BIG INTERVIEW: Andrew Dodsworth, managing director, BT Global Telecom Markets
BT Global Telecom Markets has a new managing director. Andrew Dodsworth talks to Capacity about his plans to make the carrier a stronger force around the world, and looks back fondly on his days as a camera salesman.
Andrew Dodsworth joined BT straight out of Plymouth University in 1984, an epochal year for the operator in which it shook off the constraints of state ownership.
His BT career culminated in November 2014 with his appointment as managing director of the company’s Global Telecom Markets (GTM) division, taking over from Beatriz Butsana-Sita.
His job is now to convince operators and service providers that BT is the right wholesale partner to meet their international needs, something he must do against the backdrop of a marketplace where some customers are embracing next generation technologies while others are still invested in legacy ones: "The market is changing very rapidly, on a month to month basis almost,” he believes.
“As it moves to IP-based services, it leaves behind demand for traditional technologies and platforms that need to be supported, even though expensive and difficult to maintain.”
Tier 1 challenges
In an increasingly IP-centric world there is also the problem of pitting BT’s message against a rising tide of newcomers which, although undercapitalised and light on cash reserves, are nevertheless able to eat into the revenues of a traditional player by offering desirable services at a low price.
“A challenge that a lot of Tier 1 players face, not just BT, is that our services are better than theirs - but are they perceived as better?” he ponders. “Where does the end user see value? Our challenge is to convey the value we offer to our customers so that they in turn can convey it to their customers. I'm talking here about our voice business, but in our bandwidth business too there's downward pressure on price. The customer wants to pay less. Whoever meets expectations quicker will pick up business.”
Dodsworth knows that he must battle traditional and non-traditional competitors alike, not on price, but through the provision of attractive new services: “We need to be offering in areas where people haven't already focussed,” he adds.
“City fibre rings are by and large a commodity these days. With all the providers serving that city now in the same buildings, how do you differentiate other than on price? You've got to offer new types of service - ones that aren't commoditised. This is a challenge that all Tier 1 players face - very few challenges are unique to BT.”
He insists that the company has been busy developing just such services: “We’re well placed with BT Assure Cyber for example in the security market, and with our Cloud of Clouds vision. All our data centres are cloud-enabled with extensive capacity between them. We offer 365 too as a partner of Microsoft.”
All this, he says, gives him crucial ammunition when in dialogue with service providers in all parts of the globe, in developed as well as emerging economies: “I can talk to the CTO of, let's say, a large central European Tier 1, or a mobile operator, or a cable TV company, and I can talk to them about how they protect themselves,” he says.
“It's something we've done for ourselves, and now we are offering it for the enterprise. A lot of FTSE 100s rely on us. And I can give them quality of networks too - because we're great at networks. All this means that the services they offer on to their customer will be so much better.”
Clearly Dodsworth believes that some of his competitors are short-sightedly focussed on making the next sale: “In this market, it's really not just about selling and moving along,” he claims.
“It's about a long term relationship. That's a challenge too. A lot of my salespeople were in the mindset of selling components, and we've been training them to change this thinking.”
As a global player, BT needs to be benchmarking itself against its peer group of European incumbents, which means it must constantly be on the lookout for new parts of the world to work up into new opportunities: “Are there parts of the world where we could be stronger?” muses Dodsworth.
“We need to look more at the Middle East. To that end we've just launched a new node in Manama with our partner VIVA. We need to address sub-Saharan Africa too. We're strong in South Africa and we've been doing stuff in Botswana. We can learn from what we've done with global customers and do more there. The big challenge is probably China. But that might be a step beyond where I can go right now. But why would I want to go and plant a load of resources over there when I can be talking to a Chinese telco and partner with them and achieve the same result.”
So what does Dodsworth want GTM to become? Where does it want to be in, say, five years?
"Our core strength is our network, and that's where we differ from many vendors,” he believes. “It will be about how we can cooperate with them to bring capabilities into the cloud, and go on from there. With unified communications too we can go further. We can address BYOD by bringing security to the cloud. It will be about providing all this as a wrap around service so that we are differentiated from all the DIY cheap service offers. We can solve all these problems for the CTO through our relations with a number of partners - Cisco, Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce. I want GTM to be known as BT's capability extension in the carrier market, not as a component extension. There's no reason why we can't do this.”
He thinks his highly varied BT career will be an asset here: “I've been in the international carrier arena for the past 13 years, working in just about every role,” he says.
“I've done sales, I've been commercial director, and COO, and I know what's required for success. I've been there and struggled with it and I know what's involved. I also know how BT works, and how to move blockages.”
A passion for sales
If Dodsworth has an over-riding professional passion it is taking what a player like BT has in western Europe and using that to help in developing regions like south east Asia, Africa and Latin America: “I don't mean simply as altruism, because that's where we can make money,” he notes.
“Just look for example at what we as an industry can do with mobile banking in Africa. But it's about taking a long term view and not just looking at next month's numbers.”
His other career-long passion is sales, he says: “If I hadn't chosen a career with BT, then it would have been a career in sales of some sort, working with customers. I guess one issue with my existing role is that I just won't be in there with customers as much as I'd like. I love to listen to customers and let them see how we can help. At university I had a Saturday job selling cameras, and my sales figures were better than the people who worked there all week - because they didn't listen to the customers like I did. It's something you have to have a passion for.”
Time out of work is important to Dodsworth too: “I love to cook and listen to music, or perhaps to some great old comedy on Radio 4 Xtra,” he says.
“When I'm doing that I'm not stressing about day to day things. Along with my wife I also like to support disadvantaged and disabled children.”