By Eoin Jennings, General Manager of Easynet Global Services
Since I joined Easynet Global Services a couple of months ago, people have been asking me a few questions: why did I move to Easynet and how do I think Easynet can compete in a relatively crowded marketplace with service providers offering similar service capability based on the same technology building blocks?
Engineers (and I am one of those) most often tend to think of some technical feature as a means of obtaining competitive advantage e.g. a new and cheaper way of doing backups, a different type of server, solid state drives etc.
However whilst all service providers must keep pace with technology to remain relevant and competitive in the market, each incremental technology change gives only a relatively short term advantage as these technologies are available for adoption by all service providers (unless you’re a technology developer which we are not). Some will clearly take the wrong choices or fall off the pace and maybe new innovation gives new entrants a way into the market, but the choice of technology is not in itself sufficient basis for a long term position in the market.
… the choice of technology is not in itself sufficient basis for a long term position in the market.
I was taken recently by the First Direct (a UK online bank) advertising campaign with the tag line ‘dare to be different’. At the product level what First Direct does is provide current accounts, loans, mortgages, cards just like any other bank i.e. a relatively undifferentiated offer. However they make their service unique by their style and how they deliver the customer experience. This is not accidental, and as a long- standing and satisfied First Direct customer I can vouch for it.
So what does ‘dare to be different’ mean for Easynet in the cloud world where essentially the elements of what we offer re available commonly in the marketplace?
Right size, right services:
We can and do deliver a true multi service capability across cloud, hosting and security. Our scale of operation makes it possible for us to do this.
Our larger competitors struggle to achieve true service integration because of the scale of their network business and operations. The best that they can often do is some level of network integration and a veneer of service management across the top of what are essentially stove pipe service offerings. This is no particular criticism as they have to do this at their scale, but it can seem to the customer that they may as well have bought their cloud and network from different companies as they often do. At the smaller end there are excellent service providers who focus on one aspect of service but don’t have the breadth of services available to offer complete solutions.
Real service matters:
The second part of ‘dare to be different’ is customer service and support. This is the primary basis by which First Direct compete. You can go online and do your business through a portal but you can also access a real person quickly 24*7 who can actually help you there and then, and not just take your name and number or send you off to another queue to explain your problem a second time.
It means a common service interface where the support centre is first point of contact for all service issues and owns remediation across all services. It’s about doing more than just swivel chair tickets to separate product support teams with no overall service level view or ownership. I have seen companies where even that level of ticket flow integration is not achieved, so that the customer, who has been sold a story of ‘seamless integration’, has to triage and move tickets between different service provider NOCs for different services: hugely frustrating.
It means having an account management and service management relationship that understands the customer’s business and takes ownership end to end for the entire scope of services rather than being supported by a general account management and service manager (if that even exists) supported by a bunch of overlay product specific sales and support specialists who have an intermittent relationship with the customer and who are only concerned with their part of the service delivery, rather than the total customer view.
It means having real people to support you from day to day. Proof of this lies in Easynet’s victory over two tech giants as it was crowned 2013 European Service Provider of the Year at the IT Europa European IT & software Excellence Awards.
Problem led not product led
The cloud world is being driven by automation. This has great benefits for the service provider as it reduces service variability and cost of support. This translates through to customers in reduced service cost. All good so far.
It certainly is important to have a service capability that is up to date based on proven technologies that offers the flexibility and agility benefits that people expect from cloud. Easynet’s award-winning partnership with HP is worth a nod here.
But is this enough?
It is fine if your business need can be entirely met wholly by the shrink wrapped service model being offered, but many customers don’t have such clean problems. They have to live with their legacy. From the point of view of the cloud purists, the legacy is your problem. You need to figure it out and get on with architecting your apps for cloud like the ‘cloud natives’ and by the way do you like the look of my fancy portal?
It can be a little preachy and often leaves the customer a little cold. They want to get there but need to be shown how to get there and the steps along the way.
Market Maverick – but only if it solves a customer problem
At our scale of operation we are both willing and able to do the extra things to enable customers to use the cloud effectively to solve their problems. If some additional feature or capability is needed to support what the customer is trying to achieve we are willing to go that extra mile and accommodate the variation in support, rather than mandating that the customer takes the standard service only and leaving the rest of the mess with them.
What’s important to our customers is that we create new products which address specific business issues…
Integral to a ‘Dare to be Different’ ethos is an element of being a maverick and creating a culture which welcomes innovation. In the nineties Easynet had a reputation for being a pioneer. Now, Easynet has grown up but the pipe and slippers are a long way off as it continues to be first to market with a host of products. As I said earlier, being first out of the blocks is great until everyone else catches up, but creating a culture which welcomes ideas and innovation across the business is intrinsic to Easynet. What’s important to our customers is that we create new products which address specific business issues, and which help businesses address what’s holding them back from achieving their goals.
Easynet has an active, involved Customer Advisory Board. One of its members recently talked about how great it would be if Easynet could provide an IT product to help his organisation respond swiftly to changing market conditions. He said that he felt longer lead times for network installations were restrictive and prohibitive. We briefed our product team, and within months we could offer him Rapid Deployment 4G. Similarly, our innovative Smart Networks group of products were the brainchild of the Customer Advisory Board.
In summary, I think Easynet has a distinctive position in the market which is about providing real truly integrated service and not just technology (and I’m not going to use the word seamless). I look forward to delivering that service experience to our customers.