CenturyLink's John DeLozier: 'Amazing' Returns on Level 3 Investment

CenturyLink's acquisition of Level 3 Communications has boosted the former's security capabilities.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

April 18, 2018

8 Min Read
Business Celebration

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — It’s now been more than four months since CenturyLink completed its $34 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications, and a lot of work remains to complete integration of the two companies.

That’s according to John DeLozier, CenturyLink’s vice president of strategic partners and alliances. He will deliver a keynote titled, “The Concert of Connections in the Network World” at this week’s Channel Partners Conference and Expo.


CenturyLink’s John DeLozier

In February, DeLozier quashed rumors that the integration would disrupt the partner experience, and that partners would have to adopt new rules of engagement and potentially lose accounts to direct sales.

So far, the acquisition has allowed CenturyLink to surpass AT&T in Vertical Systems Group’s (VSG) year-end 2017 U.S. Incumbent Carrier Ethernet Leaderboard. And it has boosted CenturyLink’s security prowess.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, DeLozier gives an update on the integration process and how partners are benefiting from the combination.

Channel Partners: What’s the status of the CenturyLink-Level 3 integration?

John DeLozier: The integration is going really well. As you can imagine, bringing together two multibillion-dollar companies, there [are] a lot of T’s to cross and I’s to dot, and I think the collective partner community is kind of holding their breath a little bit and just watching how this is going to turn out. We have really turned the corner since January and I think the partner community has responded really well to it. So we had a great first quarter; obviously those things will come out publicly really soon, but we’re excited. I think the one plus one, we’re starting to see the three at the end of it. So it’s going really well.

CP: Any surprises or unexpected challenges along the way?

JD: I don’t know that there was anything necessarily unexpected, but a lot of challenges. The good news is the entire channel is covered with great support teams at CenturyLink, both from former Level 3 and former CenturyLink. So those teams have been very responsive, very aggressive, and I think we see a big light at the end of the tunnel here.

CP: Is there still more to do in terms of integration?

JD: There’s still a lot more to do. There [are] a lot of pragmatic, practical things that we have to get done. We’re consolidating agreements, we’re consolidating incentive programs, we’re consolidating the way we go to market. They did things a little bit differently than us. I think another thing is, we get a lot of questions of, “Are you combining the networks?” And that word “combine” is the key. If anybody has the idea that any company our size …

… jumps into the data centers and puts a red wire to red wire, and it just all lights up, that’s really not our plan and how it works. But when you lay our networks down together next to each other on the table, and you look at a map of the United States – of the world really – it’s incredible how Level 3 was in places we weren’t, and we were in places they weren’t. So we’re taking advantage of that. So it’s good stuff.

CP: What sort of feedback are you continuing to receive from the various partners?

JD: We have a tremendous group of partners. The top 25 is what I handle, most of our top masters. Level 3 had relationships with them as well. There were a few that they had and we didn’t and vice versa … But I value them, they’re on my advisory council, I listen to them, and the feedback has been very candid; it’s been very fair in most cases, and it’s always coming — they have a lot to say. And it’s interesting because each one of them has their own specific requests and things they like to see, but the interesting thing that I’ve seen in this whole process as I’ve received feedback from partners is the red thread of feedback, things they’d like to see better or things they’d like to see enhanced, those kinds of things. They’re why I have a job, so it’s good stuff.

CP: How rapidly are changes being made in response to what they’re saying — what they’re wanting?

JD: For being such a large company, we’re pretty flat from a management perspective. I report to Lisa Miller, our president, who reports to Jeff Storey (president and COO), so it’s pretty flat. Because it’s so flat and because we’ve taken a lot of the bureaucracy out, we can make changes pretty quickly. And so if it’s something significant, my partner Garrett (Gee) and I will sit down and talk about it; we’ll bring it to Lisa and we’ve put things in place within days sometimes, within weeks. If it’s something major, like a major change to our agreement or a change in how we go to market, that may take a little while because there may be operational and legal, and financial things that we’ve got to consider, but we’re able to put in place partner recommendations pretty fast. And I think they value that because we listen. It’s not always yes, but when it is, we move pretty quickly.

CP: What’s new in terms of partner opportunities, and ways that CenturyLink and its partners can gain a competitive advantage?

JD: What’s new is really what’s old, but we keep it a secret. People think of CenturyLink as this global network company that connects the world as a trusted, connect carrier, and that’s true, no question about it. But what people miss – and this is the part that I really want them to understand – is we’re one of the largest security companies in the world; we value our partnerships with many, many large security companies and we carry a ton of the world’s internet traffic, so it’s a big, big deal for us. From a cloud perspective, whether it’s a hybrid network or a …

… straight cloud provider, we’re in that business. SD-WAN will be huge for us as we move forward. So what’s new is I think now that the Level 3 acquisition is done and we can really focus on getting the message out; I think partners will start seeing all the different places, all the different segments where they can come into the digital-transformation play to meet their customers’ expectations. That is what we’re really excited about as we move forward. I believe that gives us a competitive advantage because it’s one-stop shopping; you don’t have to go to five different boutique firms to get these things taken care of. Are we all things to all people? Of course not; nobody is, but we have a really nice portfolio of services and products that can meet those customers’ expectations. I think that’s a competitive advantage.

CP: Has the integration shifted your competitive landscape?

JD: It depends on what space we’re playing in. Certainly from a carrier perspective … we just dethroned AT&T for the first time ever in Ethernet. That’s a big deal. So from a carrier perspective, I think it’s the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world. But it’s interesting because when you get into the security world, there’s a whole new group. We do see some of the bigger companies like the Palo Alto Networks and the Fortinets, who, by the way we also partner with, so a lot of their solutions are baked into our offerings, so a different set of competitors there. I think that our battlefield has  changed a little bit in a good way. We have folks from our CTO down … that’s got us laser-focused on these things. So it starts in the back office and the product teams … who say this is what we have, it’s our job to make sure the word gets out. And it has been a big play for us to see those teams come together.

CP: So what’s next in all of this?

JD: I think what’s next is really getting the internal stuff completed so we can really focus on the external stuff. We really want to get the word out on some of the things we’ve talked about, how CenturyLink has that local presence, that local feel, but now has that global footprint. We can execute in Asia. We can execute in Europe. We can execute in Latin America. So international, the globalization of what we’re doing is pretty big for us. As a partner program, we’re the only partner program that has truly taken the partner program and segmented it … I am very focused on our top 25 strategic partners and caring for them, and making sure that the road is laid down for my partner, who is very focused on the ground, the geographies, the deals, etc. That’s fairly new to us; it’s been four months. I think what’s ahead is really solidifying those programs and seeing where it takes us because we’re already seeing amazing returns on this investment and the brilliance of our boss Lisa Miller in putting this together. We want to continue to be absolutely your trusted connection to the network world; we will never, ever abandon network, which is important to us, while we maximize those other things with regard to the security plays, the hybrid network plays, etc.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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