The Big Interview

MANAGED SERVICES SPECIAL REPORT 2015: Anthony Bartolo, Tata Communications: A helping hand

Laura Hedges

19 Mar 2015

If your aim is to increase your stake in the managed services market, then it helps to have people on board who have a genuine passion for it. In September of 2012, Tata Communications announced that it intended to raise its services game.

Specifically its plan was to account for at least a quarter of all data revenue as a managed service, in as short order as possible. One of its key appointments to make this ambition a reality was Anthony Bartolo, senior vice president of mobility and collaboration services.

“Our stated objective in 2012 was 25% of its data services revenue coming from managed services, up from 18%,” he says.

“By the end of 2014, that figure was 28%. We put it out there, we developed the products and the market responded very well.”

Bartolo’s 22 year career in senior tech management has seen him work for both start-ups and large-cap public companies, in disciplines spanning telephony, applications, data networking, RFID, SaaS and social networking technologies. In that time he has come to recognise the power of delivering applications in a flexible way that demands minimal risk of the customer.

“Tata wanted a person who recognised how the market was shifting to managed services,” he explains. “My job is to understand where the customer has been so as to help them with where they want to go. I have to get them up and running and see that they are delivering the savings they promised their board.”

Bartolo says that although Tata’s initial managed services push has been a success, there is still much to be done: “Customers have a voracious appetite for managed services,” he observes. “But many aren’t done with heavy capital expenditure yet, and they need to create a discipline around that. With a capex focus you can lose perspective.”

He counsels any potential beneficiary not to see managed services in terms of the technology but the business benefits: “In general the technology is becoming secondary to how the technology is being deployed,” he believes.

“This is more important because it’s either a lasting advantage or a mill stone depending on whether it’s done right. If you are planning growth, perhaps to a new geography, then managed services can be a clean way to do that.”

He says Tata’s managed services customer base includes many multinationals in the Fortune 500: “And of course we have a community of service providers that we go to market through as well. We’re enabling them to offer managed services by connecting to our managed service offer on a white label basis and offering it as their own.”

Many communications services providers, he believes, do not feel instinctively that managed services are a core competency of theirs: “Some take our managed services to augment the rich portfolio they already offer, knowing it won’t cost them a lot of up-front money to do so. Others are second or third tier and don’t have the R&D to develop any services of their own. They can start with us and then bring it in house further down the line if they want to,” he says.

 

A unified approach

Bartolo cites unified communications as a good example of where managed services can add a great deal of value: “Not many multinationals have a unified communications strategy,” he explains.

“They may have the basic tools, but they want to consume those services in a beneficial manner. With managed services they can pick it up and deliver it where it is needed most. That’s what they ask us for, a way to consume services in a modular fashion.”

One might argue that Tata already had a head start in the supply of managed services to the multinational enterprise market thanks to its sheer size and scope. With over 1,600 service provider relationships and a network that reaches 240 countries and territories, it seems to have some natural advantages in the field.

“We were born in Asia, but in reality around 75% of our revenue is non-Asian,” claims Bartolo.

“Many multinationals have been looking for growth in Asia-Pacific, and come to us because we have that worldwide capillarity. Typically I would be talking to a CIO who is under pressure to deploy a global unified communications solution in a consistent fashion. If the company is spread across 12 countries, that could mean 12 different conversations with 12 different carriers and 12 different outcomes and SLAs. We say let’s remove that burden from you and give you a single number for all services. We’re as agile and modular as possible.”

He explains that the trick is also not to thrust managed services at customers on an ‘all or nothing’ basis: “We can let them consume only the services they need and get some experience that way,” he adds.

“They may already have a relationship with another carrier in one territory, so we can tailor what we provide in regions where they don’t have a relationship. We can change with their needs.”

 

Managed services of the future

So where does Bartolo see the managed services market headed? “Managed services are growing as an industry, I don’t think there is any doubt about that,” he believes.

“So what’s it’s appeal? Why do people take managed services from a third party? In our case it’s our capillarity. If you want to expand to Istanbul but your provider doesn’t offer managed services there, it’s a pointless exercise. You need to make sure you’re talking to someone who can do what you need.”

Consistency, he believes, is an important part of the market’s future, and something that Tata is always striving to improve: “In unified communications especially, people want the same thing everywhere,” he says. “In mobility too. BYOD is driving an undercurrent there and impacting all applications. Any managed services offer must have a mobility aspect. Data centres are big for us too, with co-location, cloud and infrastructure as a service. We can help people expand in these areas without laying down huge expenditure. We naturally leverage our network, bolting our applications onto our global footprint.”

We are still, it seems, in an era when cloud-based solutions must coexist with a more traditional hardware-focussed landscape: “Some customers will have a large existing asset base on their premises, and will want a hybrid solution,” explains Bartolo. “We’ve got to be flexible enough to let them sweat off an older investment. They can’t just write it off. Over time the need to accommodate this hybrid approach is becoming less than it was. Lots of enterprises now see cloud as primary for them. The deals coming to us are much larger than they were. It’s not 20 seats any more. Companies are moving 1000s of people into the cloud at a time.”

Important as they are, it is not just multinationals that Bartolo is seeking to reach with his managed services message.

Addressing the SME market is something, he says, that Tata does mainly through service provider partners: “Service providers have access and a local footprint, and the knowledge of those customers and their needs,” he adds.

He draws a clear line between smaller competitive providers versus the more dominant players when it comes to a managed service philosophy aimed at the smaller enterprise: “A Tier 2 will get the capex-saving aspect straightaway,” he outlines. “The incumbent guys are more cash rich, so their problem is not one of cost but of agility. With our managed services they can be timely and not lose the SME opportunity.”

 

Silicon Valley to Singapore

When it is time to relax after a day at the managed services coalface, Bartolo has other responsibilities that keep him centred: “I’ve got a young family, and love to spend time with them,” he says. “When home I love to go sailing. I’m Australian by birth, so I love cricket too. And motor sports. But my second love besides my family is my work. It takes me all over the world meeting customers. I’m endlessly curious about customer problems and how to solve them.”

Formerly based out of Silicon Valley, Bartolo says he is relishing his new base in Singapore and the chance it offers to sample the variety and dynamism of the wider region. “I like what’s going on in Asia,” he says.

“Lots of companies here are starting later so leaping over legacy problems and looking at a more progressive way of doing things. It’s fun to be part of, and is something I can help share back to North America and Europe. Companies here need to free up resources, and may not have the talent pool to fall back on that a player in a developed market might have. In say North America the problem is the opposite. It’s about needing to lower costs perhaps by reducing the talent pool.”

Barolo’s career has seen stints with employers as diverse as Avaya, Nortel Networks and Symbol Technologies, and he has enjoyed extensive assignments in all parts of the world, from Asia to Europe and North America.

At Avaya he was instrumental in fostering the largest pipeline of products in the company’s history between fiscal 2010 through 2012, with 130 new offerings across a broad portfolio. “In all those places I’ve sought to inspire geographically dispersed, multi-cultural teams to solve complex, multi-functional challenges,” he concludes.

With the managed services market set to expand in just about every conceivable geography, economically developed or otherwise, it seems as though Bartolo’s ambition will have plenty more raw material to work with.