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What’s driving us to challenge the status quo in our industry?

By Alex Tempest

Managing director of Wholesale at BT

In his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin suggested that those species who survive are the ones who best understand their environment and successfully adapt to it. As businesses strive to transform to the digital challenges of today, I believe this idea of what survival means is acutely relevant. To survive in our new and evolving digital world, businesses need to be more agile. That’s why we’re making strides and changes in BT Wholesale.

So what does this really mean?

For many years, we’ve been the elder statesman of the industry. We foster great innovation and we have a fantastic product portfolio. But if we’re being honest, we’ve been a bit introverted.

So we’re switching things up. If we want Wholesale to become the most customer-centric, agile and disruptive player in the market, we have to challenge the status quo.

Firstly, we’re looking at where the market’s going. We want to keep everything that’s great about BT, but we know we need to constantly evolve to support our partners better in this dynamic marketplace. If you think about it, we’ve been here before. We wouldn’t have been around for so long if we hadn’t adapted along the way.

As a group, we’ve proven we can be the challenger brand that makes unexpected decisions. Just think back to 2015 with the acquisition of EE. And before that, in 2013, we setup BT Sport. Who would have thought that anyone would dare to take on Sky and acquire the rights to the Premier League and Champions League football. And not only that, made a huge success of it. BT Sport was built in just nine months. We built the infrastructure, not only in the network, but also the live production studios. We signed all of our talent contracts and recruited several hundred people to deliver what you watch today.

I want to build on that in Wholesale. The team and I want this bravery and agility to be part of our DNA as well.

We don’t just want to change, we have to change. The traditional connectivity market is pretty flat, with declining revenues and margins. So it’s imperative that we (and the rest of the market) move away from older technologies that are becoming obsolete. We need to embrace the new.

What are we up against?

Perhaps the biggest challenge with major technology shifts is driving awareness and demand for them. And this is where our channel partners and their customers – who have deep insight and understanding of their business - play a critical role. I think the biggest factor influencing the Wholesale business is the continued decline of older products, like traditional fixed voice and partial private circuits. These legacy technologies will soon become obsolete. So we’re focusing on working with our partners to educate and inform their customers about the benefits of making the leap towards newer all-IP based alternatives. And why they should make it sooner rather than later. After all, it’ll be a better experience and a lower price for everyone.

How are we evolving?

We’re developing our sales channel and our organisation. We’re investing in our people, processes and systems. And we’re determined to keep improving. For example, we’ve introduced a new, friendlier way to order Ethernet online. This makes things simpler for our customers. It’s proving very popular and now 99 per cent of our Ethernet orders come through the new Business Zone platform.

So why are we making the change?

In today’s digital Darwinian age, where expectations are rising, technology is disrupting industry and new threats are emerging all the time, businesses will only succeed if they’re agile. This is especially true in a challenging marketplace where every decision is make or break, survive or thrive. You need a partner who knows how to tackle this.

And it’s not just our reflections on the market that are driving change. Our customers have told us that they need consistent quality, greater agility and partners who are always there for them. Unsurprisingly, they want an honest and flexible partner who can help them keep up with the changing market. We’re committed to being just that. We want to help our partners to grow by moving faster and building a partnership model that’s more flexible, personal, transparent and accountable. This, we believe, is our future.

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