The Swan Effect

Sean-Cowan-Director-of-Operations-at-GCI

Comms Business Magazine talks to Sean Cowan, Operations Director at GCI Channel Solutions to find out what happens backstage to support channel partners.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): In many companies there is a ‘Swan Effect’. Above the water all is serene, calm and collected but below the water legs are running furiously to make things happen. Is that the case at GCI Channel Solutions?

Sean Cowan (SC): At GCI we believe it is imperative to orchestrate the delivery of projects in the most efficient way possible. Delivering projects between £1 thousand to £1 million can have a huge impact on resources and the ability of GCI to convert sales to money. We recognise this is the same for our Partners.

The GCI project teams are guided by the fundamentals of ITIL V3 which demonstrate that our products and services exceed industry defined expectations. Whilst our competitors mostly focus on the sales process, we allocate much of our investment into the delivery. GCI demonstrated this commitment in 2014 after investing £2 million on network upgrades to become one of the first UK ICT providers to convert our Voice Network to a fully IP based platform with no TDM requirement.

Our ethos is driven by empowerment, allowing the Provisioning Agent to make effective decisions in an agile manner. This combined with a strong team structure provides a responsive, diverse, committed and trustworthy work environment. Employees are encouraged and motivated by their peers to provide a quality focused assured level of delivery and an enhanced level of service to our Partners which is led by Prince 2 accredited Project Managers. They are fully supported by the wider team reducing the pressure on individuals and providing a clear, structured escalation path.

In the fast paced, ever evolving world of ICT, it is imperative we are able to react to issues in an effective way, such issues are immediately placed into ‘Jeopardy’. By working with Prince 2 Project Managers GCI ensures that projects aren’t left hanging without a resolution as we recognise it is important to our partners to form quick conclusions so they can bill their end users. This approach has helped us overcome some really difficult Wayleaves (Landlord Permissions) recently and the Jeopardy process means we are able to collaborate with senior managers to get the most at risk projects over the line.

To answer your question, whilst we believe that most of the time we are serene, there can be moments where GCI are running furiously to make things happen as we are often found going that extra mile for our Partners.

CBM: How important is supplier management commitment to helping their channel win business?

SC: Very important; GCI pride themselves on their engagement and management of all suppliers ensuring not only the best possible price but also good service in getting projects in the ground as efficiently as possible.

GCI continually measure the marketplace to ensure that they receive the best possible price and solutions from all our suppliers, as well as keeping abreast of new technologies and developments.  This is achieved through technology updates, briefings and service reviews where performance is measured. By doing this we can be confident that we are in a good starting position to win the race to market for new products as they come online, this was spectacularly demonstrated with our Hosted Desktop and Lync solutions.

We also have a major spend with the top four carriers and subsequently can be the voice of our Partners. Whilst most of our Partners can open accounts with BT, Virgin and TalkTalk Business, they don’t carry the influence that GCI have being a £60 million turnover IT and Telecoms aggregator. One way this works is we know Excess Construction Charges can often be a disrupting factor in any Ethernet delivery and we have negotiated up to a £5000 contribution with one of our key providers. This has helped many of our Partners retain orders they would have lost with another CSP.

CBM: In these days of bringing together many different elements of communications together in to a holistic solution how critical to success is a practical and pragmatic project management team?

SC: Once the projects team have received an order it will either fall into a solution or a standalone service, for example Ethernet direct internet access line. Whether it be combinations of Broadsoft or Hosted Lync, many of our solutions can have a multitude of services including Hosted Desktop, MPLS and voice which requires the creation of a full Prince 2 managed project plan. This begins with a meeting with the Partner and sometimes with their end user to complete a project implementation document (PID). At this point there will be a meeting face to face or via a Hosted Lync shared desktop session and the Project Agent or Project Manager will guide the partner through to conclusion which is then handed over to the in -life service team.

As a Channel service provider we fail or succeed based on whether a Partner comes back for repeat business. Honesty, prompt responses and diligence are key to success in a growing channel. This is even more important whilst encouraging our Partners to sell emerging services like Hosted Voice, Hosted Lync and Hosted Desktop.