The Cloud Communications division is celebrating its first year as part of NTT Ltd. And what an incredible year it’s been. To reflect on the past twelve months, we bring together members of the Senior Management Team from around the world to share their views on the year behind us and the future too. In this, the first instalment of a two-part feature, we hear about the challenges they’ve faced and surprises they’ve experienced. Read on for their professional and personal perspectives in this special virtual ’roundtable’.
Key to participants:
Sean Kwek, Managing Director, Asia Pacific (SK)
Fiona Lodge, Chief Product & Strategy Officer (FL)
Florence Mas-Pastor, Chief Legal Officer (FM-P)
Scott McMaster, Managing Director, Americas (SM)
Vianney Motte, Chief Financial Officer (VM)
Andrew Pearce, Managing Director EMEA (AP)
Christophe Reyes, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer (CR)
Jean Turgeon, Chief Technology and Information Officer (JT)
Alan Baldwin, Managing Director, Applicable (AB)
It’s been a year like no other. How do you reflect on the first year of the Cloud Communications division of NTT Ltd.?
VM: It’s been a year with two ‘storms’ at the same time: COVID and becoming part of NTT! It’s been a crazy year in terms of adaption. It’s demonstrated the capacity of our employees and organization to cope with it and deliver.
FL: Yes, it’s been a hugely exciting year, with COVID adding a fair dollop of ‘strange’ to it. I’m proud of how we’ve been instrumental in keeping our clients operating successfully. And doing so whilst transforming how we deliver. It meant we were able to deliver on the scale our customers needed – and still need – from us.
AB: I’d reflect on a similar year for Applicable. It started busy and got busier. Our clients were already planning to move to more public cloud Office 365 services, and COVID just accelerated everything.
SK: It’s been a year of momentum. The social and economic factors around the world mean the adoption of cloud solutions has greatly accelerated. And our incorporation into the NTT Ltd. family really does create new and exciting opportunities.
SM: And it’s been such a significant transformation. We’ve re-named the Arkadin brand of 18-years’ standing and one year in, the Cloud Communications division is now firmly positioned within NTT Ltd. as a key go-to-market HVS (high value service). The value NTT brings to the market has created significant opportunity for us.
AP: Absolutely. You cannot underestimate the value of the NTT brand. It’s awesome – and really gives us the credibility that our expertise justifies.
JT: It’s been a very exciting year. I only joined the Cloud Communications division in January, a few weeks before the COVID pandemic was declared. Although we are remote, I’m delighted to have so many talented and committed people in my team. Together, we’ve coped with the challenges and made great progress despite the turbulent times. It gives me a lot of confidence for the opportunities and challenges ahead.
CR: I can only agree with everything here. It’s been an incredible year. One with intensity, surprises, complexity – and I am pleased to say, some very promising business trends emerging which bode well for the future.
What has been the biggest challenge in your area of the business?
SM: Understanding how to operate inside of NTT has been new. However, I’d classify it as an exciting opportunity rather than a ‘challenge’! We’re focused on how we can drive joint success with our portfolio of solutions.
CR: Yes, aligning the Cloud Communications division with NTT Ltd. has been complex. It’s about developing our GTM (go-to-market) strategy for modern collaboration and cloud communications under one brand. This ‘opportunity’ means working through two different sets of cultures, systems, and processes, product sets and services. There remain some organization and management aspects to align, but one year on, we have come a very long way. Of course, COVID has meant full-time remote working for most people. So, from a sales and marketing perspective, I’d also mention the challenges that come from finding ways to keep these teams feeling connected to the business and working as a coordinated team on a global scale.
JT: It’s certainly been challenging from a technical point of view. We had to ensure we could meet the tremendous increases in demand and still deliver at the absolute highest levels of quality that customers expect. Not only did we achieve this, we also began a transformation journey to double down on our three main priorities: delivering the best digital experiences; operating at the highest levels of velocity, quality and security; and continuing to differentiate through innovation.
FL: For the Product team, distance has been the biggest challenge. Between team members, and across market units. Our wonderful voice and video services have been key to making progress and accelerating our Product initiatives, but it can be tough with team members working different hours around the world. Some moved to early shifts, and others later shifts, to maximise the overlap in our work hours. Everyone’s been amazing about it and I’m so appreciative.
