Graham Sutherland has led BT’s expanded Business and Public Sector division since it formed last year. He discusses progress to date, Brexit and future opportunities.
Eurocomms.com: How would you assess the first 18 months of your business unit?
Graham Sutherland: It’s been a hugely exciting but challenging time which has seen the integration of the BT Business, EE and former Global Services UK teams into a single workforce of 10,000 people to support our 1.2 million customers across the country.
I’m particularly pleased with the rate of progress over the past year or so, despite some of the challenges we’re facing in the public sector in common with other industry players.
Our combined best-in-class fixed and mobile propositions mean we are now uniquely placed in the market to deliver truly converged solutions to our customers.
The integration of the formerly distinct business units has also allowed us to achieve major cost synergies and align our customer service operations more effectively.
We’ve also strengthened and broadened our portfolio of products by making our full range of fixed, mobile and IT services offerings available across the existing BT customers and those acquired with EE.
We’ve improved our scores for customer satisfaction, for example, by investing in new customer service roles and more staff training while we’ve opened our first Customer Experience Lab in Dundee which will trial innovative new customer service solutions.
We’re continuing to innovate to deliver higher standards of customer service, for example with the launch of our new App to give our business customers more choice and flexibility when it comes to managing their own accounts.
And we continue to shine in the SME market – where we are number one for market share.
Here we are seeing strong growth in mobile, fibre broadband, network services and IP voice.
Last but not least, we’re growing our order book, having sealed deals with major household names such as Royal Mail, Primark, Co-op and PayPal in the enterprise space, while new public sector contract wins have included the NHS, Metropolitan Police and Surrey County Council.
You mention it has been challenging, what specific issues have you faced?
I guess one of the main challenges has been the sheer scale of the change.
We integrated 1,600 people into the new Business and Public Sector organisation within just 60 days of concluding the EE acquisition – so the pace of change has been extremely rapid.
Acquisitions and major organisational change always require a cultural shift and so our people have needed to adapt to new processes and adopt new mindsets and ways of working.
So we’ve worked very hard to make sure we bring our employees with us as we increasingly look to exploit the move to converged fixed and mobile services.
Integrating and streamlining the BT and EE product portfolios has been a major undertaking, while we’ve also made significant changes to our customer service operations.
For instance, we’ve combined 2,000 customer service employees into a single centre of excellence to support our managed service customers in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
We’ve also transferred around 800 engineers from the wider BT Group into Business and Public Sector to create a unified field service team to better serve our customers.
Group CEO Gavin Patterson recently said that the UK’s exit from the EU was causing uncertainty for BT’s own R&D. Are you seeing a ‘Brexit effect’ hitting your customers’ willingness to invest?
It’s fair to say that we are seeing uncertainty in the market due to Brexit.
However, we are still seeing strong orders from both our private and public sector customers, and have had three-quarters of continued order book growth, thanks to our investments and fuelled by strong demand in the mobile space and from SMEs.
Naturally, Brexit brings uncertainties with it, including economic impacts, and so the wider BT Group has a planning programme in place to assess the risks and opportunities it might create for us.
Following a difficult 2016/17 financial year, BT has predicted flat revenues for the next 12 months. What can we expect from your division?
While the division faces challenges largely as a result of a small number of major public sector contracts coming to an end, we’re taking action to address this and are seeing a buoyant performance in the SME sector - as a result of strong sales in mobile, VoIP and networking.
The corporate market continues to perform well while mobile sales are beating expectations, underlining the successful integration of EE’s capabilities into our wider product portfolio.
As announced previously, the revenues from our remaining large public sector contracts will largely come to an end this financial year, and will continue to impact into next year.
But we have put a plan in place to address the challenging trading conditions that we and other suppliers to the UK public sector are seeing in the market.
For example, as the public sector moves away from centralised procurement to more devolved, localised contracts, we have shifted our strategy in line with this by boosting our investment in local sales teams which is helping to drive improved order intake - up 81 percent in the first quarter of this financial year.
We’re seeing this with the local NHS trusts, for example, with BT winning a number of networking contracts in the South East.
Over the next 12 months we’ll be focusing on investing for the future so that we can continue to deliver great levels of customer service and sustainable revenue growth.
We’ll use our expanded sales reach and new capabilities in mobile to secure new customer wins and drive cross-selling, with a focus on delivering converged solutions to our growing customer base.