CIO Interview with Alin D’Silva, Vice President of IT and CTO of Digital Workplace at Verizon

BrandPost By IDG Contributing Editor
Nov 02, 2017
IT Leadership

While it may seem more straightforward for technology-oriented companies to continue accelerating their digital transformations, they face the same challenges as any other. Alin D’Silva, Vice President of IT and CTO of Digital Workplace at Verizon, shares his thoughts on some of those challenges and what motivates him to drive forward.

What are some of the ways Verizon is continuing its transformation to become a more digitally-focused enterprise?

Digital transformation requires wholesale reinvention. Verizon is continuing its transformation on many fronts; I’ll give you three examples. The first is with customer experiences, which have become more digital over last few years. We’re seeing increased engagement in our mobile apps with 70% of our customers opting to use the app to choose the new unlimited plan on the day of launch. The second is how we’re digitizing the business and simplifying customer policy, streamlining and automating processes, and leveraging analytics to inform decision-making. The third is how we’re empowering employees to think, act and move faster to serve customers and win in the marketplace by delivering a best-in-class employee digital experience.

How do you attract and retain top technology talent in this competitive environment?

In our technology group we believe it’s important to leverage modern technologies and engineering practices that are relevant and interesting to top technology talent.  Examples of this include practices around Agile, DevSecOps and Cloud.  We are extremely focused on fostering a more connected, engineering-centric culture across Verizon and run different events such as internal conferences, hackathons, etc.. to strengthen this community.  It’s also important to us to strengthen our presence in the external tech community through sponsoring events like DevOps Days, Serverless and Amazon Reinvent as well as encouraging our engineers to talk about what we are doing at technology conferences and contribute to open source projects. 

To what extent do younger employees’ technology expectations drive internal technology initiatives?

Our Digital Workplace is heavily influenced by younger workers’ technology expectations. However, it’s no longer just this younger generations’ technology expectations that have changed; All employees expect mobile first, on-demand, personalized, more consumer-like experiences. They want real-time collaboration, more social networking, seamless group chat, and virtual working. All these elements have influenced our roadmap.

Similarly, to what extent have customer expectations driven customer-facing technology initiatives at Verizon?

Customer expectations have always been changing and we always have to stay close to our customers — it how we grow our business and best serve customers. Customers now expect digital first, unified, contextual interactions and experiences. They want things to be personalized. They expect mobile, on-demand transparent communication. Advances in technology also enable new and expanded experiences.  We now leverage analytics in real time. For example, if you’ve looked at your bill on-line and call within 24 hours, we’ll ask if you’re calling about that bill. In the near future, a cognitive chatbot agent will interact with customers and be able to seamlessly bridge to a live agent if needed. 

As your organization moves to mobile devices and cloud platforms, what are some of the unique security challenges?

Traditional perimeter defense no longer applies. You have people operating outside the perimeter and have to come up with more granular user authentication models. How do you provide the same level of control and flexibility in a less mature environment without increasing your risk profile? You’re also giving up some degree of control, especially with SaaS, so you need to assume some level of trust with SaaS providers.

What are the most cutting edge and innovative initiatives currently underway at Verizon, either internally, customer facing or both?

Verizon is driving standards in 5G networks, which will unleash new levels of capability; things like extremely low latency, 40 times the bandwidth, and speeds up to 1 GB per second on mobile. Think about a medical app controlling a robot performing a medical procedure. Or self-driving cars going down the highway. That’s when latency and reliability matters. These 5G networks are being built on our next-generation intelligent Fiber backbone network. We’re also developing smart city solutions to help cities be more efficient in how they manage traffic, security, and parking. And we have built augmented intelligent agents to help us drive better personalization for customer experiences.