#CounterpunchWithSVG E07: NTT Ltd. Is Experiencing Record Growth, But Is It Enough?

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The year 2020 has turned out to be a rather dramatic one so far. The COVID-19 pandemic has literally halted the world in its tracks. While parallels are being drawn to World War II, this pandemic is far graver and probably the greatest humanitarian and economic challenge that we have ever fought. The fact is, despite all the planning and forecasting, no organization is being spared, and their leaders are having to rewrite the playbook on-the-go. This is also true for technology vendor organizations who are being forced to recalibrate expectations and drink their own kool-aid of technology-enabled remote working.

To understand how technology leaders are rethinking 2020 and beyond, we at Greyhound Research are hosting some noteworthy names on #CounterpunchWithSVG. After all, no better than hearing from those occupying the corner office. Well, in the current times, it’s most likely their coffee table or their children’s bedroom!

The first of many such exchanges with Paul Cormier, President & CEO, Red Hat has been more than well-received. Within a week’s time of launch, the exchange has more than 5,000 views from over 50 countries. Now, if that’s not historic, I wonder what is!

This time up, we have another global honcho that we are more than pleased to host. We at Greyhound Research are elated to bring to you our next #CounterpunchWithSVG with Jason Goodall, CEO, NTT Ltd. To be honest, this exchange with Jason is up close, and personal. I have had many chances to meet and interact with Jason and each time I am reminded of what an amazing, down to earth and a personable gent Jason is. The fact is, he is the brainchild behind combining 31 NTT companies under the single brand, NTT Ltd. and ensuring all of these companies (somehow, and maybe like a miracle) operate as a single company. Now, I’m sure a lot of IT decision-maker readers may have mixed views about this, and that’s perfectly OK, but the fact is, it’s not every day that a US 11 Billion IT Services comes into being. Hence, this conversation with Jason is special, and definitely makes the top 10 on my list! In this exchange, I chat with Jason about he is driving NTT Ltd. through this pandemic and most importantly driving fundamental changes throughout his new organization to come out as a winner amongst other global IT Services sharks.

P.S.: For the uninitiated, #CounterpunchWithSVG is an executive dialogue series by Greyhound Research. As the name goes, this series is about sharp, honest, and unfiltered conversations. The format is simple. SVG throws punches at his opponent (asks tough questions that most wouldn’t) and gives his opponent an equal opportunity to counterpunch. In a world full of marketing hype, we at Greyhound Research believe #CounterpunchWithSVG makes an insightful read. We bet you will share our sentiment once you’ve read this exchange!

SVG: Jason, thanks very much for agreeing to participate in #CounterpunchWithSVG. Truly appreciate it. Firstly, can you please highlight how NTT Ltd.’s business has been impacted in the early quarters due to the pandemic? And has the company revised guidelines on new deals and cash flows for the remainder of 2020?

Jason: Our business was only slightly impacted in the early quarters, with most revenue having been committed prior to the full expected impact.  There were some areas where the delivery was affected (e.g. access to client sites), and in a limited number of cases, we had to increase our provision against client receivables.  We have not issued any formal forecasts for trading in the remainder of 2020 but do expect some impact on the business depending on how long the current conditions endure.

The areas that will be the most impacted will be transactional in nature, and where clients have discretion as to whether investments can be incurred, whereas annuity contracts and services which are mission-critical are less likely to be impacted.

We’re seeing this crisis had had a positive impact across our client base. Governments are utilizing cloud platforms for the first time, providing agility and speed in execution, where previously they believed this to be non-secure.

We’re helping financial services clients enable employees to work from home that again has never been open to doing this before.  And of course, we continue to support clients in the healthcare sector rapidly expand the number of patients they can care for and connect those patients remotely to their families in ways they’ve not done before.  

For example, our Security team launched our Hospital Incident Response proposition, providing services for healthcare providers impacted by a cyber-attack at no cost.  It’s our small way of helping the heroes in our community right now.  We’ve already responded to six hospitals around the world in the last few days and continue to get requests for help every day.    

Our delivery teams are working day and night to ensure we deliver critical technology services that will help save lives.  In California, our team has been working to ensure the Santa Clara Health Hospital Group has the appropriate business continuity to support its escalating emergency situation.  They’ve rolled out a new incident bridge, networking, and security capabilities to help extend critical services for the hospitals.  Elsewhere in California, we’ve supported the County of Ventura to improve the experience for a wave of citizens calling their dedicated COVID-19 response call centerline.  And in Italy, we’ve supported healthcare provider Casa di Cura Pederoli in Lombardy, one of the worst-hit areas of the world, to help connect doctors and nurses to each other through secure remote working to share best practice and data as well as connecting patients in the hospital to family members through video-conferencing.

