Verizon Enterprise chief looks past AT&T, eyes Amazon and Google as rivals

John Stratton discusses prospects of mobile platform to rival iOS and Android, how the cloud is reshaping IT, and more

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Certainly one way it's easy to compare you versus another provider.

Precisely. You fall into a mode and you develop a certain set of capabilities, you have a certain engagement model. But when you step back and survey the assets, the cloud computing platform, all of the data center services, the managed security suite, the mobility solutions that we are continuing to augment, and then of course the IP connectivity around the world, there is more that we can bring to bear here. It was important for us to understand that the people that we put in front of the customer needed to be able to go deeper into the business. Increasingly, as we see democratization of IT, if we think about the involvement of business owners, line-of-business leaders driving, to a degree, technical direction, directly or indirectly, our ability to get in front of that, our ability to have a dialogue with the people who are making those decisions or dealing with those issues in the business and engage them, partner with them and bring them solutions, that's very, very important.

Candidly, as I looked across our organization, we had some pretty significant deficits. We have gone through a process of talent transformation, which was very, very substantial in 2012. Literally 38 percent of the folks I have selling for me today weren't on the payroll a year ago. That's a very big change. And our sourcing model changed. Where do you find talent to engage with the client in the manner that we've just described? It's a different talent pool. It's a little less telecom-centric, still strong technology background, but an ability to interact from a business perspective becomes very important as well. So we looked at transformation, streamlining of the portfolio and the on-the-ground operational transformation as sort of our three most important endeavors here in 2012. Obviously the work continues.

Today, the comparison that comes to mind for everyone is AT&T and Verizon. But whom do you want to be compared to? With the kinds of assets you're pulling together, with the direction that you're trying to lead the company in, what's a better comparison?

I think the fact is people will think of us first and foremost as a telecom provider, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. This is an important point. The IP networks are the critical enabler of all of the technologies that ride on them, and that's not to be taken lightly. But that said, what's very encouraging for me is to look across our deal funnel and see the mix of solutions that are making their way into that and then compare who is the incumbent and who are the principal competitors.

It's been fascinating for me to watch. It's one of my indicators of progress here to see that change. Early on it was in many cases what we call these global integration deals where I take over and manage someone's network. Maybe it's a flip from TDM to IP-based networks. You would see, of course, strong competitors, such as AT&T and BT and maybe OBS [Orange Business Services] and others. Now, increasingly, I'm seeing IBM, I'm seeing HP, I'm seeing Dell SecureWorks, I'm seeing Accenture. I'm seeing a different grade of competitors, depending on the solution we're speaking of. How does a customer think about Verizon?

If you asked 100 CIOs at random: "What does Verizon represent?" We have much work to do there, because I think they would still answer the question with a very strong orientation toward network. I don't want to lose that. I tell our teams that we're not Accenture, we're not IBM. If you ask my chairman, in one sentence or in a string of words, what is the aspiration? We aspire to be a globally connected solutions provider. Those four words he's said over and over again. That's a different positioning than the company has had, because there's a bunch of words in there that sound different.

What we do very well is we build infrastructure at scale. We really know how to do that. Sometimes I think even inside our business our teams, our individual employees, have incredible capabilities in that area which we almost take for granted. They're of high value. It's not just networks. I give you for an example competency in micro-billing. We generate unique and specific bills for about 130 million people every month. That's a really powerful capability, and can be leveraged in a number of ways beyond serving a bill to someone. Is that an API that I open to enable service delivery in a third-party data center? That's kind of interesting. Because that's a competency that we have that others may find of value. My job is to open up our infrastructure, build it up, moving our way up the stack. There are what we think of as adjacencies and near adjacencies and then as you go further away ...

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