How is unified communications changing and what can organizations do to take advantage of that innovation? Glenn Johnstone, CEO of Vodafone Next Generation Services, tells CXOTalk about digital transformation in UC services and evolving customer expectations.

“I think that we’re seeing that the pace of change and the complexity means that you’ve got to really keep things very assertive and simple. You really have to downplay the technology sort of things and look at a customer consuming a service,” Johnstone says.

As Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Next-Gen, Johnstone is responsible for the overall leadership and strategic direction of the business. His past experiences include acquisition projects alongside large capital projects at New Zealand Post, consulting in the project valuation field, and tenure at WorldxChange as GM Sales, COO, and CEO.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. We’re at BroadSoft Connections 2017, and I’m speaking with Glenn Johnstone, who is the CEO of Vodafone Next Generation Services. Hey, Glenn! How are you doing?

Glenn Johnstone: I’m good, thank you. Good, thank you.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about Vodafone Next Generation Services.

Glenn Johnstone: So, Vodafone Next-Gen is basically a UC provider. We've got a lot of experience and history of providing UC services to both businesses and residentials.

Michael Krigsman: So, who are your customers?

Glenn Johnstone: We are focused on business customers. So, we look at providing them a UC service largely based on BroadSoft, but that also with the mind that we’re looking at their customers.

Michael Krigsman: One of the themes of this event has been the changing expectations of customers. And, you work with a lot of different businesses, so what are you seeing out there in the market?

Glenn Johnstone: I think we’re seeing that the pace of change and the complexity means that you’ve got to really keep things very intuitive and simple. You really have to downplay the technology side of things and look at a customer consuming a service.

Michael Krigsman: What’s driving this shift in customer expectations?

Glenn Johnstone: Well, I think it's a lot of things. But, the pace of change is not slowing down. And the other is, there’s more ways than ever to communicate. So, a customer is looking at us as a trusted advisor to help them out with all of those technology options.

Michael Krigsman: The issue of speed and being responsive, I have to imagine, is a crucial one as well.

Glenn Johnstone: It is hard, yes. So, you've got to keep pace with the customer. Particularly in medium-sized businesses and below, they struggle with the pace of change. They can't know the wick on their own business, let alone look at technology options. So, you have to really provide them with something that's simple, easy to use, easy to consume. You have to really invest heavily in a seamless and intuitive interaction: portals; what-it-looks-like GUIs; or whatever else. But also, you have to invest heavily in a seamless onboarding process. You have to make it very easy to become a customer.

Michael Krigsman: How does that contrast with the kind of state of the art inside most onboarding processes today?

Glenn Johnstone: Yeah, I think we tend to take a bit more of a hands-on approach, making sure that we got our customers on board. We take care of the actual business change part of the program. The actual technology is not that difficult to deploy. It’s actually about the change management process within the customer.

Michael Krigsman: And especially, I suppose, if you’re selling inside larger organizations, that becomes even more acute.

Glenn Johnstone: That’s right. So, you tend to get straight off there. They have their own IT staff that you can work with on from a technology point of view. But, the business process, the business change side of things become more important.

Michael Krigsman: It’s very interesting that you describe yourself as that trusted advisor.

Glenn Johnstone: That's right. So, a trusted advisor is very key, because it creates that relationship that allows you to then bring in more technologies as things are developed and released.

Michael Krigsman: And it’s interesting also that you said that it’s not just a matter of the technology, but the processes and the change management that’s required.

Glenn Johnstone: That’s right. I mean, customers are after an outcome: a productivity increase; or getting to their customer base. They’re not really after the technology itself.

Michael Krigsman: Where is all of this technology going?

Glenn Johnstone: Yeah, that's a good question and it's hard to say because it changes so rapidly. But, I think the key things are pretty well

Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. We’re at BroadSoft Connections 2017, and I’m speaking with Glenn Johnstone, who is the CEO of Vodafone Next Generation Services. Hey, Glenn! How are you doing?

Glenn Johnstone: I’m good, thank you. Good, thank you.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about Vodafone Next Generation Services.

Glenn Johnstone: So, Vodafone Next-Gen is basically a UC provider. We've got a lot of experience and history of providing UC services to both businesses and residentials.

Michael Krigsman: So, who are your customers?

Glenn Johnstone: We are focused on business customers. So, we look at providing them a UC service largely based on BroadSoft, but that also with the mind that we’re looking at their customers.

Michael Krigsman: One of the themes of this event has been the changing expectations of customers. And, you work with a lot of different businesses, so what are you seeing out there in the market?

