Bill Archer: set the framework for where we want to take
our business in the future
At the beginning of March AT&T announced a plan to invest
$1 billion in strengthening its services for multinational
enterprises. This move represents a 33% rise on the group's
investment in the business sector for 2007 and will see
AT&T add capacity throughout the world, including
south-east Asia, Australia, India, the Middle East and the
The group is adding nodes in places such as Paris and Moscow,
Shanghai and Singapore, and Kuwait and New Delhi. Its ethernet
services will be expanded to 14 cities, including London,
Frankfurt and eight other European locations as well as Hong
Kong and other cities in the Asia Pacific region.
There will be new MPLS routers in Europe, Asia and the US, and
AT&T says it expects to have an ethernet footprint in 39
countries by the end of 2008. More money will be spend on
increasing capacity of its 38 data centres by the middle of
The aim is to build up its IP-based data, voice and video
business with large companies. It's a salutary thought that,
while the attention of the public and the industry itself is
often focussed on exciting new consumer services —
broadband content, mobile advertising, IPTV systems for example
— many operators generate their real income from large
Multinational enterprises don't walk through the shopping mall
churning to a new mobile operator at every corner. But they are
demanding of their operators in different ways — which
is why the large operator such as AT&T have to commit large
amounts of money to developing their networks and their
services to win and keep big users.
And so often the people from the operators who are in day to
day contact with those large customers — and potential
customers — are the chief marketing officers. It's
their job to know what customers want and to do what they can
to ensure the operators meet their needs.
"That's a fundamental responsibility of mine as the CMO of
AT&T Business," says Bill Archer, who has been in the job
for about a year. "I lead. I'm the catalyst for the planning
process in business. It's up to me to set the framework for
where we want to take our business in the future."
Understand what's important
CMO, business for AT&T Operations since April
BSc in business administration from Providence
College, Rhode Island
In AT&T 27 years, in sales, marketing, strategic
pricing, customer servicing and product management,
then becoming VP of sales for AT&T in US
2003: became president of AT&T for Europe,
Middle East and Africa, based in London
After two years moved back to the US as senior VP of
product management at AT&T Operations —
responsible for development, lifecycle management and
financial performance of the business services
portfolio, including services moved from the SBC and
BellSouth mergers with AT&T
His role is "to identify the trends that are influencing our
customers", he adds. "It's my job to understand what's
important to our customers, my job to scan our industry, what's
happening around us, to look to the future to see what might
Which means he's the ideal person to talk to about what is
happening in the wider economy, and how a company such as
AT&T ensures that it can deliver what its customers
Archer has considerable international experience. Not long ago
he spent two years in London at president of AT&T
— before the mergers with SBC and BellSouth —
in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Following the expansion
of the company in the series of mergers, he has kept his
"One of the key themes for this $1 billion investment is the
enhancement of our ability to support global multinational
firms," says Archer. "Our global multinational target base is
roughly 2,000 companies and we are very explicitly focussed on
this group of customers."
This target includes companies headquartered in the US with
global operations, or those based elsewhere in the world "that
have significant needs outside the US and do business here in
the US and require networking and services", he says.
It's less often that AT&T finds itself working for
companies that are entirely outside the US, with no presence in
that market. "We have a very large and important domestic US
business," points out Archer, "and these investments also
support our local US customers so there is the added benefit of
being able to spread the value across a wide base of
The Global Business Services — or GBS —
division records $33 billion in sales, he notes. Of that 57% is
retail multinational business, from both the US and the rest of
the world, and the rest is wholesale business.
"We have 120,000 customers," he adds. "It's our belief that the
combination of our global assets and our strong presence here
in the US position us uniquely to serve their requirements. A
major theme is to sustain our leadership in providing worldwide
solutions that are consistently delivered in every region of
the world to the most sophisticated users of networking
So what are those big users telling Archer and his team? And
what are he and his colleagues at AT&T thinking about?
Three things, he says: globalisation, virtualisation and
mobility. We take them one at a time. Companies "need to be
able to operate their business processes in a consistent
fashion wherever they are round the world", he says. "They need
to be able to create a single entity across multiple
geographies, binding together the organisation worldwide and
taking advantage of the developing economies. This has a very
important implication on networking."
A "major focus", he says, is to deliver "our capabilities
consistently around the world where our customers wish to
operate. I can't emphasise enough the importance of consistency
and having a portfolio of offerings available to our clients
everywhere around the world so they can operate in the same way
in every region. That creates advantage for them — so
we're committed to achieving that."
Virtualisation is important because of "a change in company
business models, where companies are outsourcing processes to
third parties and relying on new ways of performing functions,
often using services in other geographies" he says. They "still
have to present a cohesive and coherent face to their
It affects "the way companies tie themselves together with
their suppliers and business partners". The better they are
able to do that, "the more effective they will be in their
industries and in adapting to change".
He defines virtualisation as "taking networking and computing
and our management expertise and allowing companies to connect
business partners, their own employees and their customers
seamlessly, wherever they operate".
AT&T will "continue to expand our ability to provide
application services that are adjacent to classic networking
and add value to the network and allow companies to address the
changing business models they're using to be effective", he
And of course we are now in a mobile society, he adds, so he
has to consider "how society has become very mobile and very
much on the go, operating seven by 24 around the globe because
the technology allows them to do so", he notes. "We think a big
part of what a company needs to contend with is how to harness
mobility and put it to use."
AT&T and its customers have to be able to make a mobile
connection "perform exactly like a wired connection would", he
says, "wherever your employees need to work. We have a big
stake in that objective." And AT&T is "the largest mobility
provider in the US, with more than 70 million customers", says
"Our customers can roam on the GSM standard to 190 countries
for voice and 145 for data. That gives them the portability and
freedom to move around. We're going to continue to invest in
mobility, particularly in high speed connectivity, to enable
that mobility to grow and to be enriched.
