THE BIG INTERVIEW
Eric Cevis is president of Verizon Partner Solutions and was an early Verizon employee. He talks to Bill Boyle about preparation, execution and the future
Eric Cevis, president of Verizon Partner Solutions on transformation
Eric Cevis is the ebullient president of Verizon Partner Solutions. He is responsible for domestic and international wholesale strategy, including marketing, sales, customers and wholesale business operations on behalf of the company’s voice and data network. Prior to this role Cevis served as vice-president of sales for the American region within Verizon Global Wholesale, where his responsibilities included sales and account management functions for a variety of wholesale customers in Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean and South American regions.
For a man who has been in the driving seat for two years now he is still enormously enthusiastic about what he is doing and what the outlook for the future looks like. And his formula for success is the same one he’s been enthusing since the last time he spoke to us, shortly after he took over – partnerships and what he calls: “Bending the curve of the sustainable growth strategy. We must have sustainable growth – in these days of slowing growth we have to find and build our businesses on stable pillars that will help future growth.” Cevis is nothing not consistent. When we last talked to Cevis, he told us: “We in Verizon Global Wholesale will need to be about sustainable growth, so as customers grow we can grow with them.” White labelling of services — not just cloud — will be an increasingly significant offer. “I believe in operational excellence — delivering services to customers when they want them delivered.” So how far has he got with this strategy?
“The first pillar of excellence we had to establish was that we had to go after every opportunitiy for sustainable growth,” Cevis made this his, and his staff’s, mantra as he knew he had to slow the revenues losses – and he has seen a great improvement. “Growth without sustainability is just not worth it in the long-term. We must have a distribution strategy that has real product capability and if we want to keep that sustainable growth we need to get on board even more partners hence our change of name to Verizon platform solutions – these processes are not ones we can impose from the outside. We have to work with our if customers on their road maps but we also want their opinions on ours.”
Cevis says: “I really believe that we have the best global IP network in the world and I’m very proud of that - but how do we add to the connectivity layer – and improve the best IP network in the world?” The answer is to be as relentless as Eric.
Where digitisation is going
Cevis says that the second pillar of excellence is distribution strategy and product capability. “We need to be constantly in a process of technology refresh. For our clients and partners it important to work with them on our existing projects services but also working with them on our joint solutions for transformation – how do we facilitate the transformation which is taking place from TDM to IP? How should they be involved – how can we get their direct input?
“We want to be the facilitator of the very best technical refresh and provide an appreciable level of quality in the new experience from the first system trialled to the best system used.” is
The third pillar of excellence is technology refresh. “We are working collaboratively with our partners on our road map as we move from network part of stack to the new software-driven model.”
Cevis adds: “I’ve formed a team which concentrates on keeping us the best network in the world – the question is how do we add value to the connectivity of that improving network?
“The fourth pillar of our methodology operational excellence,” Cevis explains - “make sure we are giving a great customer experience whether that is mean time to repair or installation intervals. A seemingly simple benefit such as a decrease in repair intervals can make a big difference to major customers. I’ve seen nothing but progress in the two years I’ve been in charge and believe me, in my thirty years I’ve seen big transitions – from dial tone to leveraging the network as a value add – but the exciting thing is that the best innovations are still to come, down the line. That exciting future keeps me moving forward.
“When I started, basic dial tone services were the majority of my work – that is not is the case now,” he adds. Cevis has been concentrating on standing six organisational centres of excellence atop his four foundation pillars using the very brightest minds in Verizon to head up these centres of excellence.
They are organised end-to-end and cross-functionally – the top sales, top marketing, top operations, solution engineer talent, all make up the staff of his new centres of excellence. Cevis says: “I moved all of my top people into this group and told them: ‘We’re going to major on the majors and be part of this industry transformation which is taking place so that we can outperform our competitors and peers in this wholesale space’.
“We want to own the Ethernet IP space internationally – its great to see.
Ethernet IP growing so fast. We have a great network and I want us to be the first place they look when they want to expand.” Cevis says: “I am very proud of the investments we have made to the network. The question is how do we add to the connectivity of that network for our partners, particulalrly as densification continues to become a problem.”
Set up six centres of excellence
Cevis has set up customer advisory boards which meet monthly and a chief technology officer (CTO) forum and top CTO Partner summits which meet twice a year – with 200 to 300 customers present for up to three days, as he says: “…talking, collaborating and learning with them.”
Cevis says Verizon has to stay more productive in its delivery than the competition: “What got us here may not get us there – my re-organisation into centres of excellence gives me twelve master blackbelts who lead these units – we must transform ourselves as we attempt to change the industry.”
Continuous development and continuous learning are drummed into the heads of the centres of excellence. I tell them, Cevis says, to be: “Relentlessly curious and never stop learning – and you have to take time to care for your people – that makes sure that the processes you develop are carried out. We put programmes in place – we take people who we have trained and put them in special training programmes for up to two years to study GE’S six sigma processes and it works - people get excited – people give us more of their efforts – return on investment is a great dividend player –
Everything must be focused on the four pillars method says Cevis: “I tell staff – if you’re not using it stop doing it.” Today, Cevis says, customers want more bandwidth, now and more Ethernet faster – the question we always have to answer is ‘How fast can you deliver it?’ More demand for bandwidth – quickly – puts even more pressure on densification so he says Verizon is sharing power and space in Central offices to help them move from macro cells to small cells to dark fibre densification using software defined wide area networking (SD WAN) which is also pushing optical wave services.
Cevis is proud of the awards Verizon has won, some from Atlantic ACM – seven out of eight award accolades for network performance, customer service, service delivery and brand at a recent ceremony. “It shows we are striving to be top of the heap,” Cevis says.
Cevis was: “Really pleased to win a Global Telecoms Business award for optical wave technology – Secure Cloud Interconnect – in partnership with Amazon Web Services. Leveraging that great IP network using optical extentions – wave services are selling well and optical is expanding well beyond the metro area – wide scale interconnects are being built without the traditional costs associated with them. Getting rid of the big infrastructure
I am very proud of the investments which we have made in the network” Eric Cevis, Verizon
costs allows them to provide large scale interconnects without the costs of expensive private circuits. “Connecting people places and things simply, securely and reliability.”
Cevis shares with me his Verizon ‘Vision Statement’: “Be the partner of choice to deliver a better experience, on a better network - connecting customers to the digital world.”
Cevis has a mission statement which he shares with staff, saying: “Deliver a better experience on a better network, connecting people places and things, simply, securely and reliably - partnership matters.” Cevis has ambition and vision. He says: “I’m not big on incrementalism – I’m always asking my team, what’s the next $100 million opportunity and how are we going to win it?”
What Cevis has been saying to us all along is that Verizon is looking ahead, planning its networks in conjunction with its customers. Cevis says: “It used to be about supply and demand now it’s about demand-supply – we have to be in front of this huge demand curve – we can’t incrementalise this type of demand - with 5G we must be able to provide solutions with the best network already in place.”