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Inside Verizon’s Transformation

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Key Takeaways

⇨ Verizon Global Technology Solutions’ Jane Connell, SVP and CIO of Corporate Systems, gave an exclusive interview to SAPinsider.

⇨ Major transformational projects need buy-in from key stakeholders around the enterprise.

⇨ Team members need both the right attitude and technical acumen to be a key contributor to transformation projects.

Verizon SVP and CIO Jane Connell shares her transformation playbook

Following her keynote speech at SAPinsider Vegas 2023, Verizon Global Technology Solutions’ Jane Connell, SVP and CIO of Corporate Systems, gave an exclusive interview to SAPinsider. Connell addressed how she made her company’s transformation a success, the tough decisions she and the company had to make, and the skills and personality she looks for in those embarking on a transformational journey.

SAPinsider: How did you get started with Verizon?

Jane Connell: Over two years ago, Verizon started a transformation journey to better serve our customers. We aligned the company structure into our Consumer and B2B businesses, made large investments into our network, and began pursuing a corporate technology refresh to enable the harmonizing of capabilities and processes required for the company to compete in size and scale. That is when they created my position to come in and reimagine end-to-end transformation.

Through our common networks we connected, started talking, and ultimately there was a match between what they were looking for and my background and experience.

SAPinsider: What is making this transformation so successful?

Jane Connell: What made it so successful is our senior leadership, their teams, and their collaboration. Prior to my joining, I had candid conversations with many of them on what it takes to execute an implementation of this magnitude, and they said they were committed to making it happen. We just went live with our entire wireless business and they were true to their word and did not falter.

It was very clear the leadership was willing to lean in and make the tough decisions. They leaned in on the transparency and gave me the authority to make the calls that I needed to make with them and the options for them to consider. They were very authentic about it. We took our time, and the conversations were continuous.

We’re transforming four major platforms at the enterprise level. One went live in January. Our second one went live in February. Our third one is in May, and our fourth is still in strategy and design. However, given the size of this ERP implementation, no one would argue it was the implementation that opened many eyes to what it takes.

This isn’t just changing out technology because it’s outdated. We had to orchestrate the business stakeholders as there was design work done years ago which was now antiquated based on the current needs, and we fell short of the capabilities required to deliver the customer experience we envision.

We also needed to put data front and center. Hard decisions had to be made to create the data model that would enable the analytics, insights, and automation in the future which is the whole promise of these platform transformations.

SAPinsider: What were some of those tough decisions you had to make?

Jane Connell: Designing one way to look at financials, ensuring roll up and down of information, and creating a single source of truth. Redesigning capabilities in Supply Chain for future go-to-market strategies such as forward and reverse logistics.

Ultimately, designing capabilities to serve our customers – not internal processes. Those are hard internal trade-off decisions. These decisions make people feel like they lost functionality. They could feel like the system is too rigid. By aligning on the vision of customer experience and the capabilities required to deliver them, you can align and make the right decisions to move forward.

Ultimately, when you get into user acceptance testing given all the employees can’t be in the design phase, you further reiterate the vision and purpose, thus driving additional change and acceptance with the employees.

Our field simulation was probably the most powerful thing we did. The tens of thousands of field employees that would never sit in a room designing or testing got to feel and touch the platform and provide direct feedback. Not only did it make the design better, but it drove early adoption of the users required for success.

Now we can automate further, we have reduced the time spent reconciling data manually, and have begun the journey towards real data insights – making us more operationally effective, agile and responsive to our customers. This also frees up capacity for our employees allowing them time to upskill or have the bandwidth to focus on business imperatives versus the manual work consuming them prior.

Let’s face it: technology will do whatever you want it to do; it’s the people and the process that really drive the value. You have to do all three. The hard part is upskilling the organization during this transformation journey so people don’t get frustrated. Technology continuously challenges the status quo, and it’s the organizations that know how to harness it with their talent who will win.

SAPinsider: What are you most proud of with this transformation?

Jane Connell: The piece I’m most proud of is how our company, senior leaders, and our cross functional organizations came together and really took accountability for their part of the program. This was not treated as a technology implementation. This was a business transformation, and that accountability went throughout the company. It took us time to get there – but we absolutely got there.

What the company is striving for is to become one, and relentlessly focus on our employees and customers. That’s all you’ll hear if you walk our hallways: “employee centricity and customer centricity.” If it doesn’t add value, why are we doing it? That is the message from our CEO on down. It’s very, very clear in messaging, but it doesn’t become tangible until you go through something like this.