SK: Yes, we must acknowledge the many challenges that our people – our greatest asset – have met, individually and collectively. The huge increase in demand in cloud communications, collaboration tools, and digital events, has meant they have been working on overdrive mode for many months. The ongoing challenge is to ensure they are well taken care of so that together we can achieve more great things in the coming year and beyond.
AB: When the world went into lockdown, the need for reliable Unified Communications services went through the roof. At Applicable, we had to react quickly and though there were some bumps in the road, client feedback has been great, and it’s really strengthened our relationships, both with clients and partners. We’ve emerged strongly. We’re adding new customers every month, and the pipeline is strong.
VM: With my finance hat on, it’s been a year of uncertainty in many respects. With such accelerated demand, forecasting became a challenge. There were lots of uncertain moving parts around usage, customer needs, and suppliers, so we had to totally revamp our budget.
FM-P: Across the business, there has been huge additional workload. And it’s the same story in legal, as you can imagine. As well as the day-to-day business we also had to deliver on all the complex legal aspects of the integration: changing the name of all our entities, building a contractual relationship with NTT Ltd. and so on. I’m glad to say, we have everything in the right place now!
What has been the biggest surprise in how the business has adapted to these unprecedented times?
FM-P: Agility is the key word for me, I have been simply amazed by how everyone has adapted so quickly.
CR: Yes, I’d point at the speed and quality of everyone’s response globally in coping with COVID and the surge in demand for our services, from both legacy and new clients. At a time when everyone had to self-isolate and eliminate physical contact and interaction, it’s been such a positive surprise. It tells me that the level of professionalism and commitment of people in the Cloud Communications division is very high.
FL: I agree on agility and commitment. But I wasn’t surprised by it. When I joined the Cloud Communications team last year, it quickly became clear to me that the company was full of positive, proactive, loyal, and enthusiastic people; open to embracing and driving change. COVID and working from home have put a strain on everyone, but the characteristics I saw in our people last year really came to the fore. Everyone adapted, everyone got stuck in, and helped drive the changes needed to keep the business running and growing. Everyone helped each other out and just got stuff done. It really drove home to me, how amazing our people are and how key they are to our success.
AP: Yes, the response was not really a surprise. As you’d expect from a business with our exceptional heritage in remote communications, we really took the imposed work from home requirements in our stride. That said, special mention must go to our operational teams. They saw customer demand more than double and they coped impressively.
AB: For me, it’s the success of remote working – and how seamless a move to 100% working from home could be. Managing lockdown, the challenges of being at home, childcare, and so on. The Applicable team adapted brilliantly, and we’ve had great feedback from clients.
JT: There are many very positive examples of how very quickly we adapted. Our OneIT team implemented work-from-home capabilities almost instantly, and soon addressed the very few gaps we had. Even now, our entire staff continue to deliver a record-breaking number of unplanned maintenance updates as they deal with exponentially increased capacity demands. Across all units – support, service management, Telco, OneCloud infrastructure, program and project management, OneIS, and OneIT – everyone has continued to deliver on our commitment. We’ve even accelerated our internal transformation with a complete redesign of the TI (Technology and Information) website, and enabled bot technology with multi-lingual support. Only exceptional teamwork could have achieved all this.
SK: Without question, our people have performed unbelievably well. So admirably in these unprecedented times. Again, it’s not a true surprise because we’ve built a strong culture that allows us to attract and retain good people. What did surprise me though was that throughout this period they’ve demonstrated there’s no limit to their dedication to the greater cause: our clients’ evolving needs. It’s been especially so in recent months, and it’s provided business continuity to a great many businesses, allowing them to operate in such unfamiliar times.
VM: This sudden worldwide ‘work-from-home’ experiment has been astonishing to witness. It’s also been an incredible opportunity for our business and with our clients. I have been surprised and amazed at how quickly companies have adapted their strategy to hold virtual events instead of physical live events. I believe it’s a way of interacting that is here to stay, even as and when in-person events return. It would be an even bigger surprise to see it disappear.
Read more from our roundtable in the second part of this feature