Last week, at the only industry event that empowers attendees to ride the wave of communications transformation, ITEXPO (News - Alert), Windstream shed its legacy look. The SD-WAN Expo Platinum Sponsor and enabler of digital transformation unveiled Windstream (News - Alert) Enterprise and Windstream wholesale brands.
In addition to his keynote address, I had the opportunity to sit down with Joe Harding, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer Enterprise Business at Windstream to unpack the rebrand, and explore what we can expect from the digital transformation firm.
Harding explained, “As a publicly traded company, your first obligation is to your shareholders,” and when Harding came on board three years ago, “We were in a situation where we were frankly massively over indexed with legacy services and architecture.”
While there’s nothing wrong with aiding small business, this was too much of a focus. SIP and UCaaS were beginning to gain traction but the approach was too top line heavy. Customers require ROI, future-proof operations and a digital transformation toolbox.
In joining Windstream, Harding was challenged to move up market, “and help us help mid market enterprise customers.” Noting a robust network, Harding turned toward building out the product portfolio, manifesting in the form of a finding a trusted partner in VeloCloud, the Earthlink (News - Alert) acquisition and resulting in a market-ready SD-WAN offering. Harding highlighted a revenue install relative to backlog in the range of 600 percent. Seeing early success in this exploding space, it’s fair to expect to see further expansion in SD-WAN.
Where is this growth coming from? Targeting retail, moving into manufacturing and banking, as well as larger enterprises leveraging SD-WAN as a network overlay the windfall for Windstream is underway.
An integral partnership in Windstream’s evolution is Ciena. Ciena is providing critical components to the transformation process, as Harding explained the integral role of Ciena Blue Planet in OSS/Architecture for optical transport and Ethernet orchestration. The solution boils what used to be time consuming tasks down to minutes, is a key cog in the Windstream Ethernet portfolio, and the upcoming Ethernet 2.0 release expected Q2 2018.
Harding succinctly stated, “Clients want more control.” For so many businesses, the network was an afterthought, and decisions made based on money. Over time, operations have gradually been pushed to the cloud via software providers, forcing cloud strategy and network strategy to align. And in doing, by delivering customers more control, they can dial-up or dial-down services from a centralized control desk.
Windstream will continue to build on a strong telephony background, boasting a comprehensive UCaaS solution and advanced cloud communications portfolio. It is also rolling out Avaya’s (News - Alert) Oceana Breeze Platform. And, as the first major service provider delivering managed services to market heads are turning.
From a security standpoint, network-based DDaaS, SIM security and risk mitigation are certainly on the radar, and the firm is working toward delivering virtualized firewall and security solutions, which allows for management from one integrated panel.
The rebrand is all about customer needs, Harding explained the “Brand is designed to reflect going deeper, and really understanding the unique needs with customer.” I’m curious to see what else is behind the curtain for the ambassador of digital transformation, as the foreseeable future feels like blue skies ahead – just look at the numbers.
The company's annual revenue grew from $5.39 billion a year ago to $5.85 billion, backed by a number of key achievements:
- Completed EarthLink and Broadview acquisitions;
- Launched SD-WAN Concierge and OfficeSuite across entire company footprint;
- Expanded Enterprise contribution margin percentage – up 200 bps sequentially and 160 bps year-over year;
- Exited 2017 at highest adjusted OIBDAR margin level since pre-EarthLink acquisition;
- Achieved 12th consecutive quarter of Consumer ARPU growth;
- Significantly improved maturity profile of balance sheet; and
- Ended year with synergy plans on schedule and ramping into 2018.
Edited by Mandi Nowitz