Will the iPad Help Level 3’s 2012 Growth Plans?

January 27th, 2012 by · 21 Comments

According to a fascinating piece over on Information Week yesterday, Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT, news, filings) just handed out a late Christmas present to its salespeople and sales engineers. While the company is in the midst of the Global Crossing integration, it has been simultaneously fighting hard to stay on the path of organic growth it returned to in 2011. So what better way to move forward than to give out 1,300 iPads loaded up goodies from Salesforce.com, a VPN and other security stuff, and monitoring tools to keep track of it all.

The question is, will having a fully iPad-enabled sales force make a real difference on the ground?  No really, that's the question.  I have no idea.  But I do know that a fair number of those newly iPad-enabled Level 3 employees are out there reading this. So how about it folks, is this going to work?  Do you see the iPad helping you keep in touch with the right people, find more prospects, and close more deals? Or will it mainly give you something new to do on the plane and in the cab once you have Angry Birds and Netflix installed?

And as for everyone else, I'm curious whether other companies in the sector are diving into tablets as well.  Who else is trying to harness the iPad itself even as they sell the actual underlying infrastructure derived from the mobile data revolution?  If your company isn't, you think they should?

Let me know what you think, leave a comment below!

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Categories: Internet Backbones · Wireless

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21 Comments So Far


  • Steve Jobs says:

    If it helps close 4-5 more deals per year then it was worth the investment. If anything it will help morale. But as far as making a major contribution to the growth of the company….I doubt it

  • Believe It says:

    I will say this, working on the strategic side of marketing at L3, the highly integrated tools/programs on the iPads are great, such as instantanious access portals to pricing systems, to network maps/availability, to competitive talk paths, to of course the willful CRM/SF.com systems. Nothing wrong with being one step ahead. Especially for the Engineers, whom have all logistical info right in front of them at all times while at meetings, etc.

  • Anonymous says:

    Level 3 consistently demonstrates they are not affected by short term returns rather that they are building the largest worldwide fiber network with state of the art network and systems.

    jim crowe has once again called the shot on recent CC where he states they are looking to be compete and beat Att and VZ as THE largest fiber provider in USA by agressivley spending and growing organically off the current network. I belive paraphrasing he said we will spend money , gain a ~18 month payback and then do it again. In fact he danced around free cash flow as it sounds as though they reinvest in growth aggresively rather then stock buybacks etc like others have done.

    This opposed to companies like tw Telecom strategy of conservative slow steady growth and stock buybacks. Never do you hear them shoot for the moon like Level 3.

    Level 3 may be the Next biggest thing as that is where they have targetted since inception or the biggest bust of all time but they continually go for it. I belive they will be the dominant player as they do not trip over pennies today for near term window dressing and will be picking up dollars later.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like you’re smoking the same ganga that JC is! All of your statements are forward-looking and not historical. L3 may have the ‘potential’ best fiber network in the world, but the problem is that they can’t get the middle managers, operations folks or finance junkies out of the way in order for them to really see it to it’s full potential.

  • Frustrated Shareholder says:

    Jim, Jim, Jim…the man loves to frivolously spend his shareholders’ and creditors’ money…I’m just not sure how an IPAD closes a deal that a laptop can’t.

    Although I’m no fan of private equity firms that simply slash, burn then churn the new company out to a bigger set of fools, I think Jim Crowe can learn a thing or two from them about frugality.

    JC spends money like a drunken sailor, produces no shareholder value, rolls over debt like a pastry chef preparing croissant dough and acquires companies he can’t seem to integrate.

    He has horribly underperformed the NASDAQ Telecom Index, T and VZ over the last 5 and 10 years.

    Two weeks ago his biggest shareholder that owns 25% of the equity and also controls 3 board seats registered with the SEC to sell those shares.

    The new toys may be fun for the Sales guys and SEs to play with, but what will they add to the measures of value investors care about?

    JC needs to learn to sweat the assets he owns (and i’m talking about the ones in the ground) rather than going out and building new ones and buying new toys for his sales guys.

    • Anonymous says:

      AMEN. How about leveraging the assets they own instead of giving them away? L3 is the main reason the telecom industry has experienced such a decline the past 5 years.

  • Anonymous says:

    Rob, not sure you asked the right question. One question should be by how much has each IPAD owning account manager’s quota gone up over previous years?

