Claranet (www.clara.net) announced last week that it has appointed Michel Robert as its new Managing Director of UK operations. The company portrays him as an expert in business development and marketing and hopes he will be able to implement group strategy in the UK business, in particular driving forward Claranet's business IT and solutions services. The company expects the new MD to have significant input into a review of the brands it currently operates including Netscalibur and U-Net.
We asked Mr Robert how he saw broadband changing within the business market, and how Claranet expects to take the company forward in an increasingly competitive industry.
What do you think will be most significant broadband-related development in the next two years that will affect SMEs
"The most significant development impacting SMEs going forward is going to be convergence. It's now no longer just talk and improvements in broadband infrastructure and the subsequent cost reductions mean that SMEs are taking advantage of the various robust and cost effective services that Internet Protocol now supports. SMEs can take advantage of services previously reserved for larger companies including centralisation and outsourcing of applications (including voice)."
How does Claranet believe it can achieve a competitive position in the SME market with the increasing competition from larger companies?
"After 10 years in business, Claranet already has a strong competitive position in the SME market. We maintain this position through continuous investment in our service delivery and providing flexible, outstanding - in fact award winning - services. What's more, our connectivity services are carrier neutral. That means we don't rely on one carrier and so can be flexible with our solutions and offer best of breed products. We really focus on delivering against a specific set of service offerings which allows us to scale our business and deliver top quality services at competitive prices."
What sort of new services can we expect from Claranet beyond the simple hosting/connectivity market?
"Application management. Over the last five years, Claranet has transformed from an ISP into a managed services provider through acquisition and strategic partnerships. One of these acquisitions is a company called Artful in France, which has built a fantastic Application Management business. We are leveraging this experience in the UK and have invested in a new data centre to deliver this service in the near future. Naturally we keep investing in the development of our connectivity and managed hosting services, however, managing applications is going to be a major new focus for us. This service includes the design, deployment and ongoing management of applications on behalf of clients, allowing them to focus on the use of the application in their business, not keeping it running."Questions to Michel Robert, Managing Director, Claranet UK