As Digital Solutions Director, Andrew leads the teams responsible for BT's portfolio management and strategic alliances, covering network solutions, Digital Workplace, Contact Centre, hybrid cloud solutions, access, digital solutions service and improvement and BT's regional enterprise portfolio.
John Ruthven is an internationally experienced software industry executive respected for his strategic approach and operational expertise across global enterprises. John has over 20 years’ experience working in the technology industry with a proven track record of leadership and delivering strong profitable growth.
Frank, SVP & Head of Europe for IR, has successfully driven business transformation growth and change for several tech organisations across a career of more than 25 years.
IR | BrightTALK
Speakers: Andrew Small, John Ruthven, Frank Hoekstra
Frank Hoekstra: Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, depending on where you are joining. It is May 28, 2020, and it's both an honour and privilege to welcome you to the webinar - Adaptive Leadership: Ensuring Continuity to keep the business safe.
To represent the modern workforce we are presenting this from home. So now connecting Australia to the UK and the Netherlands. So let me start with introducing the panel for today. Joining live from the UK, and I think it's now 9am or I don’t know for sure - welcome Andrew Small. He's Digital Solutions Director at BT. So, Andrew, can you please introduce yourself, shortly.
Andrew Small: So I'm going to run our portfolios. So digital workplace being a big part of that, alongside things are contact center products, mobile products for large MNC’s globally.
Frank Hoekstra: Thank you, Andrew. And now switching to Australia and I think it's 6pm in Sydney. John, welcome as well. A short introduction from yourself.
John Ruthven: Thanks, Frank. Yeah, so for me here, in fact, I'm in Brisbane, it's right around one o’clock. So a very pleasant time of day.
Yeah, I'm the CEO for IR (Integrated Research) and we've been in the business of supporting payment and unified communication customers for roughly about 30 years. My background with this company is coming up 12 months. My background is extensively in enterprise software with companies like a large German application provider SAP, a company that in fact doesn't exist, can’t find that by name anymore, but they used to be computer associates in CA technologies. And now they've recently been acquired by Broadcom, so extensive experience in this fantastic game, which is the enterprise software game.
Frank Hoekstra: Sure. Thank you, John.
Let me also introduce myself. My name is Frank Hoekstra and I'm also the host for today for this session on behalf of IR. And just shortly, in case you might wonder, our purpose is to create clarity and insight in a world of connected devices mainly. I joined IR exactly a year ago to help strengthen the European region.
Now joining here from the Netherlands. So let me just quickly show you. It's really very nice weather outside. Also, for people who are joining we really appreciate it. Join this webinar over sitting in the garden.
For 40 to 50 minutes, rerun this live session. As you can see, that makes it extra exciting. You can post your questions. So there's this, this box on your screen. And if you share your questions in the background, definitely we'll collate all the questions and we will come back to those questions during Q&A or maybe bring them in along the conversation. It’s an international session today. We have people joining from all over the globe and from this time of day, predominantly from Europe and from APAC. But it's being recorded, so it’ll be available to playback at any time.
So the idea for this session here today, and let's have a look at the agenda is how organizations keep their modern workforce connected. And we will also discuss how this will impact our way of working going forward.
Not to run through all the items on the agenda. Let me summarize what I think you can expect from this session. It's actually to learn:
- how your peers are responding to the current situation,
- to get strategies your IT departments can take to accelerate your digital environments,
- and understand what solution approaches can help you to streamline operations in the future.
But coming back to the theme of today. It's called Adaptive Leadership. And in all honesty, that reminds me of Darwin's theory of evolution, and I won't check it with the panelists, but let me give you my take. It's not necessarily the big and the strongest survive, but it's much more to species that are adapted to its environment. It's all about adapting.
Andrew and John, we’re really curious to understand how you actually had to adapt your leadership to the current environment. John, can I start with you?
John Ruthven: Yeah. Thanks, Frank.
If I kept it really simple, I think there's probably been three cornerstones to the change that I've had to take on.
- The first one, is a pretty obvious one, but it's around an increased frequency of communication. And that's because in most cases, remote, you need to be planned in the way you communicate. It's a lot less about bumping into someone in the corridor etc. But also in the whole theory of communication about a sender and receiver. You've got to be a little bit more deliberate around making sure that your message lands.
- The second is around check-ins and follow-ups. Because you can no longer read the room, or it's more difficult in the digital environment to read the room. So having a fairly dry sense of humor in terms of my personal style, I often will follow up after a meeting just to make sure that what we discussed was what I thought was discussed, etc.
- And the third area for me, coming largely from a sales and commercial background, it's making sure that the tone from the top is the right balance of acknowledging that there are very difficult times for many of our customers, but also with our internal teams, making sure that we understand that there's opportunity in crisis. And what I mean by that is it's not about reading the newspaper and the skies falling in, but it's happened we actively work with our customers to help them and that's what I would define as an opportunity.