Summarised, part of his task is "to synthesise all those inputs
and come up with a cogent direction for GBS and demonstrate
where the opportunity lies for the company".
The next stage is "to take the investment plan and to point it
at achieving a set of business outcomes", he adds. "I'm a
catalyst for identifying the opportunities and what's important
to our customers, putting a plan together to pursue them, and
identifying what the returns will be if we elect to head in
And then, "when we make a decision to proceed, I then preside
over those investments and ensure that we deliver on them", he
Expansion of services
There are two elements to the $1 billion investments that
AT&T announced. "A large component of the capital programme
is geared around expanding our VPN services, building out our
data centres and hosting capacity," says Archer.
The company will create "200,000 square feet of new data centre
space between the end of 2007 and the first part of 2009", he
In addition it will be expanding the network application
capabilities that reside in its data centres "and provide such
services as virtualisation and utility computing and fully
AT&T has a US agreement with software company SAP,
announced in January 2008. "SAP announced in North America that
for companies with revenues more than $200 million annually
AT&T would be the preferred hosting partner," says
"That means that as SAP works with clients to place its
application capabilities in a client environment and a customer
is seeking to put the application on a data centre other than
its own and have it managed by a company other than itself then
AT&T is the designated SAP partner to perform those
This operation will be run through a division of AT&T
called USi — US Internetworking — which is a
company acquired in 2006. "It was an early leader in the
application management business and through that set of
expertise and resources we've developed this practice which is
very complementary to our networking business and our hosting
business," he says.
"Customers are effectively putting enterprise applications
into a network and connecting their business partners and
associates," he explains.
"We can provide and end-to-end service and can deliver
economies that otherwise can't be obtained."
There is a "very nice matching of competencies between
ourselves and SAP", and in addition AT&T is working in a
similar way with Oracle and other software firms, he
"There is a variety of services that are application-oriented,
where the customer gains benefit by putting the application in
the network cloud, and we are responsible for integrating the
network including any application, for very high performance
and low total cost."
AT&T is not acting as a software integrator in this, he
emphasises. "We're not writing new applications, we not doing
business outsourcing, we not doing coding of new enhancements
of software applications. We see this as an extension of our
networking capability. We run the end-to-end service as an
integrated capability for the client. We can deliver efficiency
and performance improvement."
But the SAP deal is very specifically for North America only,
which seems to go against the globalisation idea. Is there any
plan to expand the service outside North America?
Archer answers carefully. "Nothing to report at this point," he
says. "But we have a significant global hosting presence and we
intend to move our application management services offshore so
that we provide similar capabilities to our global clients in
2008, and if the opportunity presents itself SAP would be a
good addition to those capabilities."
In North America the SAP deal means AT&T has "sole
responsibility for managing the performance of the application
and assuring the integrity of the performance through its
lifecycle for the client", says Archer, "and that means also
sustaining the servers on which the application resides and
connecting them to a network that the client and its business
value chain uses to reach the application and interact with
At the same time, AT&T is allocating part of that $1
billion to "to support a growth in our ethernet capabilities",
he adds. "We announced an investment in the global ethernet
service that companies will use to network their locations
worldwide using ethernet protocol and there are a series of
other enhancements to our service line."
And some of the expenditure "is geared to expansion of our
reach and depth worldwide", he adds: "the addition of new
global nodes and the expansion and greater capacity in our
global network in all regions of the world."
More specifically there's investment in terrestrial networks
and in subsea capacity. "There are new cables that are being
commissioned and we are seeking to participation in those," he
explains. "Wherever we see demand occurring — which is
typically between Europe and Asia and between the US and Asia
— we are seeking to augment our existing
Does this mean AT&T can see the day when capacity starts
to run low. "There's adequate capacity today," says Archer, but
he warns of "the expansion of demand that will inevitably occur
as the economies of Asia, the Middle East and certain parts of
Europe and North and South America continue to grow". This will
result in "demand expansions and the need for more
That's one of the reasons AT&T is "moving to see that we're
more than adequately supplied", Archer explains. "Capacity
assessment is a pretty dynamic process. As we look at our
network we have multiyear forecasts and plans and they
certainly anticipate long-term volume growth."
Assessment of subsea demand is more complex, "because the build
cycles are longer", he notes.
"We have a common platform that is established worldwide, so we
can move on capacity expansion as demand increases."
Are there any particular regions where the company is investing
more heavily? "The demand picture looks very good to us in all
regions because companies operate in all regions and they need
networking connectivity in all regions and they want
consistency wherever they operate."
But, pressed on this, he says: "The developing economies like
the Middle East and India and Asia are very important to us.
We're investing in all regions of the globe. We have people in
every region who are indigenous to those regions and understand
well the challenges that exist."
The main driver "is where our customers tell us they want us to
be" he adds.
Since the middle of 2007 there has been more than a little
uncertainty in financial markets, as the sub-prime crisis has
hit a number of banks around the world. How has that affected
the customers and potential customers that Archer talks to as
Not at all, he says. "Our customers we continue to believe look
at networking as a critical asset to their businesses and a way
to improve the way they perform and to be more effective," says
"Networking helps companies create more velocity, and velocity
in business creates more competitiveness. When you add speed to
the way you perform as a business you get advantage, and
advantage translates to more business success, so we think
networking is a vital asset for our large business customers.
Investing in networking is a way for them to create business
So no change, no caution in customers' plans to buy more
network or take capacity in data centres? "We haven't see any
change at this point," says Archer. "No change."