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July 9, 2018
The recent geopolitical upheavals are having an impact on the global telecom space according to Jennifer Artley, who is now in her second year as president of BT in the Americas, a unit serving multinationals in 28 countries in North and South America.
Artley, who previously worked at Equinix in global sales management and Level 3 Communications' Commercial Enablement group, sees enterprises looking for stability while at the same time, needing a partner to guide them through the landmines surrounding digital transformation.
As she tells Light Reading in an interview done in June, BT Americas' approach to this changing market involves a significant change in how it develops products to create more off-the-shelf options and build in both pricing and contract term flexibility.
Figure 1: Jennifer Artley, president of BT in the Americas.
In the second part of this interview, Artley spells out how specific services, such as Unified Communications and SD-WAN, are evolving in the global marketplace.
Carol Wilson: BT has quoted research that shows that only 8% of the enterprises you talked to believe their current business model will survive the digital transformation process. Give me your perspective on what you know about the state of things and where you see your business customers struggling, even as they admit they need to change.
Jennifer Artley: It's really a fascinating statistic. When I first read that, I really took a couple of days to digest what it meant, because what it's not saying is that only 8% of companies will stick around. It's saying that only 8% of companies believe that their current business models will survive, which is really causing for a ton of uncertainty in our customer base. That uncertainty is about how do they -- how do our customers, how do big corporations -- adapt to be relevant in the future? Whether it's embracing a more interactive, omnichannel strategy, or for a consumer packaged goods company who produces things that are often sold at a point of sale in a grocery store or a retail outlet, how do they then switch gears, because when people shop online, there is no point of sale at the end of the selling process. How do you change how you're getting to market with your products when consumer behaviors are changing based on the pace of innovation that's happening at light speed? From my perspective, it's really about companies trying to think younger, faster, and more innovatively, and then bring those ideas to market faster than they ever have before.
CW: How does BT approach this challenge and what do you bring to this discussion?
JA: In many ways. I think we have the benefit of working across many different industries, and so we know some industries in particular quite well in terms of the dynamic that is happening. We also come to the conversation with the experience of working in 180 countries around the world. And I think in addition to the pace of change that's being driven by technology, I think the changing of the status quo in geopolitics is also really having an impact on our customers as they're determining where and how they need to be deploying their manufacturing and their R&D, as well just passing their data from country to country and the implications of GDPR or the implications of a difficult political moment and increased regulation. There's a lot that's going on.
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I think in the face of that level of uncertainty what customers, what companies really want is consistency and stability in their IT deployment, in their technology suite. As we're working with customers, we are really promoting our services and tried and true repeatable solutions that enable them to buy off the shelf more than they have in the past. I think historically, customers have wanted the assurance of knowing that their deployment was unique, and BT was very good historically at giving customers that assurance that their deployment was unique. At this point in time, what we're hearing is customers want to buy off the shelf, and that's a different dynamic.
To be able to keep moving at pace, technology needs to be interacting together across vendor lines, or partner lines, differently or better. It also needs to be able to be installed, tried, tested and adapted as feature or functionality improves. When it doesn't work anymore, it needs to be removed, and the next thing needs to be put in. It's not quite that clinical, but I think that's the mentality that CIOs are bringing to the table right now.
The impact of geopolitics
CW: So right now, is the whole situation with global tariffs and potential trade wars directly impacting your business and how people look at what they want to do on the IT side? Do you see a direct correlation?
JA: I see a direct correlation to companies planning their global operating strategies for the next three to five years. In some cases, companies don't want their data to go through one country or another, and so what are the implications of that from a network perspective? Do we have the ability to ferry traffic but avoid traversing certain countries? That's one thing.
Security is another huge concern, and I think we've seen a lot in the market over the past 12 months around security breaches. At what point is consumer data more regulated, and what are the impacts of [regulation]. We collect data in so many ways, and not everyone is obliged to compel with GDPR globally, but many companies are proactively taking the stance that that is the new standard and it needs to be implemented.
All of those things require a level of stability and resilience from a technology partner like BT, and I think when a technology partner can deliver that level of agility and resilience and help work through, not the vision of what a three-year or five-year operating strategy might be for a large global enterprise, but the steps back into that vision. Working from the vision, working backward, how do you get there? I think we, given our platform and global scale, have an ability to engage with customers in a robust way around topics.
CW: What would you say qualifies BT in particular to be that level of stability or resilience over an AT&T or Verizon, an NTT, Vodafone, any of those global players? What sets BT apart?
JA: I wasn't necessarily speaking in the context of comparisons. I was more speaking to just general industry dynamics.
CW: Okay. What do you tell your customers about what sets BT apart?
JA: I do believe that we have a depth of experience, and certainly the trust of our customers. Trust is resulting from performance from our customers that does add value. And I think that those relationships and the intimacy that we have is certainly helpful. I think that also we really have a global mindset that is more than what I've seen other players have. A global mindset is more than just operating in many countries. It's about really understanding the implications of how it all comes together. That geopolitical view is a very important part of BT's fabric, just our culture, and I think that component sets BT apart.
CW: Going back to people wanting to buy more off the shelf, how has that impacted the way you develop your products and services, and what are you doing differently for that kind of thinking?
JA: It's very much impacted how we develop our products, and we're really looking to get to market with fewer but very strategic capabilities around unified communications and dynamic network services so that we can basically tailor our solutions to customers, but that they're standard solutions that we have delivered again and again and again. As we are developing those offerings, it's a holistic view of the entire lead-to-cash process and making sure that we are thinking about that end-to-end customer experience, and that we're thinking that through before we actually get to the market so that by the time when a customer buys, we've got a significantly shortened sale cycle, which again adds value to companies. I think it's clear that our customers are buying smaller deals on shorter cycles, and they want to accelerate their network refresh cycles. They want to be more flexible. They want to reduce their dependency on capex. We're taking all of that into account as we're building our solutions, but also our commercial models and how to support them with greater flexibility.
CW: Okay, are you talking about things like being able to do on-demand services or turning bandwidth up and down, making services behave more like the cloud behaves?
JA: Yes, as well as the commercial model that goes with that. How do we provide commercial flexibility that doesn't necessarily lock a customer into a certain volume at a certain price on day one? I think subscription-based services are the commercial model of the cloud, and so [we are] transitioning some services, not the entire portfolio, as that wouldn't probably be appropriate. As we're packaging solutions, we want to be thinking about how can we set our customers up best for success, around not just having the solution deployed, but growing or wrapping up the adoption within their own company.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
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