Andrew over to you.
Andrew Small: Thanks, John.
I think there's a few things that--the team I lead, and a lot of people here I’m leading weren't always totally based in one office anyway. We all work from home sometimes. And although there was always a collection of people in the office, it was very rare that everybody was there.
So the first thing actually, it's been a bit of a positive part of adapting because the worst collaboration experience is actually when half the people are in one place, and everybody else is joining from somewhere else. Now, in fact, what's happened is that experience has gone. It's much more democratic in the sense that nobody's there. So everybody has to adapt much better to using tools like video collaboration. So, in one sense, there’s a positive, it’s quite a strong positive as well. And I think that making that work better has been an eye opener. But the discussions we're starting to have now are not about "how do we adapt to working from home”. They're about “what do we do when we go back?”. What we've done in the last few months when we carry on doing actually in the end, “why would we go into the office?” Not “who goes in?” but “why would we go there?”.
I think we all know that things that work in the office don't work so well when you're remote. As John said, you've got to follow up a little bit more. You've got to attend very, very long meetings that you can probably get away with when you're all in a workshop together, doesn’t work particularly well online. And so you have to adapt to better, shorter meetings. I think more frequent, less intense communication. It’s very hard to replicate the “bumping into somebody in a corridor thing.” I know there are people who say there's places on teams, you can go and create a separate team. I don't think a lot of that works, that just bumping into somebody prompting a conversation is hard to engineer.
But I think actually people are remarkably adaptive. People all over the world have suddenly started working from home. And plainly, it's much harder for some people than others, you've got to remember that some people don't have somewhere easy to work at home. And we assume everyone's got space and brilliant broadband; they don't. And so we've got to remember that as leaders that sometimes there are contexts where it's a little bit harder, and kids running around in the background, somebody else working from home, all those things. Our job as leaders is making sure that experience is as good and as secure it can be. But I think actually, the lesson for me is how adaptive people are. The big question is, “How much of what we've adapted to will we carry through when it goes a little bit back to normal?”
Frank Hoekstra:And that's something we will further touch on later in the conversation. Interesting to see with the new way of working, how many dogs and cats like to interfere and are seen in webinars before, or they took a prominent role. So was it easier for you to adapt? Did it come natural or was it really hard to adapt your leadership style?
Andrew Small: I don't think it was such a big jump. It's not a binary change that we're going from the office to the home. All of my team work from home sometimes. And now suddenly, everybody working from home is a jump. But it actually happened fairly quickly and fairly easy.
Yeah, I think we're all surprised. It went from being advised not to travel into the office to DO NOT drive to the office unless you have to in a week. That was the reality. So it's gotten a quick change. But no, I don't think it's been that hard. We all learned probably the first few weeks were easier. And because although it's more chaotic, we were incredibly busy with changes for our customers. And there have been difficult moments and there are quite a few people who have said that, “to me it’s sort of four or five, six weeks in when the adrenaline rush is declining, and it's become clear that this is going to be going on for a bit longer.” That's the test moment because suddenly you've gone from a firefighting shore issue to a much longer term. We'll talk about it again later. That's what a lot of the customers I talked to are also saying how they've gone from, “How do I get everyone working from home?” to “How do I make this work for the mediator?”
Frank Hoekstra: Let's deep dive a little bit further on that. If you look at the role of service providers, like yourself as BT, are you stepping into the support customers are currently asking for?
Andrew Small: It's been a really busy few months for us because we wanted to have a service provider for our scale and our global reach. As I said our target customer base, a large entity, my team's customer base is larger in size. Default, your service provider is our scale, which means that we can flex up and flex down to allow very big changes to happen quite quickly.
You can imagine what's happened on some of our global networks and global platforms when that lockdown happened in multiple countries in various short periods. And across many industries, the effects of society are different. As a service provider, we can make sure that the experience is good even when all of that happens.
So there was a lot of work initially in simply making sure people could work from home providing secure access or access, VPN capacity, more capacity on collaboration platforms, and massive capacity, extra capacity on contact centers, moving contact center agents to work from home, more capacity on digital channels so the agents weren’t overwhelmed. All of that extra capacity as a service provider, we can manage. We're here talking in three different countries.
Most businesses have now got people working from home, I have, all over the world. The ability of a service provider to connect that up and make it work end-to-end and to understand the security overlay that goes on top of it, that's been where our value is being very, very clear in what's happened in the last few months. And I think that's going to prompt quite a bit of change in the market because for some of our customers, it worked really well. It was very easy. Some customers--just because they didn’t think this is going to happen, who are on older technology, or less well set up to have suddenly everyone working from home, struggled more. They haven't been able to get their contact center agents to work from home as quickly and their experiences suffered or all their employees were able to work from home, but the experience hasn't been great. And now we're going to have to go back and say, “Well, what are we going to do in the medium term because we're not going to be able to ignore it.”
