Cutting Room: Orange strategy


Orange’s new talk of quality is late. Its restructure of its old federated dealer programme, in place since 2006, appears like the changes O2 has put in place in a series of measured initiatives in the interim with its various ‘centres of excellence’ and its ‘approved’ programme.

Through those, O2 has shaped its own third-party sales channels to control and incentivise their curious activities. It has set the benchmark for revenue share.

Moves by rivals on its heels show O2 has effectively shaped the wider dealer market also, with the channel’s focus now on business connections in the main, stress over KPIs from multiple paymasters and moves recently to commit most business to a single one.

Guillaume van Gaver (pictured) has re-entered Orange UK as sales chief, at a time when the business is buzzing with new senior management instruction, a lightness of touch and the biggest deal this industry has seen for a decade. It is in a transformative state, and will hitch the rest of the industry up to the bumper for the ride.

How late is Orange, and are its changes to indirect channel strategy sufficiently bold for it to lead the SME market? Well, first look suggests they don’t go much beyond what O2 has already set down. But detail at this point is scarce. Orange has arguably more loyalty within the dealer market than any network brand because of its heritage and consistency there. 

It also has momentum, which appears like it will rocket it beyond normal boundaries. April 1, 2010; new channel structure, reinvigorated ‘animal’ tariffs, its contract base past seven million, iPhone in the bag, a long and prosperous relationship with HTC, nudging Vodafone for second in terms of total base. And a joint venture project to be made legal in hours.

Is it too late? Not with that kind of acceleration, and a partner also very pro-active in the dealer market. And, anyway, Vodafone’s strategy appears even more sluggish at present. It is rather like – and much less pressing than – the latency question around O2’s network infrastructure.

Will O2 be found out? The sense, right now, is it can get away with it if it acts quickly. There are those more familiar with the state of UK network infrastructure, and the tenders put out to the likes of Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei, who suggest O2’s network is a laggard, and even that Orange/T-Mobile are ready to tear down their entire networks to set up some kind of futurist infrastructure to save them integration headaches and streak ahead.

Something is up, and there will be some red herrings along the way to put rivals at their leisure. Eighteen months to run the Orange and T-Mobile brands in tandem? That smells like a fishy number to me. The joint venture will happen quickly, and all sales channels will be swept along.

Van Gaver’s focus on quality from sales agents is not, presently, a new concept; it is an urgent patch up and catch up. But it will get results in the SME market because of everything else going on within Orange and T-Mobile.

The network message will chime with the business market. The joint venture project should have at its disposal forward-looking unified communications solutions. At some point in 2011.

It will ask all the questions of O2 and Vodafone, and the former will be closely examined and the latter will be made talk and chase business for the first time in its UK history.