One of the positive from the ongoing global pandemic crisis is the dramatic improvements we’re seeing across the world in air pollution and carbon emissions resulting from the consistent reduction in travel around the world.

In almost every country, most of the population and our colleagues are staying at home, not getting in cars, on trains, buses, and trams, and definitely not on planes.  Whereas we’re all struggling in different ways with separation, the positive impact of these changes on the wider environment is beginning to emerge.  Major cities such as Delhi, Beijing, London, Madrid, New York, and Hong Kong are seeing how changes in their societies’ activities are having a momentous impact on their environment and the air they breathe.

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SVG: How are you ensuring the productivity and safety of your employees as they WFH during these testing times? Have you had to make additional investments to enable access to resources? Please give an overview of the technology implemented to enable this remote setup?

Jason: Our purpose is that together we will enable the connected future, and it has never felt like such a critical time to do so. We have over 40,000 employees in over 73 countries around the world and, aligned with government advice, all our staff is now working from home including in our Global Delivery Centers and Security Operations Centers. They can securely access the NTT systems, platforms, and data they need to be able to continue to do their jobs and are supported by world-class collaboration tools. 

From an IT perspective, overall NTT Ltd. was very well prepared and positioned with our existing infrastructure and remote VPN solutions to accommodate our workforce throughout and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Aside from increasing the overall license capacity and load balancing on our VPN gateways as well as assisting employees with remote access set up, little to no additional spend was required from an infrastructure perspective. Around 80% of our workforce was and still is working remotely aside from a few regions which were not directly in a quarantine/lockdown situation such as our Security Operations Center in Gothenburg, Sweden.

One of the more challenging aspects during the COVID-19 pandemic has been our onboarding efforts in regards to getting IT kit into employees’ hands.  This resulted in us working closely with our OEM, “Dell” to enable drop shipment of IT kit directly to their home addresses and utilizing AutoPilot to remotely get the device setup and operational for the employee.

All our employees have access to video conferencing and collaboration tools to enable remote working and limit face-to-face meetings where possible as a temporary measure. Looking at our clients, we are increasingly helping them continue to operate and adapt the way they work through our services including secure remote working, digital events and meetings, remote client experience platforms, and supply chain management. We are also sharing best practices from both our own experience and our experts on how to protect, empower, and enable your colleagues when working remotely.

From an HR perspective, we have developed good Learning and Development content on our learning platform, Degreed, to help employees be productive while working from home and also content to help managers to manage a remote workforce.

During the pandemic, we also ran a global survey to employees to find out what is working what’s not working during this period. Using this feedback, we are continuously looking at how we can improve the employee experience. Finally, we set up a microsite to give employees a single point of contact to find out the latest information around our response to clients, partners, suppliers, and employees during these unprecedented times. There is no such thing as over-communicating for us.

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SVG: Our estimates at Greyhound Research tell us that demand for IT products and services will pick up by the OND quarter later this year. Assuming this lands correct, what are your expectations in terms of demand coming back, and which of your offerings do you believe will be most relevant to customers both during and post COVID times?

Jason: At this stage, it is too early to predict the full impact that COVID-19 will have on our business. While we are seeing growth in some areas of our business slowing down, we are also experiencing record growth numbers in other parts, like cloud communications. We are closely following Government guidelines and their responses, along with client demand, to ascertain whether there is a trend. We will continue to update you on our company performance as we progress through FY20.

Having said that, we are helping clients respond to uncertainty and disruption around the world and will continue to do so post COVID times in the following ways:

  1. Secure remote working: providing rapid response connectivity and modern, secure collaboration across Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Cloud Voice.
  2. High-performance, scalable connectivity for efficient service delivery and improved user experience 
  3. Safeguard against growing cyber threats, helping manage staff shortages to align the right security people, tools, processes, and technologies to maintain the security posture
  4. Digital events, helping to switch planned events we can deploy virtual event environments that can be adopted very quickly for hosting large team and customer events, as opposed to bringing people together in the office or conference environment.
  5. Remote CX agents, supporting mission-critical customer service delivery, whilst helping the transition in work-from-home contact center capabilities.
  6. Global Supply Chain services, ensuring critical components to site.

SVG: Jason, thanks again for your time. This has truly been a wonderful conversation.

<strong>Analyst: Sanchit Vir Gogia</strong>
Analyst: Sanchit Vir Gogia

Sanchit is the Chief Analyst, Founder & CEO of Greyhound Research, a Global, Award-Winning, Digital & Technology Research & Advisory firm.

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