Frank Hoekstra: John, listening to this and looking at the position of IR teaming up with service providers like BT, what do you see as the value for the customers for tuning up, and how do you see the role of ion?
John Ruthven: Yeah, so we're very fortunate that across our portfolio of customers that there are a very extensive group of customers actually, essentially customers of our customers, so in this case, a service provider. And it's very clear to us the value prop, if you will, of a service provider is in the current environment, in many cases is a faster mean time to value because they can provide a pre-packaged service rather than a customer, particularly as Andrew said, BT's customer base, which are large enterprises, for them to work through programs or work to stand up an environment etc. is much more difficult than an organization like BT that has a prepackaged service if you want it to simplify to that. And where we fit into that puzzle, as IR, is we provide that performance and monitoring and experience layer for that service. So although a small part of the overall service the value that we're experiencing in the current environment has increased dramatically, as Andrew has already profiled. You've gone through this phasing from our old, we've kind of been overnight, shifted into this environment. And then people are now sort of going, “Oh, wow, this may last longer than you think.” And potentially further down the track, we’re going to say, “Well, actually, this is my new new way of working.” So I think the real challenge for organizations is around how they engage their customers or their employees, and how they ensure that the workplace experience and ultimately the culture is maximized in this work environment.
Frank Hoekstra: So if we look at the working environment, let's go to a digital workspace. It's actually a combination of software and services. So Andrew, what are service providers doing to help those customers? Or what are they being asked for? Did that change?
Andrew Small: I think a lot of the things we were asked for were things that just accelerated everything. I think one of the big changes that's been going on in the market is almost the consumerization of work and tools we want. Our attitudes towards technology becomes much more the attitude we had outside of work and of course, working from home speeded that up that accelerated that process. The idea is central to a lot of businesses on collaboration, the idea of choice is critical.
Some businesses for very, very good reasons, will absolutely stipulate the exact collaboration tools and the device and the way of working for every employee. And it's very controlled, and in that environment, ensuring a brilliant experience and ensuring a level of security is easier. It's not easy, but it's easier. But of course, what's happening now is the consumerization of work and some really good new collaboration tools that have hit the market and tools like Zoom and others. There are a lot of businesses who allow a degree of choice. They're not stipulating you will use this one device and you will use this one platform everywhere. Some businesses that use a lot of contracts that employees are saying, well, any device in any platform as long as you can work, most aren't that extreme, but this there is more choice.
Now, we've got customers using Teams and Zoom for slightly different use cases. We got companies using WebEx and Zoom site use cases. And that's going to continue. So the first thing we're being asked for is “How do we manage that choice?” And then you get into “How do I really know what they're saying to us.” “How do I make sure the experience is brilliant for people and what often people want in the office?” And secondly, “How do I make it secure when I've got a choice of platforms and people not working where I expect? I want to be secured.” It's not surprising. There's been so much in the news about security with collaboration platforms, most of which is actually down to us and our behaviors rather than the platform's themselves.
So to answer your question, I think there's four things we'd been asked for:
- First is help them manage that choice. And quite often, they're not asking us which choice to make. They're saying we need these choices. “How do we make them work best together?”
- Second thing that I've been asked to do is, “How do you manage the experience when people aren't all in the office?” “How do you make sure that people are working from home on different broadband, perhaps on a mobile device on 4g or 5g and the headsets they've borrowed or consumer products, have they got a great experience?”
- We've been asked a lot about security. “How do we make the data secure when it's in people's homes or being used in ways we didn't set out to use it?”
- And we're being asked for things they asked for is about costs and managing the ongoing costs of this infrastructure. You can imagine that when this all first happened, everyone rushed to get everyone working from home; they just did what it took quite absolutely right. But now there are people around saying,” Well, we've got the best experience and we've got the mix of platforms. And I got the cost base right.” We say ways I can make this work and I make and also am I paying for it in the way. People want more and more flexibility in how they pay per employee per month. No one knows what's going to happen in the next 24 months, 36 months. So why lock yourself into one model? I think it's the one thing that you will be sure of is we don't know.
So those four things, I think.
The other thing that's happened is people. I said earlier that not everyone has pretty broadband at home. Sometimes people have, okay, well remember, they've got three people, four people plus kids streaming. We've seen growth in platforms like traditional audio conferencing is more than double. And so we've also got to remember there's a context here that we focused on Teams or Zoom or WebEx, but actually for some people, if they haven't got the broadband, they're going to have to go to really efficient audio conferencing tools. So we're being all everyone wants a bit of flexibility, they need to be a bit pragmatic. They want it not too costly in the end too.
