BT has named its professional services business BT Advise, as a follow-up to the new portfolio line-up of BT Connect, BT One, BT Contact, BT Compute, and BT Assure. The move is important to BT as the operator fine-tunes its super-verticals approach for multinational corporations and large enterprises. It is also symbolic of the growing maturity of telcos generally in professional services and the range of unified communications, IT services, contract management, and business outsourcing, which professional services will help them to deliver more effectively.
Telcos are starting to realize the value of professional services to their businesses and the importance of [such] services as a line of business that must have a go-to-market identity. Enterprise buyers and service providers alike have been confused about what constitutes professional services from telcos, and how these can add an important dimension to managed services.
Three years ago, telcos started talking about professional services as an extension to consulting, but since then they have separately developed design, certification, project management, implementation, training, and service development skills for their best activities. For example, AT&T in wireless networking, Orange Business Services in global customer support, T-Systems in SAP, and Verizon Business in IT operations.
Professional services is not the next super-vertical for telcos, but it is key for telcos because it will help expose their different capabilities in networked ICT services for various industry sectors and help unlock what might otherwise be overly rigid strategies in segmentation and product standardization. We’ve always said that multinational service providers are not all the same, and professional services will help enterprise buyers distinguish them.
AT&T manages international requirements for the largest US corporations, Orange Business Services is the go-to operator for Europe’s insurance and shipping industries, T-Systems for utilities, Telefonica for companies trading in Latin America where mobility is the key, and Verizon Business in engineering companies with sub regional requirements in the Nordics and Asia-Pacific especially. These activities need professional services teams that combine commercial understanding of their customers’ markets and business models as well as technical knowledge of their products and processes. All these telcos can hone their professional services skills to further exploit their key market positions.
Arguably, BT is the exception because it has no super-niche, except in financial trading with Radianz, and even there it is under increasing pressure from Verizon Financial Networks (faster), Orange Trading Solutions (cleverer), and NTT Com (in region). In fact, financial markets are a good example of the limits of a planned vertical program because they are stressed and in flux, and customers are looking for more than standard network services.
Notably, BT’s most recent contracts include trading floor design, systems development, and integration, so it is building and applying its professional services skills very effectively.
BT’s Advise announcement rode on the coat tails of contracts worth as much as €120m to provide networked multimedia services for the European Parliament across its sites in Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg, and which includes a strong professional services element in integration and maintenance.
What’s impressive about BT Advise is the number and range of customers now taking professional services from BT. At the bottom end they are using the QuickStart entry-level packages for help with remote working arrangements. At the top, BT is providing CXO-level engagement and even interim management for companies that want new security programs across the organization.
As that example suggests, enterprises in emerging markets are especially interested in the professional services approach – one reason that Luis Alvarez, president of BT Global Services in EMEA and Latin America, has been given overall responsibility for BT Advise.
David Molony is Ovum's principal analyst covering enterprise telecoms sector.