The telecoms industry looks significantly different from how it did at the start of the decade. New technologies such as 5G, IoT, AI, and Edge have emerged, and with that, customer needs have shifted. In light of these changes, it is not uncommon to hear players discussing their intentions to transform from telecoms to tech. But in reality, very few have. One company that took the leap and made the change is Lumen Technologies, formerly known as Century Link. Now, Lumen helps enterprises around the globe revolutionize their business with a focus on Edge-powered solutions. I had the pleasure of catching up with Chris McReynolds, Vice President of Product Management, Cloud, and Data Services at Lumen Technologies, to learn more about Lumen’s bold move.
According to Chris, at the heart of Lumen’s Edge strategy is the goal “to move digital interactions closer to the end-user, where it makes sense.” As a result, Lumen built its dynamic Edge platform on three pillars: the core, Metro Edge, and on-premise. Chris defines these as:
The core: computing is centralized and high-scale, offering high efficiencies and cost economies.
Metro Edge: the key to Lumen’s dynamic strategy – the Edge location is stationed next to the customer, guaranteeing five milliseconds of latency in 97% of enterprises.
On-premise: Edge is located on-site. Companies use this technique when they need real-time feedback for mission-critical applications.
Although the unique qualities of Edge are the driving force in Lumen’s success, adopting it is not always a straightforward journey. Chris is the first to admit there are challenges to the deployment of Edge computing, “There are different maturities in different industry verticals and large vs small companies.” In our conversation, we focused on three:
As a relatively new technology, the industry is still determining the leading use cases for Edge. Chris explains that at Lumen, they find the most demand in the retail and manufacturing sectors; for example, manufacturers use on-premise to detect anomalies fast, and retail uses Metro Edge to connect and analyze CCTV video cameras. Now, Lumen is focusing on establishing more trusted Edge use cases industry-wide, in emerging sectors such as Healthcare and the Media, as Chris says: “There's a lot of undefined use cases. And some of the use cases are early days.”
As with anything new, customers are reluctant to embrace and adopt Edge technology without years of proof that solutions are successful and secure. Now, Lumen's role is to prove Edges’ worth to more hesitant enterprises. Lumen addresses this through their dynamic and agile platform, allowing customers to start where they feel confident, with the ability to change the solution over time.
Edge solutions aren’t a single technology, rather a series of different services that integrate with one another, but Lumen Technologies can’t be everything to everyone. Instead, they choose to partner with many diverse partners who can ‘bridge the gaps'. And with each partner, Lumen chooses different ways of working, including co-creating, co-selling, and co-developing.
Based on the specific customer, and the level of expertise needed for the solution, Lumen decides who will be customer-facing. As Chris explains, “This approach has resonated incredibly well with our customers; it's kind of future-proofing, the fact that they don't know how this whole landscape is going to evolve.”
According to Chris’ definition, “A tech company is a company who listens well to its customers and has great agility to stay ahead of their needs.” Comparatively, a classic telecoms business model provides a service that stays the same for three years – unless the customer raises an issue.
To reach tech status, Lumen needed to undergo a complete culture shift. The sales team overhauled how they work, and the teams’ building products and services changed entirely: creating a platform where services integrate and connect, rather than the linear, individual services Century Link offered.
Working with an emerging technology means Lumen is paving the way for others while overcoming new challenges. Despite emphasis in the industry tending to be on how customers can transform, Lumen's story shows us the successes telecoms companies can enjoy by also focusing on their own self-transformation journey.
To hear more from Chris on Lumen’s inspirational story, listen now to the latest episode, and find out how you can take your business strategy further, faster, and beyond.