Gavin Jones, channel sales director, BT Wholesale

PCR September Life in the Chnnel: BT Wholesale’s Gavin Jones

BT Wholesale is Europe’s largest wholesale telecoms provider, with a range of services including voice, broadband, data, hosted communication, managed networks and IT. Here Michelle Winny, editor of PCR caught up with Gavin Jones, Director of Channel at BT Wholesale to find out about how the channel has been impacted by the pandemic, the trends and growth opportunities and preparing customers ahead of the 2025 switch-off.

Gavin has over 20 years’ experience in the channel and currently works with a diverse range of partners to create innovative solutions towards an exciting new all-IP future. Here’ what he had to say:

What’s life like at BT Wholesale?
We deal with over 1000 customers of all shapes and sizes, and as the Channel Sales Director of Wholesale, I lead the team working with a diverse range of partners. My role is particularly exciting at the moment as we create innovative solutions that will help to drive the move towards an all-IP future, introduce great products to the market and enable connectivity for businesses across the UK. We’re executing on our current strategy to ensure our partners and their customers are ready for the transition into an all-IP world, and our investments in fibre fully support this. To strengthen this, we recently launched our new Partner Programme, so partners have the best support possible at all stages.

What is your professional background within the channel?
I have been in the channel for 25 years, with half of that spent in BT and half with other companies. My varied background has meant that I have experience dealing with lots of different cultures across the UK, Europe and more globally.

Looking more broadly than the channel, heading up the Media and Broadcast Division was also a highlight in my career. The sense of purpose that everyone has when they know they’re responsible for keeping TV on-air is phenomenal. The attention to detail and effort is unparalleled and shows the importance of designing and building solutions to deliver the highest levels of service integrity.

What makes you passionate about working within the channel?
For me, it’s the people. I love the ability to build deep, long-term relationships and create ground-breaking technologies and solutions that partners can utilise to help their customers. There is a huge breadth across the channel, which means there are many opportunities to work in different areas. There’s never a dull moment in the channel, and I value that dynamic, vibrant part of working life.

What’s more the technology itself is what makes me so passionate about working in the channel. The last 12-18 months of the pandemic alone have shown how quickly we, as an industry, have adapted to working from home. Being part of the infrastructure that enabled teams to have the technology they needed overnight and continue to work and collaborate was exciting. Ensuring that we are there to deliver the best solutions possible so our partners feel supported is what drives me day-to-day. There’s so much scope to constantly elevate our offerings and digitally transform not only our industry, but the technology sector in the UK too, by enabling greater connectivity. For example, we have recently launched our partnership with Cisco – Webex; a smart, secure collaboration tool which enables our partners’ customers to accelerate their digital transformation and fills a crucial gap in the market. We found that nearly half (49%) of channel partners believe that a new hybrid working model will prevail for customers, while 15% predict a predominantly virtual working model. A one size fits all approach simply doesn’t work anymore which is why it’s vital that we provide the right tools and services to channel partners to navigate the evolving landscape, particularly with the 2025 PSTN switch-off looming.

What impacts are you seeing as a result of the pandemic and what is the current mood of the channel?
The current mood of the channel is very optimistic. If you look at the first lockdown to the second and subsequent lockdowns, I don’t think anyone missed a beat on the second, whereas in the first it was took time to get up to speed with remote working. We hosted a roundtable right at the beginning of the pandemic, and unsurprisingly there was apprehension around working from home and how that would impact productivity. And yet, if you speak with those same people who were uneasy about remote working, now you’ll find their productivity has increased, they trust their employees and flexible working will be part of their business moving forwards.

This new way of working is now part of the norm. The channel was one of the most vibrant areas in continuing to find opportunities and create new solutions for customers. In regards to digital transformation, our research with Cisco found that 96% of channel partners in the UK say their customers are taking a more strategic approach to digital investments in light of the pandemic. This particular research looked to uncover the mood of the channel and found that partners continue to be optimistic and put digital transformation at the forefront of their strategies to keep up with evolving demands. It’s great to see that the sentiment we’re feeling at the frontline is being backed up by research.

Tell me more about the 2025 switch-off?
The PSTN switch-off should be at the forefront of people’s minds – as the 2025 deadline is approaching quickly. We’re seeing channel partners shifting their offering to ensure that they are fully prepared to support their customers in the move to all-IP and are able to seize the cloud communications opportunity, to grow and evolve with the market.

For customers that are yet to prepare for the 2025 switch off, now is the time. Partners should be getting them ready for adopting new technology well in advance rather than wait for the deadline. There are many benefits to getting ready and switching to all-IP now – fibre is faster, more reliable and better quality, improving customer experience, loyalty and retention.

There is a huge opportunity for businesses to take control of what the move to all-IP means for their customers and guide them through the journey. By planning and addressing this now, customers will be ready for the change. Some organisations have already built their new portfolio and are ready to go, whereas others are in the planning stages. Partners should be offering technical expertise and seamless installation, giving customers the best route for connectivity to ensure they are one step ahead of the switch-off.

Do you have any advice for those looking to start a career in the channel?
My main advice is go for it – if you want it, grab it. By working hard you can and will get to the top in this career. It’s slightly less formal in many ways than other industries, and there are multiple routes to entry such as apprenticeships with a wide range of companies.

The reason I’m passionate about a career in the channel is that it offers anyone and everyone the opportunity to progress. If you’re willing to learn and put in the hard work, the rewards are there to be reaped.

What growth markets are you experiencing and expect to see next year within the channel?
The cloud collaboration tools market is growing at a rapid rate, being pushed by increasing demand. Growth in collaboration also extends between providers and partners. By addressing ways for partners and providers to collaborate in a more effective way, such as through our Partner Programme, with sales and marketing resources and learning tools built by industry experts, we can ensure that the channel continues to evolve and the optimism felt by channel partners isn’t misplaced.

What plans to you have to drive business forward in your current role?
I think this boils down to three key areas. We need to have the right strategy as a first foundation. By having the right strategy, we create solutions for our partners that their customers want and need. Secondly, we need to ensure we have the right people to execute on that strategy. We invest time and effort into our people to ensure we’re attracting the right talent and then retaining them with innovative training programmes and ample opportunities.

Finally, we have to create the right environment and platform for them to succeed. For us, a lot of it is about simplification – being easy to go business with and cutting through the noise to be more dynamic. Our new partner programme is all about getting close to our partners and giving them the tools and support to help them grow their business and best serve their customers. By allowing teams to thrive both in my organisation and in my partners’ organisations, we can help drive business forward and keep the channel working smoothly.

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