Frank Hoekstra: Yeah, I've seen good examples where we're on course, and you can exactly see when kids come home and start playing games and things like that. I saw a quote from you, Andrew saying, “Technology needs to work for today's homework in reality, but teams may be left with a range of digital tools that don't integrate with one another, which can potentially cause new issues.” Are these the kind of new issues you see? Or do you see other new issues arise?
Andrew Small: They're creating a new issue. So we've actually got a user adoption team who traditionally work with, when we deploy a new technology like Teams or WebEx or Zoom, come in and help users adapt the technology so they know how to use it. Your view is and it's central to our approaches to technology for people first, technology second. So helping people use this technology, explain why we're using it becomes really important. That doesn't go away when people are working from home, in fact, to become slightly more important because you're not walking around next to them or level settling down from home. And then suddenly trying to join a call, which may not be on the technology they used to, and then wondering why they can't join and getting either frustrated or delaying everybody else. So that bit you can't ignore the user adoption and the people side of it.
You're working from home, using video from home, you're ready to put the camera how to light you will probably join calls with people, in the wrong part of the room. The things you can do something about fairly easily. So that's why I think that one becomes very important. I think the and the other thing I think we're seeing is changing the way people are actually running meetings and how they talk. Especially when we get into the stage where people are trying to talk to customers or suppliers who are on different technology. It’s not only when we're talking to each other in our own teams, but suddenly, when you're talking outside, helping people manage that better is going to be a real challenge, I think individually.
Frank Hoekstra: Let's switch the topic to the strategies the companies can apply to stay connected. John, I also found a quote from your site saying, “It's essential that businesses adapt to the new working norm. And that doesn't just mean having the tools and systems in place to enable productivity. We also need to consider the employee's experience. How do you keep the workforce engaged? How do you keep teams connected?” So how do you do that, John?
John Ruthven: Yes, it's been touched on already in the conversation, but , just to quickly recap, I've certainly observed three phases of where we are in the initial overnight shift. I was kind of getting used to what you've got to adapt to, maybe even throw a little bit of money at it and the people in that phase, I think we're in this very open adaptive mood. And this is fun, that's a little bit crazy. People posting on LinkedIn or wherever with fancy dress, Friday night drinks, and all of these things. And in that mode, I think people were a lot more accepting of a clunky service experience, if that's what they were having. And it was kind of like, “Well, this will soon be over, and then we'll be back to the office.”
And I think as we've moved out of that phase, and we're in what I would call the settling in phase, there's this realization that this may not be a short term thing. And so then there are efforts by organizations to optimize the experience and their efforts to manage time better. And he's already touched on the fact that I think, if you look at a meeting protocol, it's a lot more difficult to run a long, extensive meeting remotely than you may have in the office. And maybe that's actually more of a judgment of do we need all these long, arduous meetings in the office in any case. And the impact of engagement of people in that phase has been that there's increased expectations, and also that they're actually getting better at the tech, so they're getting better at using it, etc, etc. Because I think, when we looked at that initial phase, there are a lot of people that were used to having lots of help around the office to use the tech, they weren't particularly adaptive to it, and now they're suddenly sitting in their own, study at home or wherever they are having to make it work.
And then I think we're moving very quickly into this third phase, which is around the longer term where people are saying, well, maybe this is the new normal. I, in fact, can be more productive or in fact, have a very good work experience doing it. However, I might miss the office interaction and certain aspects of that. And I think when you look at people in this phase, people are starting to plan for a new way of working. Certainly we as a company are well advanced in our thinking as to what is the new way of working. And in part, I think it's both organizations and people resetting their expectations of the work environment, and embracing the opportunity.
So where I see technology having a critical role to play in doing that is this, move up the value chain, if you wanted to call it that, to the digital experience and , in the future, I can certainly see technologies we provide to our customers and service providers. I can see integrations, for example, to traditional things like HCM applications, etc, where you're holistically looking at managing what the employee experiences. And it's not only about, “Is the service working?” “Is the call quality okay?” But getting into things like potentially leveraging AI and machine learning and these kinds of things in terms of managing sentiment and engagement, and those kinds of things are certainly that's what, I would say, speculate, is on the horizon.
Frank Hoekstra: Thank you, John. Andrew, coming back to the strategy. I read somewhere, you said people need to be the first consideration. What do you mean by that?
