Telus embraces GitHub’s open source community to create digital platform

Telus Corp. is embracing digital transformation, and has even been ‘open’ to using open source software for its digital platform as it attempts to make customer and employee experiences easier through automated technology.

GitHub is playing a major role in this transformation as “the core, central platform for [Telus’] software and all its closed data,” Harsh Sabikhi, GitHub Canada’s country manager told

The platform in question is Telus Digital, which was started in 2012, with the mission to “enable our customers and team members to do what they want easily,” according to its website.

About a year ago Telus decided to embed this digital platform, which used to be a separate ‘arm’ of the organization, across all lines of its business.

It was also around that time that the telecommunications company decided to make GitHub a partner in the project. The open source site is home to Telus’ source code and scripts that help create the platform.

According to a spokesperson for Telus, the entire platform is on GitHub and the company “wouldn’t have been able to build an entire stack in such a short period of time without the collaborative nature of GitHub.”

Screenshot of Telus’ GitHub homepage

“What we have helped Telus do is build this digital platform so in-field technicians, in-store, and call center employees are all collaborating around this one single digital platform,” says Sabikhi.

How Telus uses GitHub

Telus has shared its reference architecture on the site, which outlines how it is collaborating on GitHub, and how the digital platform is built on the open source coding site.

GitHub is essentially home to all of Telus’ customer-facing applications, self-serve customer systems, developer tooling, technical documentation, and digital developer and collaborative processes.

This is all through the GitHub Business Cloud product, which allows organizations to develop applications on the site both privately, but also with the ability to use the open source libraries and projects.

Sabikhi says this is the only product of its kind on the market that allows organizations to securely develop while utilizing open source communities.

“Telus is heavy into utilizing open source components to drive what they’re actually building. With Business Cloud they can securely access their private data…and they can have both internal and external collaborators,” he said.

A Telus Digital product, Design System and how its built

Aside from allowing Telus to work in an open source environment, it has also made working across various Telus Digital teams much easier.

“Working with GitHub has allowed us to dramatically streamline and automate our workflows, simplifying the path to production for our team members to more easily deliver value to our customers” said Shawn Mandel, chief digital officer for Telus.

Telus Digital is essentially a way for the company to automate a lot of the back-end processes that make up customer experiences.

For example, when a new iPhone is released Telus needs to prepare for that launch by changing marketing messages on its website, including banners. The code needed to make those changes starts in GitHub, but its not just developers that are involved. Marketing teams often own the verbiage and content and through GitHub different teams are able to collaborate, with the technical teams developing code and marketers also working in GitHub on documentation.

“It’s all collaborative,” says Sabikhi, noting that GitHub is built on this type of teamwork that it calls “social coding and collaboration.”

By working in this way Telus has been able to increase response times and reduce the time-to-market for needed updates and products, pushing tasks to production in a matter of days rather than weeks or months, explains Sabikhi.

The digital transformation journey

The point of creating this digital platform according to the telecommunication company’s website is to automate and simplify its path to production, “by automating simple processes, we shorten our time to market. We create products that allow room for failure and experimentation, this enables us to deliver the best products for our customers.”

Telus’ journey of digital transformation actually began in 2009, when its CEO at the time, “threw down the gauntlet that the only competitive advantage that we could have is our customer experience,” Brad Pruner, Telus’ director, B2B systems transformation told our sister site, IT World Canada for a previous story.

Content Infrastructure platform from Telus Digital Source: Telus

Telus Digital focuses on just that, the customer experience and by working with GitHub as well as a number of different partners including Amazon Web Services, Contentful, Docker and Node.js, it has built a number of products to meet this goal.

Products that have been built through the digital platform include:

  • Telus Design System: (which is based on an open source model, and can be found on GitHub,) is a design system that kick-starts products with a standard set of principles, as well as UI components and processes.
  • SiteBuilder: which is an engine that helps teams reuse content objects, coding, and design and is supported by an automated delivery system.
  • Digital Life: is a research project that helps Telus evaluate how people are interacting with its brand through connected technologies like Google Home and Telus Drive+, its connected car product.

The platform also collects and analyzes data, its API platform helps developers build applications and its delivery infrastructure helps move code from development to production, according to its website.

Moving to open source

Sabikhi says he’s seen a trend of Canadian companies making these digital transformation decisions and using open source when they do.

“What we tell all of the CIOs (chief information officers) that we chat with is, it’s not a question of if you should look at open source, it’s a question of when,” he says, pointing out that companies like Scotiabank and RBC have been very involved in the open source scene.

But he says being open source doesn’t mean comprising company information, “GitHub being a steward of [a company’s] data and being a steward of software, we want to make sure your data is protected as well as you’re not accidentally pushing critical company IP out into the open.”

Telus’ digital transformation is not complete, when it comes to this GitHub partnership Sabikhi says this is, “just at the start of the journey…we’re taking the success from this Telus Digital and this digital platform that we’ve helped them create, and now we’re going to help them transform the other lines of businesses within the company.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Meagan Simpson
Meagan Simpson
Meagan Simpson is a staff writer for IT World Canada. A graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program, she loves sports, travelling, reading and photography, and when not covering tech news she can be found cuddled up on the couch with her cat and a good book.

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