Q&A: BT Global Services CEO

Luis Alvarez, CEO of BT Global Services, discusses business performance, security, cloud and partnership

Eurocomms.com: Revenues at Global Services continue to decline; they fell six percent in the first half of 2015/16 and seven percent for the full fiscal year 2014/15. When are they going to bottom out?

Luis Alvarez: We’ve been able to improve the underlying decline that was mainly caused by a number of contracts with the UK government that have ended.

In AMEA, we are seeing double-digit growth, while in the US we have started to secure significant new business so I’m quite positive there.

In Lat-Am we stopped doing business in a couple of places due to the political environment.

The overall picture is not black and white.

We don’t provide future revenues forecasts… but from a profitability perspective we are going to grow earnings in the second half of the year.

I’m not so concerned about the top line, we’re not pursuing revenue growth for the sake of growth.

According to one of your recent financial statements, a major customer in North America has started to insource some services. Is this a trend you are seeing more widely?

No, there is not such a trend. In fact, more and more customers are giving us overall responsibility and we are signing longer-term contracts.

What’s driving growth in AMEA?

It’s a combination of being able to support customers who are already operating there and those expanding their business in the region.

In terms of products/services, our global network capabilities are at the core of those deals.

Security, particularly cyber security, is also of critical importance to our customers and we have signed good deals around contact centre services.

Across the board, which products and services are your biggest revenue drivers?

Clearly, there’s a move in the market to use more cloud services.

We are helping customers on their cloud journey with our “cloud of clouds” strategy, providing them with access to Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, for example.

Security services are also popular and some of the most interesting deals here are in financial services, oil and gas.

In almost everything we sell [in these industries] security services are included.

How do you differentiate your offering in the security market?

We have 2,500 people around the world and have experience of running a number of Security Operation Centres for customers.

It is very important to have a “glocal” approach.

We also have a cloud platform as well as a network one. In the cloud you get secure access to services – [if you’re not a BT customer] you would have to set up your own security infrastructure, but it’s already a part of our solution.

We also have one of the industry’s strongest analytics tools in terms of managing security.

What is the biggest challenge you face in delivering cloud?

Customers find it a challenge to choose the right platform.

They have a number of legacy systems and want to move to new platforms, but it’s not clear for them how to do that.

The biggest challenge for us is working with them to create a roadmap.

Partnership is one of the big themes we’ve been discussing during Enterprise Month. What is your strategy here?

This is quite a promiscuous industry in the sense that there is no one who is your partner forever.

We continue to have very good partnerships with companies like Cisco, but we are working more and more with software companies as things like SDN become more prevalent.

Then we collaborate with companies like Microsoft or Salesforce as they move into our “cloud of clouds” offering.

It gives them a unique opportunity to access customers in an environment where you have security, interoperability and performance.

Finally, we work with system integrators, as it is critical for them to have a partner who understands global infrastructure.

The enterprise app space is an interesting area, particularly since Apple and IBM partnered last year. What is your view on this area of the ecosystem?

It’s becoming more and more important.

The advantage for us is that we will benefit from any developments in this space.

If the Apple-IBM alliance accelerates the capability of apps within a specific vertical then we would be happy to use them as part of our solutions. Our role is to enable more cloud apps to be available anywhere in the globe. Remember, neither Apple nor IBM has a network.

You have services for a wide range of industry sectors. Which are your most important and are you looking into any new verticals?

In terms of size, financial services remains the top vertical for us. We do over £1 billion in business in that sector… it’s doing extremely well.

We have been quite successful in healthcare – mainly in the UK where we have been working with hospitals – and have extended into life sciences.

We have extended our supply chain offering BT Trace and developed new contact centre propositions, particularly for airlines.

Overall, we have another 3-4 propositions that will come to market in the next 6-12 months but we are not looking at expanding into any new verticals.

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