Comms Vision 2018 Report: Tempest on Digital Britain – Hang on for the ride!

Speed and agility will win the race to Digital Britain, stated BT Wholesale Managing Director Alex Tempest as she issued a wake-up call to the channel in her Comms Vision interview. 

"Digital Britain is happening, there is no option, and partners will be more successful in starting the journey sooner rather than later," she stated. 

"That is fundamentally about planning. Seven years seems a long way off, it's not, so don't kick this into the long grass – it'll be hang on for the ride!"

There is no place for a slow creep in the transition to all-IP. The objective is clear – Digital Britain – and the project must be kicked off without delay, according to Tempest.

"Take the early mover advantage and grasp the opportunities, especially in professional services and guiding your customers who you know inside and out," she added. 

Seven years seems a long way off, it's not, so don't kick this into the long grass – it'll be hang on for the ride

Success in Digital Britain will be tightly correlated with success in partner education and support, believes Tempest, who is preparing BT to become an inspirational teacher to address the tactical necessities that partners will require. 

"I am passionate about continuous learning," she commented. "We want to invest in working with partners and that investment comes through training."

Taking forward the normalising of learning is a balance between partner feedback and how BT responds to gathered data for the collective advantage. 

"Training is one element," she added. "We must take feedback, look at engagement, learn from these information streams and apply different responses as part of a continual learning and improvement process."

Another prerequisite for the channel to deliver Digital Britain is cultural change, encompassing a shift in business models and strategies, a requirement which BT has already embraced through structural reform.

In April this year BT Group created a new customer-facing unit called Enterprise, bringing together the previously separate Business and Public Sector and Wholesale and Ventures divisions. Enterprise has 17,000 staff and delivers £7 billion revenue. 

"All organisations need to look at their future and post-Christmas we will share our strategy and direction," said Tempest. "We have best-of-breed right across Enterprise which will be deeply embedded as part of the One BT strategy.

We want to invest in working with partners and that investment comes through training

"Historically, BT built its credibility as a product-centric organisation, and along the way forgot how to engage with customers. No more is that the case. Everything I have witnessed over the last two years shows that customer-centricity is now core. 

"No longer will there be misconceptions in the market as we become more engaged with partner businesses, not just in terms of presence but in how we help partners to flourish."

Mastering the challenges ahead grows easier the more familiar those circumstances become. And the more BT helps partners and 'absorbs the pain' of industry change it is more likely that resellers will follow in its footsteps.

"In the transition to Digital Britain we will feel that pain first, and I want to do as much as possible in terms of absorbing that pain to better understand how we can help partners on their journey," noted Tempest. 

"The approach has to be simple so we've taken a step back, looked at the entire product portfolio and considered how we can make it ready for the whole IP journey. That's critical. 

"We must look at things differently, look at patterns to predict and anticipate future environments and get on top of those."

According to Tempest, a condition of realising Digital Britain is to have simplicity and agility running at the core of operations. "We need an environment that is easy to place orders, raise challenges and service issues etc," she added. "Those are basic things you should expect from us.

"It's more than just helping partners with the evolution, it's truly about making sure they are equipped to move into the all IP world, and do so seamlessly." 

Tempest's will to support the channel is there in spadefulls, and the advance of partners will, on the whole, be achieved through the relentless application of her fundamental belief in channel support and reform.

But if the channel means to achieve long-term change it should also be ready to act now.

"With the rise of new and varied entrants and greater competition in an already crowded environment there is huge disruption in marketplace," observed Tempest. 

"We also have unprecedented investment, most recently the £2.5 billion funding for CityFibre's roll out of fibre, which is arguably the biggest investment the telecoms market has seen for a number of years. It's phenomenal and tells us where we are going."

We must look at things differently, look at patterns to predict and anticipate future environments and get on top of those

Disruption in the market has to bring a reduction in costs, but the challenge is that cost reduction in the wholesale market will come through methods you would not normally expect.

"We've got to use the technology we're developing now to help lower costs, by looking at AI and machine learning, and how we can utilise technology around blockchain to simplify processes," said Tempest. "What cries out is a need for innovation."

Overhauling the country's legacy network infrastructure with an emphasis on fibre and 5G will undoubtably catalyse unprecedented and propitious conditions for innovation like we have not yet witnessed.

"5G is the network of the future," stated Tempest. "It will fuel innovation around the IoT and drive the absolute convergence of mobile and fixed. 5G is an enabler, allowing agility and disruption to turn things in their heads, while enabling us to continually consume data."

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