Dan Bieler, John Rakowski

Recently we attended a Colt Technology Services analyst day in London. It was great to see a technology services provider who is trying to embrace both disruptive ICT trends and challenges facing enterprise IT. Here is a high level summary of our views from the event:

Dan: Colt views its network assets not as its key differentiators – but its IT services. Although IT services today account for only a small fraction of Colt revenues, Colt views its network infrastructure assets as a means to an end to support IT services. Whilst we agree that network infrastructure runs the risk of commoditisation, Colt’s network helps to differentiate Colt’s offering from both IT service providers without network infrastructure and carriers with a less impressive network footprint. Quality network infrastructure is the basis for developing reliable, secure, and compliant ICT solutions. Maybe Colt ought to view itself more as a communications integrator than an IT Services provider.

John: Colt’s provides a strong European IaaS offering. One of the presentations focussed on Colt’s European datacenter footprint. At Forrester we get many inquiries on hosting and IaaS-specific options for Europe as many clients have to address regulatory and business requirements for data to reside in specific countries. Colt has a substantial number of data centers in European countries including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland.

Dan: It’s good to see that Colt's IT solutions come with connectivity "embedded". Colt is building on its position as a provider that brings both network management as well as certain IT skills. Colt's go-to-market approach for ICT is based on a premise that we have advocated for some time: i.e.: the integration of IT services with connectivity. For instance, a Colt customer who purchases compute capacities, receives the IP-VPN connectivity as part of the package. Clearly this go-to-market approach is more attractive to those businesses looking for solutions that are delivered out of one hand rather than MNCs that might have network contracts in place with global network infrastructure providers.

John: Colt’s IaaS platform UI looks simple to use. Colt’s executives gave live product demos showing how easy it is to automatically provision virtual machines in an IaaS environment. From the demos it seemed like the pricing was very clear and it was also easy to deploy from set templates. While the platform looks intuitive, Colt has to remember that they are competing against some very large, global and established IaaS and hosting companies. We would advise that they start to focus on IaaS-Plus offerings that look to differentiate the platform against the competition. One option we would advise is to provide proactive monitoring configuration options that align to the Application Performance Management (APM) framework. This will allow their customers to easily monitor applications and services hosted in Colt’s IaaS environment. This is important, as ultimately it’s not the satisfaction of Colt’s direct customers which is important but the satisfaction of customers at the end of the service chain.

John: Colt’s messaging focuses on ‘customer experience’. It was refreshing to see that there was a strong emphasis given in the presentations on making sure that Colt’s service offerings are delivering the right level of customer experience. In the ‘age of the customer’ developing a strong customer experience measurement program should be a strategic focus for all IT service providers. While factors such as cost, technology platforms etc will remain important, ultimately the reputation of Colt driven by great customer partnerships and testimonials will be a major success factor. At the next Colt Analyst day it would be great to hear from some of Colt’s customers presenting again their partnership experience.

Dan: Colt’s go-to-market is still technology and not business focused enough. Despite the focus on customer experience, Colt’s new approach to IT services is not yet fully reflected in all of its go-to-market approach. Instead this is still largely focused on pushing technologies rather than true business solutions, much as it is doing in its revamped channel approach Ceano. This briefing was focused on explaining Colt’s IT Services portfolio but in order to truly transform itself into an IT services provider, Colt needs to build more focus on supporting business-line managers with their actual business requirements, such as enhancing customer interaction or crowd-driven innovation through collaboration. 

As always any comments or questions are welcome.