Zen Partner Managing Director Steve Warburton on the big 2025 switch off, the FTTP land grab, channel opportunities and challenges, retaining talent and coding clubs for kids.
What are the primary threats facing the comms channel/resellers in the run up to 2025 and beyond?
The question is, do you interpret it as an opportunity or a threat? There is a clear opportunity to lead the way and move your customers over to Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and IP voice solutions which brings many benefits and will help future proof a business. However, for those that are slow to recognise, or accept the change and proactively move customers, then it could become a real threat. Those that sit back and wait to see what happens open their business up to the risk of losing customers because they will be leapfrogged by competitors. This is not a new problem. We’ve been here before, just this time it is with a different technology. Embracing change is pivotal to future proofing your business model and those that fail to do this are the ones that will get left behind.
How far can these threats be turned into opportunities?
By being at the forefront of change you can be in a position to win business from your competitors. If I was a reseller, I would be proactively offering my customers advice around what is coming. Ask them if they think their technology is fit for purpose and provide them with support in answering this with a technology audit. This simple move will add value and support customers in taking the right steps to future proof their business.
Overall, do you think the channel is prepared, as we stand, for the 2025 switchover?
It is quite mixed. The big challenge we have as an industry as a whole is around the education piece. The channel and resellers need to be educating their customers on exactly what’s happening and how it is going to affect them and the way they do business. For those of us in the industry it may seem very easy, but really it’s not. We’re not doing enough to support customers with the information they require to understand the business impacts the switch off could have.
This means there is a risk that many businesses won’t be ready on time. 2025 may seem years away, but it will creep up on us all very quickly. The more businesses understand now what is going to happen, when and what they need to do about it, the smoother the transition could be for all.
At this time of relative turmoil in the comms sector - there is change wherever you look - which markets are 'up for grabs' and why should resellers focus on these areas in their strategic planning?
I would argue that there isn’t any particular market area ‘up for grabs’. That would suggest parts of the market are badly served and I don’t think that’s the case. All businesses will benefit from this change in technology, with the speed of your broadband line set to no longer be a constraint on your business.
More specifically, what are the challenges to future growth?
There’s going to be a land grab of sorts with the move to FTTP. As people and businesses start to experience the fantastic speed and reliability that FTTP brings, they won’t see the benefit to moving or changing provider, so where will new business be generated from? The market is already getting crowded and as the technology gets more reliable there is a risk that it could become more commoditised. Partners and service providers may need to find new sources of growth, for example from more managed services.
Another challenge still lies around our political landscape. We are in a turbulent period and it is going to take time for the new government to take effect. In the interim we still face a number of years of austerity in economy with businesses remaining cautious about spending.
Competition for people with digital capabilities is fierce: What should resellers do now to ensure they are skilled up for the all-IP era?
You can take two approaches when it comes to engaging expertise – do you see all this change as scary or do you embrace it and share an exciting company vision to attract talent? Creating a company culture where candidates can see how they can contribute will help attract talent and by developing people and offering opportunities to progress, you will get the best from them.
It is also important to remember that while paid benefits are an obvious requirement, what really makes people stay in a company are great leadership and managers, ambitious and engaged people, the right culture and a flexible approach.
There is also an onus on the industry as a whole to make technology an exciting career prospect for future generations. At Zen we work with a number of local colleges and universities as we seek to inspire them. We deliver coding clubs for children during the summer months and have other initiatives throughout the year that focus on the people and skills agendas.