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Axians Network – Zen Internet – IP Expo Manchester 2019

Axians Network – Zen Internet – IP Expo Manchester 2019

00:00:20] Welcome back to the Axians Network, live here in Manchester, 2019, our second guest today, and I suspect a little bit tired is James Abidjan’s, who’s general manager, network and communications at the Internet.

[00:00:34] Welcome to you, James. Welcome, gentlemen. Thank you very much. Before we get to the business, congratulations on your new arrival. Thank you very much. It’s a heady mix of overwhelming excitement and extreme exhaustion and describing our house flipping days.

[00:00:49] Well, congratulations, James.

[00:00:51] Yes, thank you very much. Yeah, it’s always it’s a bit like Wales government, but with a lot more kids TV and a few less bright lights. Yeah, know. Thank you very much. Let’s. Yeah. The people who haven’t heard of said internet B2C little bit about who you are.

[00:01:05] Yeah, sure. So. So we were founded in 1995, so 23 years old now. And really we’ve grown organically since then to a point where we’re now about 70 million pounds of revenue per annum and we’re talking to 500 employees. We serve across consumers, businesses, and we also have a channel and a wholesale division. And really across all those divisions, we focus on the services we provide to. And for example, the winning consumer was just one of which recommended the.

[00:01:38] A testament to our focus on service that we’re all very proud of that and say you should be used your particular division. James, yeah, there’s a bit more about what you do. Yeah, sure, so. So, as you say, I’m the general manager for Networks and Communications. I work within the business division.

[00:01:55] So we really we have about 1500 customers. And I’d say I’d say they vary quite a lot in terms of the size to the verticals, in terms of the sorts of solutions that they buy from us, the sort of solutions we provide around connectivity to use of standard E in services around networking. So the traditional IP VPN type services and increasingly software defined services, we also provide Cloud. So we work with each of us. We also have our own Cloud for position, increasingly working with Microsoft. And I suppose the final element of our portfolio is my contacts in collaboration. So the traditional to people, our type services, but also set an increasingly hosted voice. So a whole range of different services.

[00:02:40] I know you guys have been really successful in the last couple of years. We’ve watched you, we’ve watched you grow as one of our customers. And I think what always strikes me when I’m when I’m looking at what you guys do is the fact that it’s all about service and your customers that come through really strongly when we’re working with them. It’s about making sure that. Customers receive the very, very best service, and that’s what your reputation is built on in the marketplace.

[00:03:04] Yeah, no, that’s definitely the case. When we when we look at providing new solutions, we’re going to get down to that and say we absolutely put the customers that genuinely put the customers at the heart. And I think it pays dividends as you start to provide those solutions and as you start to support those customers once they take them.

[00:03:24] They were saying is that many talk about being customer centric, then actually demonstrate action and that that company you were talking about, your your portfolio. Yeah, it was. I understand that you currently developing your portfolio, so you can tell me a little bit more about what you’re doing there, the investment you’re making, James.

[00:03:42] Yeah, sure. So we’re we’re we’re doing a lot of Tractable SD-Wan. We definitely see some really key use cases for our customers right now. We’re also working on fauji rapid deployment because, again, for a lot of our customers, that’s a really great addition to our service. We’re working on developing more type services. I think the conventional previously and I suppose the other thing we’re doing, which isn’t so much about new service, but it also underpins those services we’re investing in our network. If we already have one of the largest independent networks in the U.K. and actually we’re complementing that because we think it works really well for some customers. And I suppose the message across all of that is that it’s partly about driving adoption of the Cloud organisation into Cloud. And I think there’s a range of services support that. And it’s also I’d say it fits quite nicely with digital transformation, although I do think digital transformation over the used term these days.

[00:04:37] But generally, I think if you sort of encompass the range of things that we’re doing, this is a good fit that I don’t know if we’ve talked to you said that your Cloud business has grown significantly over the last year or 18 months. So I guess now your position where you’re rolling out Cloud solutions that people need to connect to that trial being a user experience on the Cloud many times first application so it doesn’t go together.

[00:05:00] Just as you mentioned, Dan Cloud as being a key driver for new technology such as SD-Wan. But are there any others driving? Yeah, yeah. I think Cloud is probably one of the key drivers. Yeah, I think application performance, whether that’s on the Cloud or elsewhere, is key. I think visibility customers want more and more visibility. They want to look for their solutions for me. And actually, I think generally they have higher expectations of service providers than they were previously. And I think things like SD-Wan are an enabler to provide that higher level of service and actually add more value to customers.