Glenn Johnstone: I think we’re seeing that the pace of change and the complexity means that you’ve got to really keep things very intuitive and simple. You really have to downplay the technology side of things and look at a customer consuming a service.

Michael Krigsman: What’s driving this shift in customer expectations?

Glenn Johnstone: Well, I think it's a lot of things. But, the pace of change is not slowing down. And the other is, there’s more ways than ever to communicate. So, a customer is looking at us as a trusted advisor to help them out with all of those technology options.

Michael Krigsman: The issue of speed and being responsive, I have to imagine, is a crucial one as well.

Glenn Johnstone: It is hard, yes. So, you've got to keep pace with the customer. Particularly in medium-sized businesses and below, they struggle with the pace of change. They can't know the wick on their own business, let alone look at technology options. So, you have to really provide them with something that's simple, easy to use, easy to consume. You have to really invest heavily in a seamless and intuitive interaction: portals; what-it-looks-like GUIs; or whatever else. But also, you have to invest heavily in a seamless onboarding process. You have to make it very easy to become a customer.

Michael Krigsman: How does that contrast with the kind of state of the art inside most onboarding processes today?

Glenn Johnstone: Yeah, I think we tend to take a bit more of a hands-on approach, making sure that we got our customers on board. We take care of the actual business change part of the program. The actual technology is not that difficult to deploy. It’s actually about the change management process within the customer.

Michael Krigsman: And especially, I suppose, if you’re selling inside larger organizations, that becomes even more acute.

Glenn Johnstone: That’s right. So, you tend to get straight off there. They have their own IT staff that you can work with on from a technology point of view. But, the business process, the business change side of things become more important.

Michael Krigsman: It’s very interesting that you describe yourself as that trusted advisor.

Glenn Johnstone: That's right. So, a trusted advisor is very key, because it creates that relationship that allows you to then bring in more technologies as things are developed and released.

Michael Krigsman: And it’s interesting also that you said that it’s not just a matter of the technology, but the processes and the change management that’s required.

Glenn Johnstone: That’s right. I mean, customers are after an outcome: a productivity increase; or getting to their customer base. They’re not really after the technology itself.

Michael Krigsman: Where is all of this technology going?

Glenn Johnstone: Yeah, that's a good question and it's hard to say because it changes so rapidly. But, I think the key things are pretty well known. Security and privacy are probably at the fore of much of the discussions in terms of what's happening next.

Michael Krigsman: And, what else are your customers telling you that they’re demanding? I have to imagine security and privacy are just top of mind.

Glenn Johnstone: They are. I think also that there are so many different other pieces of information flowing in. The prevalence of IoT, analytics, whatever else; it’s great stuff, but of course, it’s hard to consume. There’s so much of it.

Michael Krigsman: So, elaborate on that. That’s really interesting.

Glenn Johnstone: So, you’re trying to get to the point where you’re consuming or actually creating the change process; so, giving them the information rather than just the data. That also means pulling in all those information streams from different providers to [garbled…] aspects of their business.

Michael Krigsman: Glenn, what about the mindset and the cultural demands of change?

Glenn Johnstone: Yeah, so it is hard. That’s the change process because you get some businesses that are very agile and can change rapidly, which is fine. But, a lot of the customers that you're particularly [garbled …] also have a PBX, or whatever else [garbled…]. To have a UC, it is a quite large change for them. So, you have to be very hands-on in engaging with senior management in particular, that it’s going to be a change process.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have, Glenn, for organizations that are looking to adopt these solutions?

Glenn Johnstone: I think it’s to not look at the technology. I think you need to look at what you want out of it and try and create a solution from there, rather than just preach on [garbled…] technology.

Michael Krigsman: That’s really interesting. So, even though we’re talking about technology, that’s not, shall we say, the challenge point.

Glenn Johnstone: That’s right. I mean, we are already in the technology game, but of course your customers, by and large, aren’t. So, you have to make sure that they are not being sold to with a technology angle or whatever else you’re driving, [but with] whatever they’re trying to achieve out of it.

Michael Krigsman: And, if you were to summarize the Glenn prescription for change management success with unified communications, what would that be?

Glenn Johnstone: I think it’s “Do small attractive changes.” So, start small. Begin the journey. Start with “Lead the dogs,” whatever else. But, it’s just really managing the journey and the expectation that they want.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Glenn Johnstone, thank you so much!

Glenn Johnstone: Thank you. Cheers!