Almost 10 months after taking the job as president of Rogers Communications Inc.'s enterprise business unit, Nitin Kawale is ready to go public with his first initiative and a redesigned strategy for the division.
In a move aimed at mid-sized businesses, Rogers said Thursday it will offer its own managed services to replace a number of IT (information technology) functions, including enterprise-level WiFi that the company will manage for its customers in the cloud.
Mr. Kawale said in an interview the aim is to deliver IT and communications services in the same fashion as a utility would sell a company power or running water.
"If you're currently running WiFi, you're buying the access points and the switches and the security and you're managing it somehow yourself, incurring [capital expenditures] and using people," he said. "We're providing everything to do with WiFi, including the security and management components and software updates … Now, the customer is focused not on, 'Is my WiFi up and running?' but, 'How do I use this technology for a business benefit?'"
It's the first in a set of "as-a-service" products – taking IT and network services and providing them as a service to customers – that Rogers plans to launch, powered by Virtual Managed Services technology from Cisco Systems Inc.
Rogers is the first Canadian company to partner with Cisco on this product line, but Mr. Kawale – who led Cisco's Canadian operations from 2008 until last December when he joined Rogers – said Cisco is just one of several partners he plans to work with.
Rogers CEO Guy Laurence has identified growth in the enterprise business as one of seven priorities in his efforts to reinvigorate the Toronto-based cable company. Last year the unit was reorganized to include all of Rogers' wireless and cable business clients as well as its wireline network and 15 data centres.
The division employs just under 2,000 employees and Rogers Business Services (the data centre and wireline part of the business) accounted for about 3 per cent of Rogers' total revenue in 2014 with sales of $382-million and had $122-million in adjusted operating profit. (The company does not break out figures for its enterprise wireless and cable customers.) Financial analysts have criticized the company in the past for lacking a clear strategy for its enterprise business.
Mr. Laurence said at an investor conference last week that after hiring Mr. Kawale and bringing other new managers on board, the division now has a strategy in place and would begin making product announcements.
"We had to get our act together, but we've done that now and I feel we are now kind of coming up to the point where we'll start to make a meaningful difference," he said, although he cautioned that it wouldn't translate to an immediate "inflection in the revenue line for enterprise."
Mr. Kawale said his strategy is to offer customers the opportunity to "buy business outcomes" rather than simply buying components of IT services.
The division has embraced the idea of "leapfrog" technologies and helping users "go where the puck is going, not where the puck has been." (Since acquiring the national NHL rights, Rogers is a company that never tires of its hockey metaphors.)
But Mr. Kawale thinks Rogers has an advantage in that effort to skip a generation compared with its telephone company rivals because it is not tied to a legacy platform based on landline voice services.
He says he takes a "pragmatic" approach to acquisitions, considering whether its most cost-effective to "build, partner or buy." Asked about Allstream, the enterprise division of Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. that is up for sale, Mr. Kawale said he is focused on "bringing these products to market" and added he has little interest in "digesting a big acquisition" within his own division.
However, the Allstream assets, which include a national fibre-optic network, could fit elsewhere within Rogers and not be integrated solely with the enterprise division. Rogers chief financial officer Tony Staffieri said last week that while the company has previously looked at acquiring Allstream and decided to pass, "if there's enough accretive value at the right price, it could be something we're interested in," adding, "But that hasn't been the case in the past."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Rogers Business Services, which accounted for 3 per cent of the company's overall revenue in 2014, is one part of the company's broader enterprise unit and Rogers does not break out separate financial figures for its enterprise wireless and cable customers.