Andrew Small: If you go back to what's changing in the market, in the workplace, and the market more broadly, and there's a few things first of all, there's a lot more freedom of choice applications out there. And I don't mean just for collaboration around the digital workplaces, the barriers to entry come down, there's a lot of really good applications around. And that can make businesses much better. So we've got to make them available in a way that really works. And then there's new technology that's having a massive impact, the use of the internet is much more flexible for people working from home. And with 5g going around, 5g now available, but also getting richer, feature wise, with hyper scalars. There's a, there's a lot of technology change going on. And that also is changing how people were using these technologies.
And then you've got this consumerization thing I've talked about people expecting the experience of work, they have a home and I think this experience will have accelerated that. So that's where it all starts now. Are you, as always, stuck with the customer as a person as a persona, but also make sure the experience really works. So no point having those brilliant new applications, if they don't work for somebody, wherever they are. There's no point having brilliant applications, if they don't work with each other, that they're standalone, they never deliver the return you want. And that not going to have brilliant applications that aren't secure or printing applications or collaboration where the experience isn't brilliant.
Our focus strategically is on delivering that extra choice, making things easier to adapt and being more flexible. It was a year ago, we created a totally new business environment. We just said we can't adapt what we're doing now to do all of those things to be that flexible, that quick, and that well integrated. We created a totally new business environment where we are launching new products on a totally new system’s stack, a totally new way of developing a totally new way of taking products to market. And our view was rather than adapt what we had that started totally from scratch, and in fact, the first propositions the best products are coming off of that unit.
And now this quarter, and that's all our strategy hasn't changed. I mean, I think that is the right approach. Customers want more flexibility. And we're all sitting here in the middle of a crisis. I don't think anyone knows what thing is going to be in two years or three years time. I think we can all get an opinion in view. I think the one thing we can all be clear off is no one will know. And because of that, all of our customers want more flexibility than ever before. They want to be able to accommodate what happens in two or three years, not be locked in and business are uncertain, they want to take decisions now to give a brilliant experience to their employees to make them more productive to make them more flexible. But no one wants to lock themselves into something for five years. So this new business environment we created, and is there to allow us to deliver those things to our customers so that if a new Zoom comes along, or somebody wants two or three applications to work really well together, we can launch it really quickly.
And with commercials that are much more flexible, because rather than us having big, fixed systems costs that we're having to deal with, we can be more flexible with the people who supply us. And John said at the beginning as a service provider one of the advantages we have is the ability to package up things experience to build experience into a product so that our customers aren't having to say, “Well, how do I stitch all of these things together?” We do it. We do it once and we do it very effectively, and they consume it as they need it. And that for us is the direction of travel, much less about fixed assets, fixed things, but the ability to flex and respond and not trying to forecast 10 years ahead and be sure, accepting we don't know. But setting things up that whatever happens we can adapt.
Frank Hoekstra: Forecasting is very hard for a few. No one had forecasted the current situation we're in there, right? There's quite a bit of attention between on the one hand flexibility and on the other hand security. I heard you say security at some point, you said security can take a backseat to speed up to speed our user experience. So how to combine those two?
Andrew Small: You’re right. I mean, to some degree, the choice of where people are, what tools they're using, makes both experience and security harder, but there are some things you can do. Managing services sits on top of those collaboration platforms that focus on a lot of things to do with security. Now some of it starts with us as users, some of the things that go wrong are actually people and processes rather than the technology at all. So things training and user adoption are critical to that. But there are things we do in the product to do with the way we carry traffic. And when we integrate our global voice network directly into the collaboration platforms, so traffic isn't going over the internet for most of its journey. And where we will encrypt several, most of those platforms. We’ll provide ways of extra security for particular types of users and we’ll provide even more overlay security. And we provide packages so that somebody who's perhaps working from home on a merger or acquisition you got to make sure the security is appropriate to what they do and we can provide the overlay security.
There's two parts to what we do. One is inherent security in our managed service, “what can we do to make it as secure as we can?”. And second thing is, “what can we do for particular users or scenarios to provide overlay security that's appropriate for that role?”. And that's something you can't package up quite as much because it depends on the role where they are. But one thing's for sure, is the need for choice and for people working from home. And you need to move many security in that context. It's a slightly different position to the one we had before.
Frank Hoekstra: Okay, so I'm going back to John, still discussing leadership. I heard you say leadership has never been more important. Do you have any leadership lessons you'd like to share with the audience?
John Ruthven: Not so much in leadership lessons per se. I mean the market, I think at the moment is pretty high with people sharing their views because I think there's lots of time. And I think at the moment that the key attribute that I think plays is around authenticity. And there's that balance of acknowledging that you don't know, as Andrews already said, no one really knows what the future is going to look like. And so you're balancing this thing with sales teams who are wanting to know what their sales targets are, and they want to feel that they've got an opportunity to achieve the outcomes that are expected. You've got our technology; part of our organization where people are trying to speculate ahead as to what might be required or have a market move. And I think authenticity plays into that where you've got that right balance of empathy and understanding that everyone's feeling a little uncertain but at the same time not losing your sense of aspiration, not losing the sense of positivity around the future opportunity. So I think getting that balance is probably the key thing that plays on my mind.
