How the 'Verizon 2.0' vision continues to shape its public sector arm

At No. 20 on the 2021 Washington Technology Top 100, Verizon is in the third year of its "2.0" vision and a customer-centric structure across the telecom giant including in the public sector shop responsible for bringing 5G and other technologies to agencies.

As most would in this circumstance, Jennifer Chronis had one main reservation about accepting Verizon’s offer last summer to take up a new job as head of the telecommunications giant’s federal business:

How does one start a new job at a new employer, particularly when meeting and getting to know everyone on the new team is much harder during a pandemic?

I asked Chronis that question and she put it this way: The destination and what Verizon's focus is greatly helped her decide to join. As of April, she now leads all public sector business including federal.

“The network is critical to everything that our customers are doing now,” Chronis told me. “It’s critical to cloud, it’s critical to innovation, it’s critical to remote working and 5G is a huge enabler.”

Chronis started the federal-focused job on August 3, 2020 after four years in what she called a “fascinating experience” as head of Amazon Web Services’ Defense Department business that gave her insight into how customers use and think about connectivity.

Verizon holds steady at No. 20 on the 2021 Washington Technology Top 100 with $2.1 billion in prime contracts, both marks roughly unchanged from last year's list.

In her current role, Chronis is tasked with continuing to ensure the public sector business is aligned with the broader “Verizon 2.0” vision and transformation that CEO Hans Vestberg has articulated for close to three years.

Verizon 2.0 is designed to organize the company around more of a customer-facing model versus one centered on products. Public sector specifically is part of the Verizon Business group that focuses on all enterprise customers, whether they be government or commercial.

“We are really, really focused on continuing to drive growth for (the) Verizon Business group to continue to implement Hans’ vision of ensuring our customers are adopting 5G, adopting network as-a-service, broadening our partner channels and our go-to-market, and leveraging new B2B (business-to-business) applications like mobile edge compute” Chronis said.

A second Verizon leader’s vision that Chronis emphasized in our conversation as one the public sector shop contributes to is that of Tami Erwin, CEO of the Verizon Business group.

Erwin’s vision sounds similar as Chronis described it: “Driving growth for our customers and becoming their indispensable partner, and going deeper into their digital transformation journeys.”

In May, Verizon secured a potential $495 million contract to help DOD operate a high-speed and high-performance computing network used by the department’s science and research community to collaborate and share their work.

This fourth iteration of the Defense Research Engineering Network contract will go for up to 10 years, beginning with a four-year base period followed by a trio of two-year options.

DREN is managed by the department’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program office with this mission as described by Chronis:

“Working some of the most challenging problems, not only for the DOD but across the federal government like climate change, pandemic response and next-generation autonomous defense systems.”

For DREN 4, Chronis said Verizon will work with DOD to better secure the network and move it away from a hardware-centric construct to one more defined by software. That shift is intended to be in keeping with how the broader technology world is moving in a more software-defined direction.

Added capability and reach is also key for this new version of DREN. Chronis said Verizon and DOD are aiming to “provide higher bandwidth and lower latency connectivity between and among” the 200 different HPC locations and labs focused on research, development, testing and engineering efforts.

Then of course there is the massive Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle for all federal agencies to acquire next-generation telecommunications products and services from Verizon and the other nine prime carriers.

Deltek data indicates Verizon has received the largest amount of unclassified prime obligations to date via EIS to the tune of around $182.6 million.

Four of the largest wins Verizon has recorded against that vehicle have come out of the Health and Human Services and Labor departments, Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration.

Chronis said EIS also gives agencies some added leverage to acquire cloud services, though conceded it is in the “very early stages” of seeing customers trying to do that.

The ongoing 5G revolution and transition is a third pillar in Verizon’s public sector and broader corporate strategy.

One project Chronis highlighted included one at Marine Corps’ Miramar Air Station in Greater San Diego, which was the first U.S. military installation to implement Verizon’s 5G ultra wideband network. Miramar also will house a 5G living lab to see how the Marine Corps can leverage that new network architecture.

Verizon is taking a similar approach with the Energy Department at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where the parties are working on new ideas and solutions to apply 5G in research efforts. Chronis said other agencies such as the Homeland Security Department could benefit from that collaboration.

The 5G realm is also an area where Chronis sees Verizon’s public sector and broader corporate strategy as being one and the same in certain respects, especially when considering what Verizon 2.0 is intended to be.

“We do our best to try to cross-pollinate… the teams that we have that build our 5G test labs and innovation centers are the same teams that we use across public sector, enterprise, small and medium business and business markets,” Chronis said.

“We’re sharing the resources, we are leveraging the same lessons learned, and I think we are really helping to kind of push the envelope a bit and show our customers what we’re seeing in commercial that can potentially be leveraged in the public sector.”

(A future episode of Project 38 will feature my full conversation with Chronis that includes more on the federal government’s progress in adopting 5G, how Verizon is shaping its post-pandemic future of work and additional insights into how public sector feeds into the broader corporate strategy)