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BT is looking for consultative sellers as it engages in Asia expansion

The speed of change in communications technology means that major players in the field are geared to constant, fast-track evolution. They have to initiate and innovate to come up with visionary concepts that make the best commercial use of the latest advances in software architecture, integrated systems and cloud-based solutions.

At the same time, however, they must also anticipate and respond to new types of customer demand, whether for global services, enhanced security or 24-hour local support. That requires continuing investment in people, their training and development, and state-of-the-art infrastructure

With customers in more than 170 countries and an expanding presence in Asia, UK-based telecoms company BT is looking to gain market share among corporate clients, as well as extend its range of home, mobile, TV and internet products and services.

“Wherever you look, demand is increasing and dependency on the digital network is getting more important,” says Annabella Yau, BT’s managing director for Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan. “With the exponential growth of the cloud and the convergence of devices, we can offer a bigger proposition and add more value for the customer.”

While mainly providing services for large companies in sectors such as banking, electronics, pharmaceuticals and shipping, BT is now investing in more “points of presence” in Asia. The aim is to give more local consumers access to the firm’s global network and, in due course, to charge them on a “pay as you go” basis, rather than imposing up-front fees.

Another of the company’s targets is to be a frontrunner in developing the so-called “internet of things”. This centres on equipping objects – and even people – with unique identifiers, which can then be tracked and managed by computers and other technologies. With all sorts of potential interactions between product or service providers and end users, this creates possibilities that stretch from automated stock replenishment for stores to choices of home entertainment.

BT’s emphasis has been on finding innovative solutions for areas like trade and logistics, but it sees no reason to stop there. “With the right devices to collect data and do the analytics, we can ride on our existing voice and data networks as the ‘backbone’, but extend beyond with new functionalities and capabilities,” Yau says.

The key for all this is to understand what customers want and why. For instance, a hot topic at present in the pharmaceutical and medical field is how to provide remote services via high-grade broadband or other data links. With these, a doctor can diagnose a patient remotely by getting information on blood pressure and other readings. This cuts down on the number of on-site visits, particularly for patients who need routine follow-ups.

“BT has developed a solution for this and it is already being used in Britain,” Yau says. “System security means that doctors can maintain the necessary confidentiality.”

Also on the agenda is how to improve usage of office systems and enhance “collaboration” between devices. Specifically, users are looking for ways to integrate the functions of a desktop and an IP (internet protocol) phone, so both can handle instant messaging and voice calls. This makes it easier to multi-task by eliminating the need to switch between the two.

In parallel with this is the BYOD (bring your own device) trend, which is currently exercising many employers. It might suit employees to choose and use their own laptops, smartphones and so on to do company business in the office or on the move, but there can be unseen or unsuspected implications.

“Therefore, we advise businesses how to manage these different devices and the cyber-security of their company network,” Yau says. “This includes ‘ethical hacking’, obviously done with a client’s permission, to test their firewalls and procedures.”

BT’s pace of development and the move towards providing holistic services have also led to a significant investment in staff. It is expected that recruits, whatever their rank or specialist area, should be able to provide “consultative advice” and understand the business objectives of each customer with which they work. The essence of each role is to think ahead by helping clients develop plans for IT and communications, and then follow through with solutions for hardware and network capacity on a continuing basis.

At present, BT is looking to attract candidates with infrastructure backgrounds who are good at explaining ideas and convincing people of their worth. The company, which currently has around 230 staff in Hong Kong, is also creating different centres of competency and excellence, handling areas like contract management or security. “We are doing more multi-year contracts [for] managing customers’ infrastructure and end-user devices, as well as providing data centres and cloud capacity,” Yau says. “That means attracting talent with telco experience who can do consultative selling and provide different integrated solutions.”

She adds that investment in R&D will continue, so the company can maintain its global reach and reputation for innovation. “We know that ‘techie’ people like to work for a company that stays in front, where they can learn and deploy new technology for the customer,” Yau says. “In addition, we do a lot of team building – some of it virtual – to share objectives and give people the knowledge to build new sales.”


Annabella Yau details some of the major issues affecting telecoms companies
Data overload “With multiple channels for getting information, systems are required to do more. Customers are also expecting more information to be provided and quicker responses. The job of a chief information officer is getting more difficult.”
Environmental awakening “When we do R&D and introduce a new product, we measure all the ‘green’ data relating to heat dissipation and carbon emissions because companies need to understand this and make it part of their plans.”
Attracting expertise “Businesses that operate in this region must harness the right level of technology and skills to lead the way for others.”