Frank Hoekstra: Okay. Let's have a look at the future. I think the agenda item was called what happens once the dust has settled. I also saw a quote of you, Andrew, and we're saying “Remote working isn't just about keeping the business afloat as we try to turn the tide on the Coronavirus. It could be the beginning of a different way of working.” So I'm back to the question, what do you think happens once the dust has settled?
Andrew Small: Well, it seems the dust settles and it probably probably won't totally end.
Frank Hoekstra: At some point in time.
Andrew Small: I think we had a bit of a balance before. I think a lot of people are experienced working from home and who wants to do more of it? Probably not 100% I think you'll end up with a different balance of people working from home people going into offices.
The interesting discussion I've had with my team is if we go back into the office is why or what for. For example, going to the office to do emails but there is for a long workshop. We've talked about what doesn't work online, then long workshops don’t and they're better probably done face to face. I think, at a task level, some things won't need to go into the office, I think, whilst there isn't the vaccine and whilst the virus is around and things like public transport will become harder and let it shape people's thinking. Because even if they can get into the office, even if their offices are safe, getting there might not be. So I think we're going to be in a much more flexible environment for where people work and whether they work. This is the uncertainty thing. But the reality is, it's likely that people want the choice. And this could happen again. It'll be on people's minds once it's happened once and they'll want to know what they do if.
That's the first thing, I think the flexibility that people want to be able to work wherever they are. And we're looking harder at what happens in manufacturing, “How does employees in manufacturing work if there're less of them in a space?” “How can you use digital to make that work better?” And there's lots of things about thoughts about “How do you make social distancing work in a work environment?” “How can you use technology to make that better?” We're also looking very hard at what the best way to run an experience at home is. We're very used to running experiences in a branch. And how do you connect the network to home for somebody who's there a lot more often? What's the right use of technology? Is it to go and use consumer broadband just as it is? Or can we put something in the home that makes the work experience better and handles network traffic better, prioritizes better, gives a bit more inherent security. I think there's some, some thinking around that.
Back to what's going to change. I think the uncertainty is what's going to actually drive how people behave. And the uncertainty in itself, people want flexibility, because they don't know what's going to change. They have a vaccine turned up in October, what would change? Maybe not a lot. Actually, people might go back to how they are relatively quickly. If it doesn't, then I think we're in a different scenario and we don't know. What we're assuming is people want flexibility more than anything else.
Frank Hoekstra: Yeah, sometimes people tend to forget very easily when things are over. But they remember the positives probably on what they created or received as a benefit.
So before I turn to John, I’d like to remind the audience that you can post questions in the textbox. I see there’s one already, but you may have more so just post your questions here. As from the next question, we will turn to the Q&A.
So John, your thoughts about what will happen once the dust settles?
John Ruthven: Yeah. My thoughts and certainly our strategy as a company is informed by some key assumptions going forward, which is that the majority of knowledge workers will have flexible work arrangements, even if it's only for a day a week, or, so forth, which for some is no change, but for many, it is a challenge. And you know, if you think about that, a key point to notice that if just one member of your team is remote, then in fact, your work engagement needs to change because now you are engaged in one remote team member. And so the requirements of having a healthy engagement experience are still there, just because one member is, is remote.
Secondly, we see an acceleration and the expectation that the quality of this experience will improve over time.
And then thirdly, from a technology standpoint, we'd see a rise of engagement tools with a digital workplace is the new norm. And if I then shift that slightly to our wheelhouse as a company from an IT strategy perspective, we probably see three themes playing out.
And certainly from a customer demand perspective, these things are rising up the priority list based on the conversations we're having, that's around being proactive and automate. And so this is giving full surveillance across the UC and contact center, etc. So that there's surveillance, if you will, of that environment all the time.
And secondly, we're seeing a rise in the demand for purpose built tools and techniques. So moving away from you know, bespoke and so forth, where we're seeing a lot more in terms of customer inquiry around essentially using standard techniques and purpose built tools to manage. Whereas in many cases, I think the UC, and now the collaboration environment has been, you know, largely doing it as well, we can just patch some things together and integrate that way.
And the third point that I've made, which I think is probably the most compelling, is understanding the data, not only in real time, but over time, so understand what's happening now. But then also understand the trend over time because this demand for providing a richer engagement experience will be informed largely by that longer term view of how your, your team members, reengaged, etc. So those are three things that we've seen rising up the priority list.
