Reseller News

Spark backs 'alliance' model to deliver a one-stop transformation shop

Customers needed help as their business continuity plans struggled under the impact of COVID-19
  • Rob O'Neill (New Zealand Reseller News)
  • 06 July, 2020 09:18
Grant McBeath (Spark)

Grant McBeath (Spark)

Spark customer director Grant McBeath is backing the company's multiple brand strategy and "alliance" model to drive success in the post pandemic world.

McBeath's domain includes the host of digital services brands Spark has launched or acquired over the past two decades.

Arguably, the company formerly known as Telecom launched into the ICT services space with gusto after it acquired Gen-i for $62.5 million in 2004. 

Its $92.5 buyout of Revera in 2013 cemented Spark's position as a leading datacentre and hosting provider. It was already one of the three providers selected for the all-of-government infrastructure as a service panel established in 2011.

Spark stumped up a further $50 million to buy IT infrastructure and professional services company Computer Concepts, now merged with Revera, in 2015.

There have been other smaller buyouts along the way, but Spark launched its own ventures too, including its "agnostic" cloud consultancy Leaven and data smarts business Qrious to create a formidable offering.

McBeath told Reseller News last month the changing portfolio was all part of the bigger journey Spark had made out of the Telecom brand to become a more relevant, diversified, resilient and agile business.

To the outsider, however, that array of brands could potentially confuse.

"I see it massively as an opportunity," McBeath said. "We need to be better at telling stories and linking the various brands together and the role they play within the group."

There were several different models Spark could adopt to deliver digital and ICT services, McBeath said. 

The brands could operate completely independently but then they would potentially "butt heads" in the market in a way that might not look good to customers. 

Alternatively you could use an alliance strategy, one that leverages the best of everything, but removes inefficiency and duplication. Finally you could deploy a fully integrated model.

"We believe the option for Spark is an alliance model and that’s the one we have at the moment, but it has to be seamless for our customers so that two  plus two equals five, six or seven, not the traditional four."

Essentially, he believes, the businesses have their own teams but work cohesively to ensure the right outcomes for the customer.

"The key is to have the right person with the right capabilities in front of the right customer at the right time," he said.

"That doesn’t mean a Spark minibus turns up but it certainly means our client, as the conductor or the orchestra, is able to bring to bear the best capability based on their needs." 

McBeath himself plays a big role in delivering that cohesion. As customer director, all sales and service teams throughout multi-brand group – covering consumer, small and medium-sized enterprises, corporates – report to him.

“What we are trying to create is a one-stop shop for amazing expertise and capability across the full spectrum of digital services, whether through Spark, CCL, Leaven, Qrious or Digital Island," McBeath said.

"That’s how its starting to show up. We are making sure we are interoperable and it shows how our customers need us: empathetically walking our customers' shoes, sharing the risk and sharing the value created along that journey."

For most, those journeys have taken a sudden, remarkable and challenging twist. Customers really needed help and support through the global outbreak of COVID-19.

"There’s a lot of industries, a lot of categories and organisations that would never have seen in their wildest dreams or nightmares in their the business continuity plans (BCPs), an event that would have such an impact on their organisations," McBeath said.

"This is taking everyone outside of their BCP planning."

Spark is helping them to reinforce or optimise those plans to keep their light on, he said. 

That was happening through the use of remote working and collaboration tools, through conversations to help with "re-baselining costs", and through reviewing customers' cloud postures.

Customers were accelerating their shift to flexible as-a-service models, allowing their businesses to "breath in and breath out" and shifting the cost mix from capex to opex.

To succeed and transform, many were looking to become more efficient by becoming more data driven and digital. They were asking how to get the most value from systems such as Office 365, and how to future proof their contact centres to manage location and capacity challenges and become more nimble and agile.

As for Spark, it had been focused on prioritising its energies on the horizons that were visible. 

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"Right through the COVID process, we only ever looked at the next four weeks of level four or the next two weeks of level three and how we are showing up for our customers and what’s the role we could play," McBeath said.

The company clearly took some hits, with the inevitable loss of almost all of its roaming revenue and the closure of its retail network.

Out of the other side of lockdown, however, McBeath said it was great to to see customers driving back to embrace that retail environment.

Many of the challenges businesses have and will continue to face have only served to heighten the drive for transformation and the relevance of new waves of technology such as cloud, automation, analytics and IoT as well as managed services and cyber security.

"So cloud transformation is clearly a massive opportunity for all organisations and it is quite a big shift in capability in general," McBeath said.

In addition to helping lower costs, improve flexibility and access new technology capabilities to support new business models, more than anything else it delivered speed – speed of upgrades, releases and the ability to change to stay ahead of customers and competitors.

There was also a lot of interest among customers about Spark's own agile journey, after it rolled out "agile at scale" two years ago, McBeath said.

"We have certainly enjoyed the benefits of that and talk to customers about that. It has been a great tool in our belt when we look at remote working, for example."

It has become commonplace to hear that COVID-19 has magnified the strength of businesses and accentuated their weaknesses. 

"A lot of organisations are living with the legacy infrastructure decisions they made over the last five or ten years, independent of where they are in their change programme, it inhibits their ability to move rapidly," McBeath said.

Leaven, Spark's cloud consultancy, had been incredibly busy through lockdown helping customers adjust.

"It's not only assessing where they are at in their journey but giving them the roadmap to help them get from where they  are today to where they want to be based on their strategy, their posture around cost and their posture around compliance," he said. 

"That’s been very popular for us and has flowed through to cloud managed services with CCL, which is becoming very relevant."

Qrious was also going really well with regards the scale of the initiatives they were undertaking, he said. 

There's a lot around AI and machine learning, precision marketing, churn propensity models, next best conversation, interaction driver analysis – all focused on data driven business models that make organisations much more efficient. 

"Digital and data transformation goes along side cloud transformation."

McBeath welcomed the arrival of a Microsoft cloud region in-country, saying it only reinforced Spark's firm belief that both public and modern hybrid cloud would become more and more popular and that would be amplified by the COVID-19 experience.

"It reinforces our belief that cloud and digital transformation are crucial to future success," he said.

So, is Spark's portfolio of digital businesses now complete?

"We will always be evolving and looking at the market to see where we can be more relevant to out customers," McBeath said.

"So we look at the value chain of our organisation end to end as well as adjacencies to see other pockets of value we can unlock."