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BT Americas: Technology Matters, Customer Engagement Matters More

A change in customer engagement

CW: So how do you work differently with different customers on digital transformation and is it a different level of engagement from in the past?

JA: Yes, I think, in three ways. First, when we're engaging with the most senior level of customer, we're talking about the vision and the changes in the market, the vision and the pressure that they face. Often that conversation comes to a conversation about culture because typically they're trying to change something pretty dramatically, which also implies changing how they operate. The cultural momentum, the momentum that's required to drive a cultural shift, has to be very strong, and it's often difficult to get their arms around. That's one conversation.

Another conversation is at the specialist level. The extreme of that is to have a very technical conversation about specific milestones of a technical journey and the specifics of the digital transformation. In between those two, we are fortunate to have an internal consulting business that helps us engage with customers in a way that brings together the strategic vision with the technical knowledge of how to bring it all together. We're really trying hard not to have point-in-time conversations about our products or portfolio.

It's much more relevant if we can work with a customer to understand their corporate vision and the direction that they're taking their portfolio over the next few years. That helps us frame up the broader picture of how we can support them, because they don't do everything, right? We don't do everything. What we do, we do well. We need to also acknowledge, especially in this changing marketplace, the ability to partner and to understand clearly where we play and where we need to augment, or frankly technology to augment. I think that's an interesting conversation that allows us to back up and see the bigger picture and then be specific about where we're adding value.

CW: I'm assuming that as you go through this with different companies, you're building up experience on how to do this and what the different steps are, but does it have to vary a lot from company to company? Are you finding even though these companies are looking for different futures that those futures have many similarities?

JA: I think that the futures have similarities. But the pace of ambition varies, I would say. How we think about it is we look at use cases and personas, if you will, of corporations and try to really step back from the industry. It's important for us to have industry knowledge and to be adding value across a specific industry vertical like the banking market for example. That adds to and strengthens the conversation. But if you step back and you're a little more industry agnostic and you're just looking at the root cause issues that companies are trying to solve for or the pinpoints that they're diagnosing, we do see commonalities across industries. What we try and do is not push the same prescription across everyone but really try to discretely see where we can come in, add value quickly, and then branch out from there.

CW: I understand why companies are looking to their telecom providers for advice but who else? When you're sitting around the table with them, who else is at that table?

JA: Well, you mean external to them or internal? I think one thing that's interesting from an internal perspective is it's no longer just the CTO or just the CIO. It's also the CSO, chief security officer, who is at the table and very much more engaged than they have been in the past. From our perspective, externally, it's our strategic partners and those large corporations that are also driving the pace of technology innovation. I think in some cases it's vendor partners, and in some cases it's strategic partners, but it's specifically those who we work with on a regular basis. So that's companies like Cisco, certainly, but also AWS, Microsoft -- those are key partners, among others.

CW: What's been the most challenging part of this process?

JA: I think culture is the most challenging aspect of it all because I think you can solve a problem with a technical solution and you can drive change quickly. You can get through a dashboard that shows all of your key initiatives, and you can show red, yellow, green, but having the buy-in of the organization to drive change at pace when, in fact, that pace of change is creating uncertainty across a business. I think that is what I see as consistently the most difficult thing to solve for.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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