Frank Hoekstra: Thank you, John.
Let's move to some questions. So I have here online, and maybe definitely we'll have more in the background. So I see the first question here.
Asking suppliers of collaborations to rapidly respond with handing out free licenses with end customers experimenting with these tools. What are the best strategies to transfer these customers to paid subscriptions to these platforms?
Andrew, would you like to comment on that?
Andrew Small: Yeah, they all did in different ways, actually. And that's been going on for a while. So that's not new. In general, either they constrain the feature set or constrain your ability to control it, or constrain the time but it really suited people when they rush to get people working from home. Sometimes companies didn't even do it. People downloaded those applications themselves so they could work. As I said at the beginning, I think a lot of companies allowed everything to happen in the rush to get people working from home who now had to come back and check whether it's compliant, whether it's the most cost effective solution, whether it's the best solution.
And then the cost of the licenses gets taken much more into context, just because something is free doesn't mean that actually it has no cost, you know, there's multiple platforms, even if the license isn't particularly efficient, you have to do it differently. Having consumer licenses in a large enterprise, you know, with some of them you lose some of the ability to be flexible on where your data is, for example, or is it a security professional license, you know, or is there another feature constraints that structure ability to work?
So, I'm not actually worried about that. It's a good question, but I think that sorts itself out. I think what a lot of companies are doing now or the ones I talked to are thinking, “Okay, how do I optimize this for the 18 month view?” And then the free licenses come into context to that. So, you know, I've seen customers who started off in the free ones that have gone back to the tools they had before, forced to be free licenses to take off company devices, some who've embraced it, you know, somebody said actually, we've tried it and it's great. We're gonna stick with it and go for paid. It's good people got the chance to experience it. That's one of the advantages of cloud based applications. But in the medium term, it's just part of the mix. So it gets sorted out.
Frank Hoekstra: And there's no such thing as a free lunch, right? There's always the license cost is just part of the total cost, right?
Andrew Small: Exactly. If you got a free license, an awful experience or a free license with poor network connectivity, or a free license with a key feature not included in it, or a free license that you're giving to someone in addition to one you're paying for another platform that's not free.
Frank Hoekstra: Let's look at a few more questions coming in.
With home working more prevalent and no formal IT support in the home office. Do you see your business providing technology for interactive guidance through collaboration user, in order to make their experience better in real time?
John, you'd like to respond to that?
John Ruthven: I can certainly express a point of view.
I think there will be an increased demand. Andrew was able to highlight that if you stop people, you can have the best technology and set up but if you don't have people suitably unable to use it in a productive way, and you're in a difficult circumstance. There are a lot of tools on the market already in terms of being able to provide remote helping engagement. So my perspective would be that there could be an increasing demand for that and certainly making the service simpler to consume - to use a horrible term - but if you're extending almost into the consumer world and your efforts to make a video proof are generally well-rewarded.
Frank Hoekstra: Let's have a look at the slides. I think there were some other questions there as well.
We are seeing a big change in collaborations where there’s multiple options for users to adopt various vendors. How are you keeping abreast of this change? How are BT supporting Cisco Zoom, and Microsoft Teams under and will support all three?
Andrew Small: There's more pressure to be able to have that choice and lots of customers having all of those three and perhaps some haven't even seen yet. So our aim is always to provide a consistent management service. We integrate with voice networks into all of those platforms so that our large global customers get the reach that comes with our global voice network. And the ability to do things that PSTN where they can't get IP to carry traffic on the net, so we have no cost around the world.
And then we have a managed service layer that includes things like experience monitoring, and the security and user support we were just talking about in a minute with user support desks, the tooling to make the experience and diagnose problems really quick and easy. And a level of inherent security. You don't include every use case in a standard product, but we will be launching. We've launched all three of those and with that managed service, and with the network connectivity and the choices that go with it, and not just those three, but the new business environment we're setting up is to allow us to add whatever comes next and something will come next. And we'll need to add that to the mix as well.
John Ruthven: Adding to that from an IR perspective. Over the years, we've supported all the major on-premise vendors, either directly or through service providers. And what we've seen in the current situation is just an acceleration of our roadmap to support Teams, Zoom, etc. What plays to our strengths generally is complexity. And so if you have a customer service provider with multiple platforms, multiple vendors, it generally makes it a much more complex environment to manage end to end in terms of you know, guaranteeing that engagement experience.
Frank Hoekstra: Exactly. So I think maybe the next question ties into VR.
Can you do two more on engagement tools, intelligent chat bots, AI?
As you were talking, John. Would you like to add to that?
John Ruthven: We're not there today, but that's certainly where our vision and our roadmap takes us. We see that probably accelerated in the current environment. You've seen some pretty good experimentation around particularly call center technology with AI and so forth. We just see that that is going to be much shorter term now in terms of getting deployed into enterprise environments.
