AT&T Communications CTO Legg on Reworking a Telecom Large

Practically one yr after taking over his present submit, Jeremy Legg talks about leveraging the cloud and transformation on the cell and broadband firm.

Typically it’s doable to show a telecom big just a few new tips.

Final June, Jeremy Legg shifted roles inside the AT&T household to turn into CTO of AT&T Communications after 14 years with WarnerMedia, which included serving as its CTO. The transfer to AT&T Communications put him on path to steer the modernization of the telecom firm’s IT infrastructure. This included reorganizing information structure, software program, and safety on the firm. He additionally led the consolidation of information assets and migration of apps to the cloud at an enterprise that measures its information in petabytes.

It’s no secret that father or mother firm AT&T is now within the midst of spinning off WarnerMedia. Legg spoke with InformationWeek about his present duties with AT&T Communications, classes discovered over the previous yr, and what his staff hopes to perform subsequent.  

Jeremy Legg, CTO, AT&T Communications

Have been there guiding ideas or marching orders you had coming into your position? How has your technique developed?

Once I came visiting, they requested me to basically handle 5 or 6 completely different capabilities: The chief information workplace, the chief safety workplace, the chief info workplace, after which basically the general public cloud and all of the middleware within the firm. The API gateway layer — the cream within the Oreo sandwich basically. These capabilities roll into me. Then our models, shopper and enterprise enterprise, personal sure purposes that sit on prime of the expertise stacks that my staff manages.

What they requested me to do was have a look at all these items that AT&T both constructed itself or inherited by means of all of the completely different acquisitions the corporate has carried out over time that was by no means fused collectively, and provide you with a plan to maneuver to the cloud, which is actually an enormous piece of it. Extra importantly, what are the trendy goal technical architectures that we want throughout these completely different disciplines — whether or not we’re in prem or within the cloud?

AT&T is simply huge. That’s each a blessing and a curse because it pertains to expertise. What I ended up doing after I got here in was taking the expertise group that had completely different matches and begins when it comes to funding and technical methods over time and created a north star about the place we’re making an attempt to go and broke it into chunks that folks may perceive. How can we get to the cloud? How can we retire legacy infrastructure? Issues like that. Issues which can be apparent however require an operational path to get from level A to level B.

There have been different issues round workforce and tradition, and a variety of EQ [emotional intelligence] versus IQ issues which can be the way you encourage individuals. Whenever you stroll in to inform a bunch of individuals, “You’ve been working laborious however all these items you’re engaged on is outdated and we need to eliminate all of it,” it’s not precisely an inspiring message. You actually have to determine learn how to get them aligned on the brand new path that you really want them to go on. That’s a mix of very nontechnical issues.

Have been there any challenges in matching your plans with the dimensions and scope of what you had been working with?

AT&T has historical past of constructing all the things itself. That’s an amazing historical past. We’re additionally in a day and age now the place we will’t construct all the things ourselves. Whilst huge as we’re, it doesn’t make sense. There’s a lot of purposes, whether or not you’re speaking about ticketing methods, backend databases, or sure sorts of enterprise purposes the place there are industrial purposes which can be nearly as good or higher and shall be upgraded over time as a result of these firms will dedicate extra assets to them than we are going to.

There’s positively one transition that’s getting sure teams of folks that had been used to constructing all the things, used to implementing and working software program from third events. Then you will have a cultural problem of refocusing groups on what strikes the needle. Not favourite purposes or favourite initiatives. What strikes the needle? What I imply by that’s placing a enterprise context over the expertise.

There are 4 or 5 metrics at AT&T that matter: What number of wi-fi subscribers did we get? What number of fiber subscribers did we get? What number of HBO Max subscribers did we get? Did topline income develop? Did EBITDA develop? Each different metric within the firm is subservient to these metrics. The aim is to take individuals which can be engaged on expertise, whether or not it’s one thing we’ve determined we should be nice at and now we have to construct ourselves or it’s one thing we’re renting from a third-party, and relate it again to these metrics.