[00:05:38] We were just talking to Chris from The Sun about the service provider world, and he was saying he’s seen a move of maturity, if you like, in managed service and managed service, which is very close, where typically a customer doesn’t get to see what’s going on in the network. We’re under anaesthesia model, actually. You can share with the customer what’s really going on in the network. So if users are having issues connecting to 365 or any other software as a service, you can help them drill down and see really well what’s the root with those issues or make sure it’s optimised so you don’t get those issues in the first place.

[00:06:10] Yeah, I completely agree with I think the approach that we’ve tried to take with SD-Wan is we tried to elevate the conversation and talk about management and actually whether that is provided through a SD-Wan or more traditional IPA IoT.

[00:06:24] The way we were approaching is we want to have that conversation with customers and understand what works right for which customers. And actually our focus is actually more of a hybrid solution because we think there’s just more of these cases for the same technology, especially when everyone’s talking about it.

[00:06:41] And I was going to ask you, though, what what what differentiates and what have you done differently? And that’s where you’re going with that. Yeah.

[00:06:49] Yeah. Well, so we’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy choosing the right provider. I’m looking at the right solution. So we run on our five process. We have a whole number of different vendors that character, and we run proof of concept. And really throughout our process, we tried to keep the customer requirements on the use cases that we identified, the other half, what we were doing. And and yeah, we’ve worked through. We considered whether it should be a hybrid, whether we go all SD-Wan, we’ll just with them. Yes. We went through all of that and decided hybrid for us is a different approach. We also looked at whether we should be integrating into our network or whether we should just be offering as a pure overlay service. And again, we’ve identified some real benefits of integrating into our network in terms of actually driving that value for customers. So, yeah, we spent we spent a lot of time and it’s you know, we’re already having conversations with lots of customers about it. We’re starting to design solutions and we’re already implementing our first customer.

[00:07:41] So we’re really happy with what you think will be interesting with that as well. You know, we see the technology aspect of that, and you’ve got to be very careful about the technology choice you make for a SD-Wan. But I’m thinking your customers, they won’t they won’t really care about the technology that sits behind it as far as they’re concerned about the service from then. Yeah, they’ll want business issues addressed, opportunity for growth. So, you know, the technology is important. Yes. Because you need to make sure you can deliver. But the customer is going to see them first and forefront. Yeah.

[00:08:10] Yeah, that’s right. I think I do agree with that. I think there are some slight caveats. I think the roadmap from the sort of the vendor is important, which obviously is partly our roadmap, but it’s also the vendors that we work.

[00:08:22] We just jump in here and so beautifully from our first guest to to to change it. And you have vice versa. Azure your choice of vendor. Yeah. And so can I ask and weave into your conversation why you changed first?

[00:08:38] What were the. Yeah, so as I said, we went quite a long process of choosing vendors. We liked the diversity solution from the start really. We liked the fact that it was felt so bottom up with security in mind. Obviously, that’s one of the key factors in there, so security was important, it was multitalented from the start and it was very scalable. And actually the real thing that we liked was it helped us. We could see a direct way of adding the value that I talked about before. Like I say, our customers are expecting us to add more value.

[00:09:07] And actually the way the first solution is built, it gives us that capability to attack quality because so you go to conference now, whatever the requirements are, then come up with your existing or new customers, whatever that business case for you, you’ve got a technology platform that’s going to enable that. So you don’t have to worry about that anymore. You’re doing something which was.

[00:09:26] Yeah, I mean, it’s difficult. The market’s obviously evolving and the technology is still evolving. But yeah, for four for now, we’ve done a lot of work looking at customer requirements and we can pretty much tick those customer requirements on the solutions that we’re developing.

[00:09:40] So just have to change. How important is the Axians?

[00:09:48] Just slightly lower it slightly.

[00:09:51] Yeah, it’s it’s important, I think for some context that we were talking to Chris earlier and he was saying that he’s changed very much over the past 12 months. So joshing with you. Yeah. Yeah. That’s change that those core value systems integrated with the network.

[00:10:09] Yeah, it’s different working with you guys. It’s definitely helped us both in terms of choosing the provider, but also in bringing our provider to market. And I don’t just mean in terms of the technology, but I mean in terms of the go to market as well. I think it’s really useful for service providers like ourselves to work with providers that have experience of bringing the technology to market with other service providers. So it helps speed to market, but it also helps with the effectiveness of the solution. So, yeah, no, so far I think it’s been it’s been a good one. It’s been interesting as well, because I know we you’ve done a lot of work.

