Vodafone: Getting ready for the challenges that lie over the horizon

Being a ‘ready business’ is being prepared to deal with unforeseen challenges

Leo O’Leary: “We sit down with our customers and learn about their businesses and what matters most to them.”

Leo O’Leary: “We sit down with our customers and learn about their businesses and what matters most to them.”

Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 01:00

Vodafone Ireland is utilising its expertise across the full range of communications channels as well as the latest technology platforms to help its customers become better prepared for the challenges they will meet in the future.

“Many of the challenges a business will face in the future can’t be predicted but they still need to be ready to meet them,” explains Vodafone’s head of large sales Leo O’Leary. “Being what we have defined as a ‘ready business’ is being prepared to deal with the unforeseen challenges which businesses will face in the future. It is being ready to succeed today and tomorrow. It means having the right type of culture and leadership and having the right IT in place and using that to drive the business. It also means knowing your own business.”

While some of this might sound obvious, there are proven business benefits to being ready. “Our research indicates that ready businesses perform better and gain a number of key benefits. The most ready are significantly more successful than the least ready when measured by factors like customer satisfaction and performance when compared with competitors,” O’Leary notes.

He cites a number of attributes shared by the most ready businesses. “They communicate better and use all channels, including digital, to keep up with evolving customer needs, attitudes and expectations. They value their people and partners, and have an open and collaborative approach to running their businesses. They have a strong focus on partnering in order to operate optimally and flexibly in a dynamic and interconnected business environment.

“They exploit technology to the full and are up to speed on the full potential of modern IT and communications. They are also open-minded about solving technology needs and break out of the old ways of thinking about IT; they make full use of external advice, modern technology and rapidly-maturing cloud and managed services.”

The company takes a collaborative approach to assisting customers become ready businesses. “We sit down with our customers and learn about their businesses and what matters most to them,” says O’Leary. “We talk to them and ask them what’s most important to their business and its success. It might be customer interaction, it might be giving employees better access to information.

“Also, what we frequently find is that customers have invested heavily in technology but are not realising the full benefit from that. For example, we have customers who are investing in 4G because it’s going to give them faster speeds but they are not doing anything to make those faster speeds deliver business benefits.”

Vodafone has already worked with the Sisk Group and Sherry FitzGerald Residential on that journey. “Our work with Sisk and Sherry FitzGerald shows how we started a journey as a mobile provider and then evolved and started providing a full suite of solutions. Both of those companies had multiple providers for communications and IT, and had a lot of technology infrastructure that was not working together properly. They were not getting sufficient benefits from their technology investments.

“There were some key triggers along the way. Mobility was key to both companies. We developed mobility solutions for them so that any user can have access to information on any device, anytime, anywhere. They can now communicate with their customers and employees better and are set up to adopt and utilise future services as they become available.”

Michael Grehan, managing director of Sherry FitzGerald Residential, says: “At Sherry FitzGerald we are operating in the property market and one thing for sure is that nothing stays the same. For us it’s to try and be ahead of the changes and to anticipate the changing customer trends and to constantly improve the customer experience. So communication has always been terribly important to us.”

According to Sherry FitzGerald IT director Brian Dooley, the company’s relationship with Vodafone has grown and developed over the past five years. “We initially engaged with Vodafone in 2009 but solely as a mobile provider. After two years we had an opportunity to engage with them on broadband, mobile technologies and cloud solutions as well as on fixed line telephony. That allowed us to bring everything in-house under one umbrella which created efficiencies both from a management perspective and from a cost perspective.”

Telephony has of course been central. “Through the use of Vodafone’s collaboration and cloud-based services we now have the ability to plug and play from a telephony perspective. Our staff frequently move from branch to branch and they can just log into their phone and receive their calls as if they were in head office.

“Being a ready business means having the ability to be responsive, proactive, adaptive and scalable – and achieving all of those things in a short space of time. One of the key things with Vodafone is that no is not an answer with them. I can pick up the phone and speak to my account manager at any time to discuss ideas and things like technologies that might not even exist yet.”

According to Sisk IT director Ken Kennedy, being a ready business will prepare the company for the long-awaited upturn in the economy. “Being a ready business for Sisk is making the adjustments we need to make from both an infrastructure and services perspective so that we can seamlessly grow our business as the economy begins to grow again.”

Sisk Group finance director Ger Penny adds: “We have operations in Ireland, the UK, the Middle East, and continental Europe. We’re able to use the technology to simplify our own business, to manage and control the businesses as cost effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Kennedy points out that becoming a ready business has also delivered cost reductions for Sisk. “We had a vision to centralise all our data centres which basically meant taking everything out of local zones and bringing it back into a central hub. Vodafone architected that infrastructure centralisation process. As a result, we’ve massively reduced our capital outlay for each of our group companies because we invest in the centre.

“Traditionally everyone would have understood Vodafone as a mobile provider but they really are much more than that to us. Voice, data, instant messaging, presence of people, video conferencing, voice conferencing all over our wide area network (WAN). Vodafone manages our WAN and provides us with the capability to implement these solutions. They are now our total communications provider.”

Helping businesses become ready for the future is just a starting point according to O’Leary. “Vodafone is on a journey and we will continue to innovate and invest to ensure that our customers benefit to the maximum extent possible from their investment in IT and communications services.”