BT: Be bold, disrupt the market, but don’t forget about your people

BT Global and ServiceNow team together to disrupt telecoms through digital transformation.

The first wave of the pandemic made clear the impact communications service providers have on society, and at BT, we were proud to help customers stay connected. We increased bandwidth to meet the needs of people working from home and handled unprecedented volumes of 999 calls during the first weeks of the lockdown.

Having recently experienced both a crisis and a planned digital transformation, I want to share my lessons learned to help more companies transition smoothly to a more digital future.

Disrupting the market with a radical new idea

The telecoms industry has been changing quickly over the past few years. The lines between work and play are becoming increasingly blurred, and in return for being always on, employees expect consumer-like experiences and the latest devices—seems like a fair deal.

Flexible and seamless technology invariably means businesses are turning to the cloud, and connectivity is more important than ever. As you can see, we’re already thinking from the point of view of the customer, and customer centricity should always be a core pillar of your digital transformation.

To address the needs of the next generation of customers, we continuously improve our capabilities and develop new services. When we decided to transform our service for global multinational customers, we knew we couldn’t do it alone. We have 90% of our customer base in common with ServiceNow, so it seemed logical to work together and co-innovate to design a solution that would disrupt the telecoms market, giving customers more control over their own environments, better visibility, and huge efficiency gains.

Ripping up the rulebook

To create a totally new service offering, we needed a completely new approach. We launched a greenfield project and built a cloud-native reference architecture using microservices and open APIs that are widely used in the industry.

The partnership with ServiceNow meant we had the skills, expertise, and scale to really take our services to the next level and deliver something groundbreaking to our customers. At every step we focused on outcomes, not the process, and we learned a lot along the way.

Firstly, be proactive, not reactive. There are often signs of a disruptive shift in the market before it actually happens. Obviously, no one could’ve predicted the scale and impact of COVID-19, but enabling employee mobility is old news.

Next, we learned that bold, purpose-driven ideas lead to real change. Don’t make decisions just to cut costs or boost efficiency, think instead of the change you’ll have on your people and your customers. A good way to streamline change management is to get buy-in from the top. And I mean the very top—a passionate C-level executive will have a lot of influence over the rest of your employees. Then, take a step down and get a senior management decision-maker to establish common, achievable goals, and give your project the clarity to keep it on track.

Sticking with the theme of being bold, “fail fast learn fast” is a good approach to get things done quickly, and proof of concept is a brilliant way to experiment and learn. A lot of people think it’s wasted time, but you’ll make up that time and learn lessons to help your transformation go smoother.

There are often signs of a disruptive shift in the market before it actually happens.

Finally, it’s the culture and people that make up the business, not the technology. Start by empowering your employees. Happy and fulfilled employees are more productive, more receptive to change, and much more likely to delight your customers. Help them accept change by introducing new processes and platforms gradually, let them know what’s coming, and provide training to help build confidence.

Don’t neglect your partners and vendors either. If you can take them with you on your digital transformation, you’ll see better outcomes for everybody, but at the very least keep them informed.

Telecommunications is a fast-moving and highly competitive industry. Always remember that it is people driving that movement, and understanding their wants and needs will help you wow them and guide them through the challenges of tomorrow.