A conversation with Luis Alvarez, newly appointed CEO of BT Global Services
Congratulations on your appointment as CEO of BT Global Services. How do you feel?
I feel honoured to be given this opportunity to lead BT Global Services. I know the organisation well having spent many years here; I also have experience running the business in a large region. It’s a wonderful company and I think it’s a great tribute to BT that someone from inside the business has had opportunity to develop such a fascinating career here. It shows that there is continuity in the business. It’s good news for BT that we’re able to leverage internal talent – and it’s good news for the market.
What can people expect from you as a manager? Tell us a little about your management style.
I guess I’ve always been very customer focused. To everything I do I try to bring customer perspective or insight which will probably show in my management style. I should also mention that I’m not very bureaucratically minded. I give people a lot of responsibility so they’re able to react quickly to challenges and opportunities. Empowering people is crucial to the agility of this organisation.
Finally, I’m familiar with the company; I understand the organisation. There is no need to explain how things work here. I know the company’s history and understand why particular decisions were taken in the past and what their implications are for us today. So to summarise, I suspect I combine a bit of Latin passion with a solid understanding of the business.
Since your appointment you’ve talked about ‘the next generation’ of BT Global Services. What do you mean by that?
It means that we need to build on our strengths, on our heritage. A family has a heritage and history that defines in part who it is, and the task of the current generation is to build on the strengths of that heritage to create a better generation. Similarly at BT Global Services there will be continuity. Some great initiatives have been launched in recent years; we will continue working on those and we build on our strengths. That’s the core of what we will do.
How do you see the company evolving in the coming years?
Well, we have an excellent track record to build on. We’re clearly recognised, by both our customers and by analysts such as Gartner and Ovum, as a global leader in our industry. That’s a great position to work from but it also implies immense responsibility since we need to maintain that position. Our customers are increasingly demanding. They expect more innovation, more quality, but simultaneously place a lot of emphasis on cost reduction. As a result we have to keep on improving and continue to get better at what we do every single day. That’s our commitment to the market.
The key to achieving this is to build on our strengths. These include our capabilities in vertical markets such as finance, pharmaceuticals and government. They also include our expanding presence in emerging markets such as China, India and South America. We will continue investing in our portfolio, such as our recently announced BT One collaboration platform and our security solutions. And we will continue to invest in BT Advise, our professional services division. All of this needs to translate into a strong financial performance.
What do you see as being the biggest challenges for our customers today and how is BT responding to that?
Firstly, and most importantly, the technology services we provide have become absolutely critical to our customers’ operations. Global companies have to navigate the rapidly evolving technology landscape while at the same protecting their assets and operations. That is a huge challenge but BT is well placed to support customers in that regard. For example, if a customer intends to move to an IP environment we’re able to support them at every level. Not only technically but also with change management, making sure that people actually start using the new IP-based tools. Simultaneously, we’re covering them from a security perspective.
Secondly, our customers are increasingly internationally focused. They’re investing in service centres and manufacturing operations in new markets and need to hit the ground running. In this world of instant globalisation you can’t distinguish on-shoring or off-shoring anymore; on the contrary, customers expect 100% availability of services around the globe. Given our expanding international presence, especially in emerging markets, we’re in a great position to help our customers focus on their core business as opposed to worrying about local ICT sourcing, regulation and integration issues.
Cost reduction has become a perennial issue. Again, we’re playing a crucial role in helping our customers become more efficient. To illustrate, for our pharmaceutical customers we’ve built a dedicated cloud solution for managing clinical research projects. It greatly streamlines the interaction between pharmaceutical companies and their many research partners and thus creates efficiencies in the entire industry, not only within organisations. Similarly, we’ve built a solution called BT Trace for managing international supply chains.
To conclude, I’d like to emphasise that we work, more than ever, as an extension of our customers’ businesses. That means that we need to be close to our customers, wherever they are. We need to evolve and grow with them. That’s the crux of our commitment.