Frank Hoekstra: If you'd like to add there, Andrew.
Andrew Small: We also get in contact center environments-proved it's worth really proved its worth in the first few weeks of this crisis when call volumes jumped. And tools like that allow those calls to get answered in a way that if they were going to agents, they don't always. We're very focused in implementing that technology on making sure it links to the agent as well. As a consumer, that the experience you want is that you can use a chat bot, can we do consumer research every couple of years on their attitudes to some of this technology and people are quite accepting of it. What they don't like is what happens if they can't get the right answer. And they're left hanging. So all they have to do is repeat it all to an agent. So we're very focused on not just AI for chatbots, but also AI for augmenting an agent's capability. So using the same AI to help the agent be more effective is just as important as having a chat bot.
I think in the collaboration space, you're going to see there's really good stuff already appearing in a lot of the platforms and real-time translations, so speech recognition, transcription, word searches in meetings. So you can find keywords rather than having to listen to a whole replay of a meeting, you can simply search for a keyword in it. And going back not needing to take notes, being able to find key parts of the meeting. There's real value in that. And so I think those are, those are two areas. It's technology that's going to deliver massively, but fairly early days. Yes. And I think like all new tech technology, looking for use cases that are really compelling, but contact center and collaboration. You can see this and there's some winning ideas in there, and they're coming to market now.
Frank Hoekstra: Okay, I have one more online question I see here.
How do you see new customers engage and build new business relationships working differently going forward?
Andrew Small: That's a really interesting question, isn't it?
One thing managing an existing customer journeys crisis with people working from home, I think that's worked pretty well. Everyone's at home. And so I think that engagement works very well. Especially where, you know, people it's a lot easier to do a video call with people you know.
What we've got over learning is how do you actually start building a relationship with a business where everyone's from home, that's I suspect a little bit more difficult. But we started by saying people are adaptive, and, you know, people will, we'll all adapt. And you know, certainly I've been talking to our partners, our suppliers, and some of whom I've been meeting for the first time they've been introducing themselves and explaining what they can do in a way that they would have done in the office we'd be doing a lot. So I think it can work. It'll be different. I'm not sure we've found the best different way of doing it yet we will.
John Ruthven: Yeah, sharing our experience in the last nine weeks. I mean, everyone's aware that the overnight, the industry event market just came to a standstill. And you know, in round terms, if you looked at our business, our top of funnel activity was pretty much balanced 50-50 between event-based lead generation and so forth and 50% on our digital channels. So overnight, we had to switch it to 100% on the digital channels.
An interesting observation I would make having worked in many countries around the world is it's much more difficult in what I would call indirect cultures. So countries that socially have more of an indirect culture. You know, to Andrew's point about building a relationship from scratch I think is much, much more difficult versus being able to leverage your relationship and just continue it in a digital form.
Frank Hoekstra: And probably also differs from one region to another one culture to another.
So we're getting to the end of the hour. Any closing remarks you'd like to make John?
John Ruthven: Yeah. Thanks, Frank. And thanks, Andrew for joining me on the webinar today. It's been a great opportunity. I mean from our perspective, we remain in a very positive frame of mind.
Like everyone in the current environment have some concern as you look ahead. But as I described, I think that the pressure on us as leaders in the industry is to be authentic. And in doing that, get that right balance between remaining positive in your output but also being empathetic to the situation that we all find ourselves in.
Frank Hoekstra: Thanks, John. And Andrew, any closing remarks from your side?
Andrew Small: And now I think we talked through you know where we are now and where are we going? I think some things changed. Some things don't. Some things were going to happen anyway. They’ve just been accelerated. And I think that focus on experience, security, choices, and business or pricing models that work in a world with so much uncertainty is I think everybody's focused on the world.
Frank Hoekstra: Thank you, Andrew.
And let me close off by saying that any unanswered questions we still have will be followed up and also we’ll be accessible on the site where you will also find a recording of this webinar.
I listened carefully to your guys. And let me give my summary of the three key takeaways I took out of it.
- First of all, it's all about people; how to keep them engaged and connected. Technology is there to support but it's about people.
- Secondly, things really change rapidly. What could be the best solution for today may not be the best solution for tomorrow. My takeaways so make sure you keep the flexibility to adapt to them and have departments that can flex with you.
- And thirdly, you're the leader, so your leadership is key to ensure continuity and keep the business safe.
So we hope you receive some good food for thoughts on how you can adapt as a leader. And no surprise, we are happy to support you on your journey.
So thanks for attending and special things here to Andrew and John are sharing good leadership lessons. And have a great day. Goodbye.