MarTech Interview with Tami Erwin, EVP and Group CEO at Verizon

“For businesses, the shift to remote and virtual due to COVID-19 means we’ve seen faster digitization of data and more data created in many more places (from a distributed workforce, assets, and facilities). AI plays a role by predicting and prescribing what actions should be taken based on that data..”

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Hi, please tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at Verizon Business.

I am the CEO of Verizon Business Group, a 26,000-strong team focused on delivering mission-critical solutions to businesses worldwide. I help businesses from small to enterprise, government, and communities connect to the global economy with intelligent edge solutions. We work with them to prepare for digital transformation, innovation, and accelerated growth in the 5G era.

As a woman heading massive operations for Verizon Business, how do you motivate other young female professionals to join the New Internet Era movement?

I love this question.  Getting more women in tech isn’t just a job for diversity and inclusion teams, it’s the responsibility of all leaders within your organization – including men. We need to create opportunities and clear paths for women to not only have a seat at the table, but a voice as well. Women are already underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. With the explosion of technologies such as AI and 5G, there is the danger that women will fall even further behind as the tech gap widens. But I would also offer that there’s an abundance of new opportunities for young women that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. The time is now for women to make the most of this moment, and this movement, by stepping up to reshape the future of manufacturing, healthcare and industry at large.

5G and IoT are inseparable in the current context. How do you see IBM’s specialization in AI and Cloud improving your 5G capabilities?

IBM is an important partner in our evolving 5G ecosystem and our commitment to driving innovation that will drastically improve the way we live, work and play. While 5G and AI individually are transforming industries such as manufacturing, together they are enabling more near-real-time communications and responses and enhanced user experiences, among other things. In this instance, IBM’s AI expertise paired with our 5G network is enabling solutions that can transform supply chain management and create smarter, more efficient manufacturing, such as advanced industrial robots that move around and communicate wirelessly and enhanced remote monitoring capabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed us to medical and economic uncertainties that none could predict. What do you think about the role of AI should be in such a scenario?

For businesses, the shift to remote and virtual due to COVID-19 means we’ve seen faster digitization of data and more data created in many more places (from a distributed workforce, assets, and facilities). AI plays a role by predicting and prescribing what actions should be taken based on that data. Our networks allow for secure data and ultra-low latency processing with capabilities like edge computing and 5G. This is relevant in medical supply chains, retail transformation, and for small businesses as tools become more accessible.

What is the Future of Work? How are your AI and Automation innovations enabling businesses to grapple with the paradigm shift?

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed businesses of all sizes to rethink the way they operate. This global health crisis has turned business norms on their head and permanently changed the way people think about the future of work. Now companies are taking a hard look at their ways of working and what the ‘new normal’ will mean for them and their workforce.

To start, remote working is no longer a benefit, luxury or convenience. It’s a necessity and automation is one way in which leaders can meet that need, specifically, a scalable network enabled by automation, such as software-defined networking (SDN) and virtualized network services (VNS), that can flex to support new usage patterns as work shifts outside of offices and enable application availability prioritization.

Preparing for the future of remote working also necessitates:

– Cloud-ready applications for collaboration, core operations, and support. Understanding the tools your team needs for remote work, and considerations such as what internal parties and partners need for collaboration, are critical in shaping the applications needed for your remote teams.

– Strong and secure mobile connectivity to access those applications, as well as the corporate WAN (for those that are not cloud-enabled). With the increased level of remote work, these systems need to be built for and prepared to handle a higher percentage of remote employees.

– End-to-end monitoring of network performance to maintain control, usability, and security. With more and more devices being accessed off-premise, understanding, and monitoring the intersection between end-user devices, applications, and infrastructure is critical.

– Zero-trust security implementation that strengthens the protection of sensitive information outside of physical offices. Businesses must ensure that systems are equipped to protect, detect, and respond to threats in this next age of remote work where sensitive data goes beyond on-premise devices.

– A resilient end-user support model and supply chain that won’t falter during spikes in teleworker demand, both in terms of calls for help and the need for laptops, tablets or other mobile devices. For many organizations, the pandemic has exposed gaps in their current models that are preventing scalability.

What is the Future of Digital Transformation? Which technologies are you particularly keen to explore and adopt for your businesses?

One of the main focuses of Verizon Business is to help our customers with their digital transformation journeys. What we’ve seen is that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation roadmaps across the board and around the globe. Two to five-year timelines have now been condensed into a matter of weeks. Even those companies that set their transformation agenda six months ago, or even six weeks ago have had to completely reimagine their path forward as the world continues to shift.

At the start of the pandemic, we saw:

Companies looking for devices – specifically mobile hotspots and smartphones to enable work-from-home, curbside pickup and service, and temporary crews companies are bringing on.

Network upgrades – Pure capacity needs are expanding for companies, such as data center capacity, internet capacity and port capacity.

Need for more security solutionsVPN, endpoint connections, added security in the network.

Massive upgrade in call center capacity and licenses – helping to provide kits for work-from-home enabled agents.

Now that the fog is starting to lift, we’re seeing enterprise customers begin to understand that digital transformation is not just about cost efficiencies. Digital transformation is the key to ensuring their future and 5G must be a part of that roadmap.

Thank you, Tami! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Tami Erwin is executive vice president and CEO of Verizon Business. She is widely recognized for her strategic impact, marketing and operations focus, technical savvy, and passion for people. As CEO of Verizon Business, a $30B+ business with over 26,000 employees, Tami and her teams deliver mission-critical solutions to businesses worldwide and operate America’s most reliable wireless network and premier all-fiber network. Together with her teams, they help businesses, government, and communities connect to the global economy and prepare for digital transformation, innovation, and accelerated growth in the 5G era.

Tami leads by example in advocating for women, social fairness and equal opportunity. She is passionate about technology’s role in improving the ways that people live, learn, work and play. Tami is a champion of development and engagement programs for women in business and investment in STEM programs for students.

As the executive sponsor of Verizon’s Veterans employee resource group, Tami provides strategic oversight of the programs and resources the company provides to its more than 10,000 veterans, active reservists and military families.

Tami serves on the Paley Media Center Board of Trustees and the boards of John Deere and the Verizon Foundation. She is a graduate of the Executive Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, and attended Pacific Union College, majoring in Business Administration. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Tami and her husband Darrell have two adult children and now call New Jersey home.

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