BT, British Telecom to the Brits, BT Global to everyone else, is a telco. It’s also a services player with a well-established footprint in the international market. The company hosted a number of journalists at its London headquarters recently, showing off its Olympic 2012 involvement, data centre plans, CRM toys and collaboration technology.
EMEA president Olivier Campenon says the company has followed the same strategy for the past seven years – being a full operator in the UK and focussing on large companies outside the UK.
“Large companies want you to talk to them locally, but to act globally and to be able to think and serve them the same way wherever they are,” says Campenon. “For that reason, we have a well-spread presence across the world, and a global infrastructure. BT runs a network reaching 170 countries, including MPLS, satellite, ethernet, and DSL, and was the first company to invest in an all-IP network. It was a strong decision to move everything to IP,” he comments, “so that wherever you are in the world, you use the same protocol, and so can use the same resources.”
The world has changed, and organisations need to change with it.
Says Campenon: “We are entering a new era, due to the economic crisis, and what the market wants, but mostly because of what technology (broadband) offers. We are in a market where price competition is everywhere and few people can afford to spend money on new tools and new developments. It requires a new approach. Some people are talking about cloud, others virtualisation, but it is all about connectivity.”
The company is betting on cloud computing going forward.
“Cloud computing will be very high-growth. Global revenue from IT cloud services in 2009 was $17,4 billion and in 2010 is expected to be $44,2 billion,” Campenon says.
BT today, says Campenon, is a £20-billion company. Its operations are divided into four areas: BT global services (which targets enterprise customers worldwide), BT retail (the famed UK telco), BT wholesale (its operator-to-operator business) and Openreach (which manages all of the accesses in the UK). BT Global Services combines everything the company does with large companies, in the UK and internationally.
In South Africa, the company has a two-fold strategy, it says, providing best-of-breed managed network services for multinational companies operating in Africa, and providing expertise to the national operators to improve their retail and domestic market offerings to their respective citizens. The company has a presence in 32 African countries, and services some 300 blue chips in the region.
Its EMEA presence is managed out of six hubs – Johannesburg, Dubai, Moscow, Zurich, Sweden and Istanbul.
“The CEO of any large company today needs to be competitive, have access to better prices as competition gets global, as well as access to new markets to expand, and manage the risks of that expansion,” says Compenon. Much of that expansion, needless to say, is coming into Africa at the moment, which is a bit of a change.
Another change, he says, is speed to market and innovation. “If you’re the leader, you know that won’t last; either a competitor or innovation will kill your core product. Any company needs to be well organised, efficient and able to satisfy its customers. We believe technology can now play a real role in answering these challenges. By using the network and setting up the right services, we can enable companies to be more agile in answering their own challenges. It means we need to mutualise and virtualise services so that everything becomes a service – infrastructure as a service, communications as a service, software as a service – this is where we are going and where we see demand growing.”
Campenon says the company has invested in its network and in building platforms, to meet this need. BT is also a firm believer in innovating. As Campenon puts it: “What applies to our customers applies to us. In order to develop and help our customers to succeed, we need to bring new ideas and services, and innovative development. We have innovation centres in the USA, UK, Israel, UAE, Malaysia, India, China, Taiwan and Korea. BT invested £789 million in R&D in 2009/10 and employs 17 000 scientists and technologists.
“Customers want BT to innovate for them, and while many are in the same sector, they’re all ‘different under the hood’,” says Campenon.
“We aim to innovate at every single point in the value chain,” says BT Research MD Mike Galvin, “and everything we do will either bring revenue, improve the customer experience, or reduce costs. We work with customers, and are trying to increase the amount we do with them. Most are agnostic but more high-tech companies are more open to innovation. We work with universities, governments, and other companies.
“It benefits the business, protects the company’s future and gives us competitive advantage.”
If the market carries on being as tough as it has of late, BT will need that advantage.