BT presses reset on its Enterprise pitch

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

May 19, 2022

  • BT has 1.2 million business and public sector customers in the UK
  • But revenues and profits at its Enterprise division have been shrinking
  • CEO Rob Shuter has been shaking things up operationally and structurally
  • And now he has overseen a new customer charter, new investment, and is targeting growth

BT Enterprise has great potential to meet the real world needs of modern UK businesses, and that potential can be tapped with a mix of strategic focus and investment, improved customer experience, service innovation, collective hard work and, it seems, a new slogan – BT Means Business – according to Rob Shuter, the division’s straight-talking CEO.

Shuter unveiled BT Enterprise’s new slogan, a Customer Charter, investment plans and an innovation demonstration centre at BT’s relatively new headquarters in London on Wednesday, with a pledge to turn the division’s fortunes around by focusing on the customer perspective rather than the capabilities of networks or technology systems. (See BT Means Business with launch of new Charter for UK enterprises and public sector.)

And the division certainly needs to be turned around, as it’s been in sharp decline during the past couple of years: In the financial year that ended in March 2020, BT Enterprise generated revenues of £5,952 million and an operating profit of £1,223 million; In the financial year that ended in March this year, BT Enterprise’s revenues had shrunk to £5,157 million and the operating profit was down to £912 million. Yes, that period covers the pandemic years, but that can only explain away some of the malaise.

The blame can’t be pinned on Shuter: He only joined in February 2021 and has spent the past 14 months figuring out what Enterprise should be focused on and how it can better meet the needs of customers. (Shuter took over from Gerry McQuade, who retired when handing over the reins.)

What happens next, though, is on Shuter’s shoulders, and he’s already been making his mark. In January this year a new unit, dubbed Division X, was formed within Enterprise to focus on the bespoke needs (including private wireless networking) of large enterprise customers, with former Sierra Wireless executive Marc Overton appointed as its chief. (See BT creates new 5G private networks & edge unit, appoints MD.)

And now Division X has been handed a £100 million investment that covers the next three years to develop services and applications based on IoT, AI, edge computing, cloud platforms and 5G capabilities for some specific industry verticals, including healthcare, and to position itself as a ‘tech co’ rather than a telco (that’s a position that’s being taken by a number of big name operators, including Vodafone).

That £100 million might sounds like a lot, but over three years it’s going to get eaten up quickly, as Division X is pretty much starting from scratch and needs to build a team.

“It's part of our ‘drive for growth’ strategy and it’s got three core components,” says Shuter. “The first is solution selling, and that’s the sales, the pre-sales [with] the technical skills to assemble the technology building blocks into things that are useful for customers. The second component is the healthcare vertical, and the third component is our investment portfolio – this year alone there’s about £15 million going into the healthcare application development alone because we have to build the virtual ward, we have to build the command centre... all these properties need to be built. It’s going to be a good combination of hiring people to do smart things, and building some stuff.”

But, adds Shuter, “the most important thing is that it gets stitched into something that you can put in front of a customer. Because I always say to my teams, we don't sell 5G or edge. No customer taps you on the shoulder and says he wants to buy some edge... you've got to look at the world from the eyes of the customer. See what their real issues are, understand your own abilities and technologies and then join the two together. And particularly in healthcare, it's very difficult to do that if you don't have industry expertise. That's why we got Sultan” – Professor Sultan Mahmud, Director Healthcare at BT Enterprise, who joined from the NHS where he had worked for more than 20 years – “and that's why we got the clinical advisory board. You put Sultan and his team in front of clinicians or digital people in the NHS, and they can see these guys know what they're talking about,” says Shuter.

And that team is already hard at work developing useful solutions for the healthcare sector, including BT Virtual Care, a portable, AR-enabled, military-style battery-powered backpack chock-a-block with medical instruments and housing a 4G/5G modem for connectivity that can act as multi-purpose, connected medical station out in the community and in remote locations.

That’s just one of the innovations on display in the Future Zone Centre that is part of the new Aurora Showcase, a space that has just opened up for enterprise customers to visit at BT’s headquarters in the Aldgate area of London. Other demos in the Future Zone include remote-controlled robotics using technology from a UK startup called Extend Robotics, an urban data exchange platform that collects, analyses and makes sense of multiple sources of data from IoT nodes, drones and other devices to provide “intelligent, actionable insight” for any type of enterprise or public sector customer, a Digital Marketing Hub for small and medium-sized businesses that struggle to promote themselves on digital platforms, and more.

And then, of course, there’s the private wireless networks sector that looks to be the foundation of many an enterprise engagement in the future for telcos, vendors, integrators and many more (but we’ll come onto that in another article).

So Shuter is, essentially, building a new BT Enterprise by fixing what was already there (and there has been a lot of that), building new teams, pushing the new slogan (because the BT brand is now all about business and not consumer services) and offers and developing a customer-focused charter of promises and commitments to which the Enterprise team needs to stick.

That, in turn, should help push up the division’s NPS (Net Promoter Score), which is what Shuter is using as his benchmark for progress.

Let’s see if that score is on the up by the end of 2022.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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