This implementation brought cross functional parts of the company together who otherwise did not work together. When I first set up my peer forum to drive decisions, folks wanted to send delegates. Through personal phone calls and engagement, we started to role model what it takes and quickly our teams emulated us.

This was amazing to watch and very empowering for the organization. It changed our DNA and now many other cross functional forums exist. This is way larger than 1ERP. There’s such a connectivity that I never want us to lose.

SAPinsider: What was the system architecture beforehand? And after the transformation, what does it look like now?

Jane Connell: Before, there was so much legacy technology disconnected on data and process. We didn’t have visibility of what we call the boundary systems (upstream and downstream systems), which is what breaks almost 90% of your ERP implementations. We had technology debt, numerous instances and an array of applications.

At the start there were seven ERPs; we are down to three now. They’re each monolithic and support different parts of our business. In our journey, we are going down to one. We have two more to retire once we align them to the new processes and data. It is much easier now since we have the playbook and the big one is behind us.

SAPinsider: Did you select a cloud or on-premise deployment?

Jane Connell: For platforms, we have a hybrid architecture. SAP is on-prem, but for Ariba, we are cloud, and for our aggregate corporate data we are cloud. To drive our data strategy, we are using this journey to simplify our semantic layer, retire all legacy repositories, and implement a publish and subscribe model focused on governance and quality.

Tying together our platform and data strategy is a game changer. It is much more effective, efficient and guarantees the environment we need to enable the future.

SAPinsider: What’s your backend architecture for your data?

Jane Connell: We have the ERPs which are our transactional core and eHANA for ERP for real-time replication capabilities. As mentioned previously, we are now pursuing a corporate enterprise data environment in the cloud enabling interoperable master data along with the capabilities required for blended data. This was a major change in direction.

We actually did an unveiling in September of our North Star architecture which was six months before our go-live. The purpose of that was to educate the key stakeholders of what the end state looks like down to the data layer. There is no ambiguity of where we are going, what is required and how we will get there.

SAPinsider: What has been the biggest challenge on this project?

Jane Connell: The breadth of this transformation, as well as the pivot to real-time data insights and access. Previously, we were executing 92 different projects with different architecture and methodologies.

We have had to create new architectures, shut down programs, redirect programs and ultimately resequenced to ensure the investment path forward drives us to our much-desired end state. This all had to be achieved with alignment of all the business stakeholders. It was no small task but we are now there and executing. The time spent up front gives you speed now to execute.

SAPinsider: What made you prioritize this project?

Jane Connell: This was already prioritized within Verizon hence creating my position. My priority as discussed already was making sure we were doing it the right way and focused on our customers and our business objectives.

In parallel, I had to focus on my team and our capabilities. We were too dependent on third parties, and my team was shackled to our customized legacy environments. We had to flip that around and build our strategic workforce plan given we had gaps in the new skill sets required.

We are now 90% implemented into Product and Platform teams. We have transformed our strategic vendors and have the right location footprint allowing us to scale and attract the right talent.

SAPinsider: What are the biggest impacts you’ve seen from this project?

Jane Connell: Within the leadership ranks, I see much more collaboration and E2E thinking. We are even more focused on the customer experience challenging legacy paradigms. I also see more acceptance of change, which is hard within a company of our size. It comes at a good time as well as we’ve announced our new organization called Verizon Global Services.

We are pursuing creation of further cross functional opportunities and services around the world. We are putting our size and scale to work. This comes at a good time in our journey of transformation. Imagine now the agility and speed with which we can move work around the world due to these new platforms or the enablement of new capabilities. The possibilities are endless.

SAPinsider: What skills do you look for in people who you want to bring on to projects like this?

Jane Connell: I look for business acumen first, then explore the functional expertise, and then hone in on the depth of their technical capabilities. No longer can they be separate.

I want to hear how they took a business objective, translated that into business requirements and know how to solve it. I want to hear the tradeoffs of their solutioning decisions and why. Lastly, how did they align and integrate with the business stakeholders? A good technology leader is embedded with the business. They are sometimes the student, the educator and the leader depending on what is required.

I think healthy attrition is good. No one should progress in a hierarchical manner only in technology. I want them to rotate into the business. I want them to come back. I want people that understand how to apply the architecture to drive business outcomes. Technology, anyone could do, or you can hire; but, really understanding business and then the implications to technical architecture is the game changer.

Anyone can learn technology. Anyone can learn business. The marriage of the two along with intellectual curiosity, a continuous learner, and someone that just naturally challenges the status quo is what differentiates someone to me.

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