Change Brings Opportunity

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Editor Ian Hunter reports from the Zen partner conference held at the end of 2015 where amongst other things the company was celebrating their 20th birthday.

As editor of Comms Business Magazine I have, as you might expect, attended many a channel partner event over the course of my 15 years in the job. Some have been good but far too many I have to say have been dreadful. So what makes a good or bad conference?

Well in my opinion many things, but if I were to pick one reason why the two Zen Conferences I have attended (I was at the Belfry last year) have been good it is this; Zen listen to their channel and then do something about what their partners want. They then deliver that news in a form that is participative rather than the all too familiar prescriptive ‘death by PowerPoint’ route that others go down.

And so it turned out once again for the Zen 2015 Partner Event held at BT Tower and hosted by BT Wholesale. It was a great event, full of content that pointed towards opportunity ahead. If you missed it then that was a shame but here’s my take on that day.

It is an important time for Zen, their reseller partners and indeed the whole channel.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 14.28.00Never has it been a more important time for resellers to break out and away from single silo based sales activity in to being a more rounded supplier of products applications and services that can be ‘joined up’ to provide end users with a communications infrastructure that is fit for today’s purpose.

Remember I said Zen listen to their channel? So Stephen Warburton, Managing Director – Channel Partners opened up his keynote by reminding resellers what they asked for and what Zen has done about it

A new billing platform and service has been developed with the capability of billing voice along with the request for training webinars on subjects such as portals and diagnostics.

Warburton rounded off his keynote by announcing enhancements and new tools for the Zen provisioning portal as well as pointing to a development roadmap for the coming year and beyond.

Zen is celebrating its 20th Birthday this year and when Chief Executive and company founder Richard Tang addressed resellers at his channel partner conference he began by reviewing some of the events that have taken place since the company first started offering dial up internet access for £10.00 a month.

Richard’s major concern at the time was that a big player would enter the market and offer free internet access just to grab the market. Inevitably someone did but the result for Zen was that their sales soared on the back of a business customer focus, great service and the introduction of broadband for business.

“In fact the threat became an opportunity,” said Richard who went on to note his Top Five opportunities for partners that were brought about by disruptive and technological change in the market.

These are:

  1. Fibre Broadband – the change from ADSL to FTTC/FTTP
  2. Hosted Voice – What’s changing:
  3. Cloud based services – What’s changing:
  4. IPV4 and IPV6
  5. Open API’s – new ways of developing software and SaaS.

“If change brings opportunity then it pays to get in there where the action is. Often in an area that’s changing rapidly, writing a meaningful business plan is difficult or impossible!
There’s a balance to consider when constructing business plans; sometimes you just have to trust your gut feeling in the hope that the big opportunities will reveal themselves some way down the road.”

Our most fundamental long-term objectives are to have happy staff, happy customers and happy suppliers. Our culture and values are hugely important to me and my plan is to absolutely continue to build upon them for the next 20 years and beyond.”

Some observers would say that focussing on people ahead of money damages financial performance and so limits investment for the future. But Richard says the reality is quite the contrary.

“Ironically, putting people first is, I believe, a recipe for better financial performance long-term because you make the best long-term decisions for the business without being clouded by pressure to hit short-term financial targets, which are often not at all in the long-term best interests of the business.”

So his message to partners is, “You can trust your business in Zen now and for the long-term future, knowing that we’ll continually strive towards our mission to provide the best service and towards our people-centric long-term objectives.”