As Venkatraman explained here Tuesday, Verizon is in the midst of a complicated multi-year process that will reduce the number of back-office systems it operates by more than half, achieving the kind of integration and improved cost effectiveness that Ebbers once bragged about, as he added company after company to his Worldcom/MCI fiefdom.
What we now know, of course, is that Ebbers was only integrating on paper and not really gaining the millions in improved operational efficiencies that he claimed were driving Worldcom's profits -- which also turned out to be fictional.
Venkatraman and her fellow Verizon employees, on the other hand, are already 70 percent done with their goal of cutting down the 800 systems that existed two years ago by more than half. They expect to complete the process by 2015.
Two major factors in that effort are the buy-in at the top of the company and the creation of cross-functional teams that combine product, network, and IT/operations folks in the effort to decide what can be eliminated and then are fully engaged in the process.
The latter is important, Venkatraman said, because it gets the entire team working together to identify and address where systems can be cut, rather than having edicts come down from the IT department that are often opposed at the product and network levels.
As a result, efforts to preserve and protect "special" status and thus sustain customized support systems were basically swept away.
"It's one function, one process, one system," she said. For example, Verizon no longer allows different sales channels to have different configure, price, quote processes -- one system can support online sales and offline sales and channel sales.
"Nobody gets to say, 'my channel is special,'" Venkatraman said. "Now you are not special, by definition, you are standard."
If someone wants to argue for more functionality than the Verizon standard, their request will be examined -- but that additional functionality is made available to everyone and becomes the new standard.
Conceptually, Verizon began the process by trying to focus on the customer first -- at the center of all processes -- and then working out from there. There was a two-pronged strategy to identify ways to make the company more agile while also determining what systems could be shut down, in a consolidation of products and systems. Lean Six Sigma standards were applied and the entire roster of 800-plus systems were divided into directional and non-directional -- with the latter group targeted for expiration.
Major regression testing preceded all shut-downs and while Venkatramen admitted in a brief interview after her presentation that there were hiccups, she added that these were detected in the testing process.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading