CenturyLink brings together adaptive networking, agile IT and security to fuel customers’ digital transformations
With enterprises digital transformation initiatives starting to bear fruit, George Malim, caught up with Julia Fraser, the vice president of sales, UK and Ireland at CenturyLink, to find out her view of the transformation of the company and its portfolio of offerings and how it is helping customers to achieve their digital business goals.
George Malim: How do you see CenturyLink’s role as an enabler of the digital transformations of your enterprise customers? What services and capabilities does that involve CenturyLink providing to customers?
Julia Fraser: We group our products and services into three key pillars – adaptive networking, IT agility and connected security – and with those we think we’re well positioned to help our enterprise customers with their digital transformations.
Adaptive networking is how we describe our networking portfolio which includes 450,000 route miles of fibre globally, built in automation and flexible management and can scale and respond quickly to our customers changing business needs. That connectivity is the absolutely vital base framework for digital transformation and the network continues to be incredibly important to customers on their digital journeys.
When it comes to IT agility, the majority of applications are in the cloud and a lot of enterprises want to move entirely to the cloud. We provide agile IT infrastructure solutions and systems to connect, migrate and manage applications in a hybrid cloud environment including offering a single pane of glass service to give organisations the ability to seamlessly manage their applications across multiple clouds.
Finally, connected security is all about protecting critical business apps and customer data and we want to make that simple. We embed our security solutions into the network, enabling customers to monitor and mitigate security threats all on one platform, without having to manage additional add-on services. These solutions are powered by our expansive view of threat intelligence. With our network footprint we see more so we can protect more – we monitor over 139 billion NetFlow sessions each day, for example.
There’s a logic to the way the three pillars are presented and this suits different verticals which have different flavours of challenges but are all somewhere on a digital journey. We typically see that there’s a desire to move and change and conversations about this usually start at board level because of the need to drive speed. It’s certainly driven from the top down.
GM: What digital transformations have you had to complete within CenturyLink in order to be in a position to offer these?
JF: Of course, we’ve had a fairly significant integration since CenturyLink acquired Level 3 Communications and we have gone through processes to create a unified operating system for our customers and employees. We have made significant investments in internal processes to further improve our customers’ experiences as well as our operational efficiency.
We have also been innovating and investing in the capabilities and expansion of our solutions portfolio, continuing to increase the reliability, security and ease with which customers can access our platform including leveraging automation, virtualisation and on-demand services.
GM: How challenging is it for a technology provider to adapt itself to offer new services with the flexibility, capability to collaborate and partner and the sheer speed that digital transformation demands?
JF: When we look at the breadth of our portfolio, there are always advantages in terms of the capabilities we have. For example, with one customer, Dialog Semiconductor, which had more than 60 network suppliers, we were able to work with them to reduce those and get down to us as a single, global supplier. Boutique, single service providers will always exist but we see that customers increasingly want simplification. They want single service level agreements (SLAs) globally and a comprehensive solution portfolio from a single vendor as the foundation that enables them on their full digital transformation journey.
GM: Are the digital transformation challenges more cultural and organisational than technical?
JF: If you take the example of unified communications, which we see quite frequently, people now use Skype for Business so investment in those conferencing spaces turned out to be wasteful. Dusty video equipment is a terrible outcome so, to avoid similar mistakes, we need to ensure that new solutions are adopted by users. We need to be able to help with the cultural change that new services involve.
Customers are going through transformations and the challenge for them is often on the adoption side so we complement the technology we provide with a professional services adoption programme to make sure our customer gets to the outcome they want.
A lot of this is about the culture. If you want things to change you have to help with stating the benefits. For example, one client did a project to make its apps experience better and we worked with them on internal communications to help explain the benefits to the users.
GM: Do enterprise customers see a logical progression in buying more IT and IoT services from their network provider or do you have to battle to get the credibility of your portfolio across?
JF: If you look at how both CenturyLink was organised several years ago and how the market thought about itself, we would have been viewed as a telecoms provider. Now, with the breadth of services and technologies we have, we’re a technology provider.
We have to explain the range of our portfolio. Customers are often aware of us in one area but not another and there is an inherent advantage to combining some of our products that go together. It’s not a battle to explain this or to demonstrate the benefits but it is a necessary market education.
GM: What do you see as the key products CenturyLink can – or should – deliver to enterprise customers?
JF: CenturyLink is focused on being good at the three key technology pillars that I’ve outlined. We do also offer additional solutions and we’ll never say never about other areas but we want to excel at these and provide an outstanding customer experience. Obviously, as the market evolves, we’ll continue to add to the product set to bring innovation to the market and meet customers’ needs. Our key foundation products are network services and our cloud platform. Our direction regarding new products is always led by what our enterprise clients want in order to get their digital transformation going or through to successful completion.