After taking an MBA he shifted into more commercial areas and built revenue management and optimisation tools.

“Twenty five years ago I started to automate business processes and became hooked on solving complex problems involving automation and data, and 17 years ago Traverse Automation was born,” stated O’Neill. “After working in mobile, billing and strategy development across telecoms I became fascinated by automation and data within the industry and saw that a lot of work needed to be done to help businesses in this sector.”

After working in mobile, billing and strategy development across telecoms I became fascinated by automation and data within the industry

O’Neill set up Traverse Automation to automate complex processes, starting with a small team that worked with large organisations across a multitude of sectors, more recently adding AI and intelligence to the automation. “We focus on solving common problems for industries within the UK in back-office areas such as document matching, automation and reporting,” he stated. “We are now driven by the evolution of AI more than ever before. It’s critical to understand how AI is evolving and its capabilities. There is little point in building a complex solution that AI will solve better in a few months time.”

Seven years ago O’Neill was similarly ‘blown away’ by what the large technology platforms were adding to technology businesses, prompting Traverse Automation to build a new version of its platform. “We also re-engineered to AWS and used best practice technology,” he added. “These improvements made our technology capabilities skyrocket. Recently, we have started to build data fabrics that will revolutionise how we help customers better use their data.”

Scaling up
These advancements are on the cusp of further acceleration as Traverse Automation scales up, boosted by investment from Maven Equity Finance last year. “Since then, our growth has been crazy,” noted O’Neill. “We have doubled turnover during the last eight months and expect to reach £3 million revenue this year.”
Traverse Automation currently employs 30 staff members, most of whom hold a degree or advanced degree in maths, physics or computer science. Their know-how underpins the company’s focus on delivering tailored automation solutions for the telecoms sector to enhance efficiency and drive innovation. Its target markets include service providers, network operators and enterprises.

“It’s unusual for a SME like us to work with many large businesses such as Babble, Booking.com, Kuoni and Travel Counsellors,” stated O’Neill. “We thrive from seeing these businesses become more efficient and make operational savings.”

O’Neill expects Traverse Automation’s proposition to evolve with emerging technologies, emphasising the rise of AI-driven automation and deeper collaborations within the industry. “Even companies that would have built everything themselves a few years back are now choosing partners and integrating their components into solutions,” commented O’Neill.

“We collaborate with key technology partners to integrate cutting-edge AI, Machine Learning and robotics into our offerings. Our own automation platform sits on a mixture of AWS and Azure infrastructure and integrates with modern AI services.”

Top priority
O’Neill’s immediate priority is to help mid-sized telcos to automate and gain insights from their data, which he recognises is a massive issue for them. “Without good quality data it’s difficult to leverage the full power of AI and automation,” added O’Neill. “Most telcos are not sure how to solve their problems and improve their business. But from an automation perspective, more and more suppliers support APIs to exchange data so much more can be automated than ever before. In the past, we would automate bulk simple processes but AI has made it possible to also consider automating low-volume, complex processes. Where APIs don’t exist there are tools and techniques to create automations.”

According to O’Neill, the automation of SMEs is the biggest under-served market. Meanwhile, large enterprises are using technology such as UIPath and Blue Prism to self-automate, but they are a big cost to any organisation and O’Neill believes that using Traverse Automation’s in-house technology the speed at which SMEs can get the benefit of automation will be revolutionised. “This is because we have embraced the data fabric from a strategic perspective,” he stated. “This approach to delivering data solutions underpins analysis and reporting as quickly and robustly as possible.”

Just a minute with John O’Neill...

Role models:
Albert Einstein: I admire how creative and brilliant he was more than 100 years ago. Milton Erickson for his brilliant use of language in helping people change. And Rocky Marciano who had so many limitations but nevertheless achieved through mental toughness.

If you weren’t in ICT what would you be doing?
I’d be a psychiatrist or counsellor.

Best advice you have been given:
Balance is the answer to most of life’s problems.

In hindsight...
I would have embraced the use of technology partners sooner and built less from scratch.

Three ideal dinner guests:
Christopher Hitchens, who was smart, funny and brutally honest; Morrissey because The Smiths were my teenage music heroes; and Mike Tyson, one of the greats from my childhood.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know:
I have studied psychology, hypnosis and the brain for 20 years.

Your main strength and what could you work on?
Problem solving is what I enjoy the most, and I’ve problem solved in so many different areas of my career. Small talk is not my strong point.

What is the key to leadership success?
Having a vision that you can communicate to others clearly.

What do you fear most?
Not making a difference.

One example of something you have overcome?
Depression as a child and adult has been something I’ve not experienced for 30 years.

Top tip:
Put some fixed time and headroom aside (which is not negotiable) to improve your business – and manage day-to-day operations with what is left over.


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