The aim of a ticketing consolidation for instance, now we have technical milestones and goal architectures, however on the finish of the day, the challenge is a failure if we didn’t allow our clients to name us much less or be on the telephone much less time and resolve their points. That’s the metric expertise individuals should affiliate themselves with as a result of that’s the metric that drives acquisition of subscribers and retention of subscribers. Now we have to instill that enterprise context into the initiatives. One of many issues I do is, I tie our groups to conventional technical milestones, however I additionally tie them to the enterprise metrics.

Have been there thematic or strategic variations you needed to undertake shifting out of your WarnerMedia position to AT&T Communications?

A number of issues had been completely different; scale was actually certainly one of them. The canvas of software program that exists on this place is huge. Now we have principally certainly one of nearly all the things that’s ever been invented someplace sprinkled across the firm. As you consider goal architectures and chasing the newest piece of software program that’s within the business or software program initiatives that we’re going to construct customized, you may’t neglect what number of completely different methods are tied in to one another earlier than you need to go to this new goal structure and what the impacts are to the enterprise as you’re making an attempt to do it.

We get thousands and thousands of tickets a yr. It’s straightforward to launch a ticketing system consolidation, within the sense of selecting one thing and launching a challenge. As you truly attempt to ensure you don’t degrade the buyer expertise as you’re implementing these items, that’s an actual trick.

On the dimensions facet, a lot of firms are migrating to the cloud. There’s nothing notably distinctive about that. Now we have particular person operational information shops which can be effectively north of 100 petabytes. As you have a look at the quantity of visitors that goes throughout our total community in a day, you’re speaking greater than 462 petabytes on a mean enterprise day. Whenever you say, “Hey decide up this database and transfer it to the cloud,” it’s not really easy. It’s not like you may stick these items on a thumb drive. The best way you must take into consideration that could be very completely different.

The opposite items which can be so completely different on the AT&T facet is, it’s actually a part of the infrastructure of how the nation works. How customers entry the web — the bodily web travels by means of AT&T, not to mention the central places of work and final miles related to how customers entry that every single day. As you consider the interrelationship between software program and {hardware}, software-defined networks, purposes, and all this stuff, the implementation isn’t only for AT&T.

In lots of instances, it’s for a way customers and companies entry the web itself. That’s a really completely different factor than at WarnerMedia, for instance, the place I used to be a buyer of that web. It’s important to humbly strategy what you’re engaged on and never suppose you realize all of it. Nobody is aware of. It’s simply too huge. It’s important to depend on individuals with institutional data and other people you introduced in from the skin who’ve a completely completely different means of wanting on the world.

Are there in style expertise assets or stratagems that you simply checked out however weren’t the correct match to be applied at AT&T Communications?

Corporations of our dimension — you may’t do all the things agile. You possibly can’t run huge information facilities in an agile surroundings because it’s prescribed by means of conventional software program. There are some sorts of initiatives that basically should be waterfall-based. With that stated, as you must take into consideration utility improvement within the cloud, or shopper, or enterprise merchandise, you higher be agile otherwise you’re not going to have the ability to compete and have launch cycles for software program that impress your clients.

The one moniker on DevOps that I’m just a little skeptical of is, if I may discover in a greater than 230,000-person firm all of the unicorns that knew DevOps and had been full-stack builders who needed to write down code and preserve that code and implement all of the fixes, I’d like to have all these individuals. However there aren’t as many individuals on the market who’ve these {qualifications} as you would possibly suppose.

It’s important to take into consideration the place you may implement and maintain fashions like DevOps and the place you may’t. The data a DevOps particular person would want to have of the sort of infrastructure footprint that AT&T has, I’m unsure you may match all that in a single mind. It’s important to determine the place you may deploy these sorts of issues. I totally embrace the idea, however I additionally should layer within the actuality of what it’s prefer to work at AT&T.

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Joao-Pierre S. Ruth has spent his profession immersed in enterprise and expertise journalism first overlaying native industries in New Jersey, later because the New York editor for Xconomy delving into the town’s tech startup neighborhood, after which as a freelancer for such shops as … View Full Bio

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