Telstra Vantage – an opportunity to gain insight, to be inspired, and to innovate where together we can shape tomorrow.
It is my fourth Telstra Vantage, and as I reflect on it – wow! What changes we have seen! Not only in technology but in the way we work together. My first two Vantage events were as a Telstra employee, whilst my third and fourth have been as a Telstra partner – and each one has been nothing short of amazing. Vantage is the largest technology showcase in the southern hemisphere, and something I would recommend customers and partners take part in every year that they can.
Day one of the event was Partner Day. Our MCs were the fabulous Rodney Bellman (Channel Manager) and Pia Veloz (ICT Channel Manager) who kicked everything off with great 80’s tunes and even better humour. Standing up in front of your peers and partners like that is not easy, so well done to both of them for beginning the event with great energy and keeping us going throughout the afternoon.
We then had the pleasure of hearing from Michael Ebeid – Telstra Group Executive for Enterprise. Michael was just about to begin his journey with Telstra during last year’s Vantage, after having been CEO and Managing Director for SBS. So it was great to hear his reflections on his first year in the role and where he sees Telstra Enterprise going in the future. We also heard from Telstra’s Enterprise Sales Executive team on their strategy for the coming years. John Ieraci (Chief Customer Officer), Kevin Teoh (Head of Business Customer Sales), Christopher Smith (Executive Director, Global Services) and Andy McFarlane (Enterprise Marketing & Pricing Executive) openly shared insightful information on the challenges that Telstra has faced over the last year, as well as the great success they have been able to achieve despite those challenges. In large part this success has been due to the strong Telstra partner network which we here at the Cloud Collective are so proud to be a part of. And we also had the pleasure of hearing from Nevash Pillay (Director, Global Indirect Channels) and Doug Henderson (Head of Partner Sales, Australia). Nevash, Doug and their team once again reinforced the importance of Telstra’s partner network: especially with the restructuring Telstra has gone through. This left us feeling more energised than ever about the opportunities that lie before us. After hearing from the leadership team we had some great breakout sessions and a chance to network with fellow partners ahead of the evening activities.
The evening festivities on day one were all about the Partners! We gathered in the beautiful Crown Palladium ballroom for the Telstra Partner Awards and Gala dinner, where all the ladies and gents were in black tie, or their interpretation of it – everyone was looking very sharp!
The evening was kicked off by the first ever Telstra Channel Choir, put together by Telstra’s own Marie Dal Negro (National Partner Sales Specialist and Domain Lead for Collaboration). I was honoured to be a part of the choir which was made up of over 35 Telstra employees and partner staff. We sang two classic Queen songs: We Will Rock You and Crazy Little Thing Called Love. The rehearsals leading up to the Gala Dinner were great fun: they were conducted using video conferencing in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (a truly modern form of collaboration). We did hold a final rehearsal on the night to pull everything together, and pull off what we hope was a fun start to the evening – we all sure enjoyed it! From there, we celebrated the partner award winners, enjoying a delicious meal and live entertainment by Tim Campbell. And there was plenty of dancing to more fabulous 80s tunes. We even had the opportunity to help Telstra’s event charity partner raise money to connect 1000 people experiencing homelessness. It was a fantastic evening and a big thanks to Telstra for putting it on for all of us!
Day two of Telstra Vantage was all about Discovery as the Expo opens for the first time exclusively for Telstra staff and partners. The morning was kicked off with excellent keynotes given by Telstra’s John Ieraci (Chief Customer Officer), Kevin Teoh (Head of Business Customer Sales), Andy McFarlane (Enterprise Marketing & Pricing Executive) and Simone Elliott (General Manager Product Marketing). Simone’s team are responsible for the amazing changes made to the Vantage village and expo this year. They have created a whole new look and feel to the event. Their intention is to take each customer on a technology discovery journey guaranteed to give them fresh insight into how technology can help them, to feel inspired by the possibilities, and to discover ways they can innovate and shape the future. Kevin Teoh shared his thoughts on what he sees as the three most important things for customers as they experience Vantage:
- It is a unique chance to discover a new side to Telstra
- Customers get to experience the best of the best in technology partners and solutions whilst at Vantage – the largest tech showcase in this part of world
- With technology we are creating value for customers which in turn will allow them to create value for themselves
With 21% more customers registered for this year’s Vantage, Andy McFarlane shared his three asks of all of us as partners:
- Think about how we will host our customers – talk with them, engage with them and don’t spend too much time talking to your own colleagues
- Follow through post Vantage – it is a commercial investment that we have all made to be here so make the most of it
- Strive to use Vantage to curate new stories with customers that we will see feature in next year’s Vantage
As they wrapped up their keynotes Andy asked each one of his colleagues to give a word about how they were feeling about this year’s Vantage and the opportunities ahead:
- Kevin was feeling ‘inspired’
- Simone was feeling ‘excited’
- And John was feeling ‘fighting fit’
Following this we were fortunate enough to have Vala Afshar (Chief Digital Evangelist from Salesforce) present to us. Vala’s presentation was packed full of interesting insights and statistics. He highlighted the number of innovations and inventions that have come out of Australia, many of which I personally did not know. For example, the first child safety seat, Granny Smith Apples, and Wi-Fi, were all invented and created by Australians – even the refrigerator was created here. And he highlighted Telstra’s own trail blazing history from creating the first ever telegraph in the 1850’s, to creating the first mobile phone in the 80’s, all the way to the modern day with the creation of the powerful 5G network. Some of the stats and insights that stood out for me where:
- 2000 devices are added to the Telstra network each day
- Data never sleeps in the age of the connected customer – for example, each minute of each day in 2019 there were 188,000,000 emails, 18,100,100 texts, and 390,030 app downloads, to name a few
- Companies are falling short of customer expectations – 73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs whilst only 51% say companies actually do understand those needs.
- Customer experience is starting to reach parity with product quality
- Customers assess a company’s experience with their wallets – 57% of customers have stopped buying from a company due to poor service whilst 67% of customers report they will pay more for a great experience
- Rules for customer engagement are being re-written with 54% of customers say companies need to transform how they engage with them via personalised, timely and connected engagement
- AI will require more sales headcount, not less – 76% of sales teams using AI are adding staff
- More than half of sales reps expect to miss quota due to increased customer expectations
- Buyers are taking charge of how they receive information – they will most likely know more about your company than you may think in your first in-person interaction
- CRMs will continue to integrate with emails, meetings, calls, etc., using AI, and in turn will proactively recommend the next best actions in near real-time
After the great morning, I then joined our Cloud Collective team at our first ever technology booth on the expo floor. We are featuring our Security and Teams solutions at the booth, and explaining the full scope of our offering to customers. It was a busy afternoon with many partner and Telstra reps stopping by. It was great to engage with them and talk about the solutions we provide and the customers we have been so fortunate to help on their Microsoft technology journey via the Telstra channel.
There is so much more to come here at Telstra Vantage, with the two massive customer days ahead of us. We took so much out of the Partner and Discovery days and are so excited about the future we will curate with Telstra and their customers. It is obvious there are big things in store for Telstra and our partnership with them. I will leave you with my ‘one word’ for how I’m feeling at this year’s Vantage: “Energised”!
Written by Eric Coffman