Telecommunications giant BT recently announced its investment in digital transformation enabler Distributed. The investment was the first of BT Digital’s Startup Amplifier, which is designed to accelerate next-generation tech services.
A key part of this investment is Distributed’s ability to enable workers to work flexibly with the help of its platform that ensures they will be paid on time and can carry out their work remotely. This platform is called Elastic Teams.
With this tech comes a shift in how gig work operates; now highly-trained professionals can work flexibly with a variety of companies, both large and small.
Mark Murphy, director of HR and technology at BT, sat down with UNLEASH to discuss the investment in Distributed, continued technological leaps for the workforce, and the changing ways in which the company works.
Flexible work and tech talent
Murphy notes the climate that made the Distributed investment a logical step: “Similar to many firms, we have a very strong focus on building our digital skill base. We are Increasingly needing to find creative ways to be able to do that.”
While BT has the ambition to grow the depth and breadth of its digital capability, “when you look across the market, there’s no organization that’s fixing this single-handedly.”
On the back of this Murphy explains: “There is a requirement for us to think creatively about what other avenues we need to open that will give us access to a strong relationship, a strong partnership, and a digital capability.”
With this in mind, “we looked at the future skill requirements that we’ve got, where we want to invest in growing that capability whether that’s across product ownership, design, software, engineering, data, and artificial intelligence (AI), or cloud.”
On Distributed specifically, Murphy comments: “This concept of Elastic Teams, is going to work perfectly for us, because you’re accessing a really strong, very well accredited talent pool, that the majority of which wouldn’t be open to a permanent approach from BT because that’s not how they’re looking to work.
“When you look at the market and the skills pool for the type of capability we’re looking for, if you’re a digital designer, for example, then you might want to work in a more nomadic way, and therefore, BT advertising new roles on a permanent basis to join the team may well not appeal to you”, adds Murphy.
When it comes to BT, “what we are seeing is people do want to be involved in working with BT to solve some of the product, customer experience, and digital transformation problems but in a more elastic way, so Distributed is proving to be incredibly useful already. “
The rise of freelancing
Freelancing and flexible working have become common terms during the pandemic. Simply put, employees have re-evaluated how they work and the balance they desire.
However, Murphy notes that the roots of this culture are deeper: “I don’t think the concept of freelancing is solely a COVID-19 thing at all.
“At this moment in time, it’s also true to recognize that more people are saying they don’t want to get back on the hamster wheel in the same way that I was on it before and they want to work differently.”
“I think it’s really important that organizations like BT and other technology firms are paying attention to that proportion of the skills market because otherwise they are going to miss out.”
Murphy highlights: “There’s a difference here on just subcontracting work out which is another flexible way of expanding and shrinking your capability in a dynamic way. “ This difference is what attracted BT to exploring getting talented digital staff to work for them in a flexible way with the help of Distributed.
Transformation within BT
The pandemic led to change for all organizations as they pivoted to remote work and different methods of bringing teams together.
Thinking on BT’s handling of COVID-19 at work, Murphy comments: “You suddenly find yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to do this remotely, so you find solutions for that.
“We very quickly pivoted from being Skype-based video conferencing business to rapidly adopting Microsoft Teams, so that that became the common platform and much more effective as a result.
The customer teams at BT saw a quick change to a new method of work: “Certainly a number of businesses were able to do far more remotely, like in our contact center work, in consumer teams, we had contact center colleagues working remotely as well, and we would never have dreamt of doing that before.
“The technology and our ability to scale it quickly and really accelerate our adoption helped us massively.”
“We are now starting to return to the workplace on a much more regular basis, and our position on that is that we are we’re encouraging colleagues to come together to collaborate and work together, as opposed to needing to be in the same office five days a week.“
Murphy reflects: “We weren’t like that before, and we’re not going to be like that in the future. Neither do we believe we’re an organization that performs at best when everyone works remotely, so we’re trying to introduce a balance to that.”
The future of tech at BT
Murphy highlights a number of areas that will see changes and improvements in BT. An essential element is “transforming the experience of our customers, and the products and services that we sell them over the next few years is going to be amazing to be part of and amazing to watch.”
Unpacking this further, Murphy states: “What I mean by that is, we’re going to consume products and services in an ever-increasingly different way. The types of connectivity products that you might have brought from BT traditionally, whether that was broadband, mobile fixed, or if you’re a small-medium enterprise business, in a business-to-business world, the shifts that we’re going to create in the way that we can predict and respond to customer needs more quickly.
“We are a value-adding business, over the top of the connectivity. Having a number one network position in both fixed and mobile is a fantastic strength that we have to maintain.”
Murphy adds: “What we’ve got an opportunity to create, and what I’m so excited about is what we are using that strength of connectivity and network strength to deliver whether that’s solutions in healthcare solutions, on drone capability, using our expertise in cybersecurity, how do we create solutions for customers around data and AI.
“Some of these areas we are developing some exciting new products and services for residential customers or business solutions.
“We are creating an opportunity for BT to reset and reinvent itself as that’s the illustration of us becoming either a technology-led organization.”
Safe to say, BT is hard at work giving its customers and staff better experiences. With that in mind, watch BT Digital’s Startup Amplifier for the next big HR technology innovation.