[00:10:46] You’ve done a lot of work from your perspective on looking at data and look at the market and looking at use cases. So you’ve really thought about your business proposition. Everybody that comes that comes across.

[00:10:56] I think we saw that with the research done with you and the things that you’ve been you have got to interrogating and investigating, you should make sure the competition you came up with was absolutely right for you. Which leads me on to the question about, you know, is there a particular market opportunity that you’re looking at or maybe just taking a more general view of what’s opportunity I’m thinking about for SD-Wan, Bloor SD-Wan.

[00:11:23] Yeah, I mean, we can talk about by the customer that we’re working with you, if you like. Generally, we still use cases across lots of different types.

[00:11:33] I think lots of customers are looking for more visibility of that solution. They’re looking for more agility. They’re also potentially looking for connectivity onto other service providers. So, for example, if if a customer has made an acquisition and acquisition, has a networking contract in place with another provider, they’re not sure SD-Wan gives you an opportunity to bring it into the wider secured network of the new expanded organisation. So we definitely see direct to use cases like this coming from the customer that we’re already working with is. But I think it’s about 50, 60 UK sites. They’ve got to I think it’s 12 international sites.

[00:12:12] And actually what we do with them is launching a hybrid solution. So ampules in the UK and I SD-Wan in all those international sites. And actually when we worked through the use cases with them and what they were looking for, it was very clear that that would give those benefits because really they wanted to move away from Waupun based network and drive the Marseillais and the quality of service. And actually this was a great, great way of doing it. The other thing they wanted was more value, as I said before, more value from their service provider, Anastasi. One’s a great enabler for us to deliver that value to our new customers.

[00:12:44] Yeah, it’s a brand new customer that you’ve won because you put this proposition and you’ve got the solution.

[00:12:50] Yeah, I mean, it was it was partly about the solution that we’re offering. And also, you know, as I said, the focus on service delivery and, you know, the experience that the more general networking experience. So there was there was a number of factors.

[00:13:02] But, yeah, the solution was very clearly so presumably if you are already implementing it is available now to other customers.

[00:13:09] It’s available. Yeah. Yeah, it’s available. I mean, we’re we’re we’re we’re out there. We’re actively designing solutions for the customers. And yeah, we’re very open to talking to anyone that is interested in that SD-Wan. Well actually we’d rather have a conversation about money SD-Wan and talk about how I they want fits in it. But if people want to just talk by SD-Wan, we, we have the capabilities now to deliver this.

[00:13:32] So I know you covered this right at the top of the show, but I’m a customer, just head. I’m thinking, well that sounds like a really great opportunity. Why why should I be talking with them.

[00:13:41] Yeah, well, I could probably talk all afternoon on the other side. So as I mentioned, we’ve got the service approach.

[00:13:49] I think we’ve got the right portfolio. I think we’ve got the right experience. I think we’ve got the right people. And actually, I think aside from all of that, we’ve yeah, we’ve got the right approach to rather than coming with our SD-Wan and saying, please buy this, we’re looking to raise our conversation and talk about how we can help customers. And it might be a SD-Wan it might not be.

[00:14:09] But that approach for us works with lots of customers and we’ve got really great support based on how quickly 20 minutes we are and we are out of time.

[00:14:19] Final thought, Spencer.

[00:14:20] Yeah, and it’s been a pleasure working with them. We’ve got to know you well over the last couple of years. So we’ve. We’ve seen you grow, and actually I don’t like seeing how a service provider takes a new service to market, because I think what we’re seeing is the technology is one part of it. And I think traditionally service providers, networking companies are very good at building the technology. If you look at the research and you compare cross-industry actually high tech customer, very high tech suppliers and organisations are very good at building building up the technology. Yes, I think what we’ve seen you really concentrate on is actually building the case for it and doing the the marketing propositions and the sales, because clearly, if you’re going to deliver this, your customers and you’ve really got to understand what they need.

[00:15:06] You’ve got a sales force and a marketing team and a precise team that really needs to be able to get under the covers of a customer and understand the problems that you were trying to solve. Fascinating working with you, seeing as you’ve gone through that journey over the last six months, getting ready to look. So clearly, it’s been very well thought out. Yes.

[00:15:23] I mean, it works for us by the elsewheres, for our sales guys.

[00:15:25] You know, they want to have those sorts of conversations. So it’s definitely yes, it’s definitely resonating well across the organisation as well.

[00:15:34] So it’s great. Thank you.

[00:15:37] So to find out more about them, of course, you’re on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so we can talk more about that. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back. Thank you. Thank you, James.