    If an account manager’s quota has grown, for example, 5% between ’10 and ’11, how much has it grown between ’11-’12. If same %, I’d like to know what incremental value the IPADs add over ordinary laptops.

    (I will guess that when no actual value can be produced from the IPAD migration, defenders will come back and say that the cost difference between an IPAD and a laptop is negligible, so it’s a non-event. It also means that the company doesn’t believe there is any productivity gain from the IPAD over the laptop. But they sure look nice and much lighter to carry.)

    • anon says:

      You’re assuming everyone is hitting their quota dipshit.

      • Anonymous says:

        how am i assuming everyone is hitting their quota in my comment? All that’s suggested is that year over year percentage quota growth is greater than previous years as result of presumed productivity improvements from the Ipad, you Santorum.

        With reasoning and logic skills like yours, I sure hope you’re not an L3 sales manager.

  • mhammett says:

    As an iPad owner of the past few months, I’d never replace a laptop with one. They’re far less functional. It’s just a gimmick.

  • customerfacing says:

    the key is communication (external/internal). until the telcos and fiber operators learn its about the customer experience they will lag…any tool that provides enhanced communication for the customer will benefit the provider.

  • Anonymous says:

    customerfacing, exactly how does an IPAD enhance customer communications?

    What quantifiable/measurable communication value does an IPAD provide that a smartphone, laptop, and flash memory stick don’t?

    According to Rob’s Information Week article, L3 isn’t getting rid of laptops but merely adding IPADs.

    Sales folks may love having a new toy, but I find no compelling reason why an IPAD will produce an incremental telecommunications services sale a smartphone and laptop won’t.

    Message to Jim Crowe: stop squandering shareholder money on frivolous investments.

  • Anonymous says:

    Level 3 would have been better off giving those 1300 IPADs to their customers as part of a promotion.

    L3 could have called it their IPAD-Paloozza Promotion or keeping with a telecom theme IP Promotion

    The return on that $650-$750k investment would have been greater than giving them to sales folks.

    Mr. Customer, increase your IP spend by $x before nth month and we throw in an IPAD. Increase spend by $y and we throw in two IPADs. Migrate to VPN solution and get an IPAD. Mr. SME customer, converge your voice and data services to an IP solution by April and get an IPAD.

    • Anonymous says:

      Let me add (the obvious) to my own comment above, that with such a promotion you could then quantify the value of the IPADs. Marketing organization would know that each IPAD giveaway would carry a minimum value.

      The marketing folks could have excluded from the contest anything in the funnel or whatever they may call their pipeline to ensure they’re not giving away IPADs to existing opportunities.

      (If you want to extend IPAD offer to existing pipeline opportunities then accelerate the order date or require a larger order than in pipeline.)

    • Sales Guy says:

      That’s what tw telecom did and realized great results from it!

  • FormerL3 says:

    As a former LVLT sales person, any process that replaced the Seibel based CRM is a win for the sales organization. When I was there (4 yrs ago), sales people spent 1/3 of their week inputting info into Seibel to create reports for the Sr. Management. Sales people who have more time to talk to customers and focus on new revenue should provide better results. If the iPad makes sales tracking less cumbersome, I am in full support.

    • mhammett says:

      Sounds like a software issue, not a hardware issue.

      • Anonymous says:

        I completely agree that FormerL3’s comments sound like a Seibel software problem. And not sure why an Ipad would simplify data entry.

        I agree with FormerL3 that tools that free up time for sales people to speak to customers are big positives. But data entry on an Ipad is certainly not easier than data entry on a laptop. So surely that can’t be the justification.

        Rob, can’t you ask L3 to explain why Ipads were necessary?

        • Clevus says:

          It is just simpler/less cumbersome to fire up an Ipad than it is to fire up most laptops. Therefore the salesman can take advantage of smaller chunks of time to get the data into the system.

          AS long as he is not stuck on Angry Birds…..

  • MayorJ says:

    Handing out iPads and pink slips sounds to be their 2012 growth plan. JC said in Oct, he expects to let go 500+ employees but I’m not aware that the major reduction in workforce has yet to happen. I’m sure there many L3/former GC employees wondering when Jimbo will start his chopping now that he is done iPad shopping..

  • Anonymous says:

    Some folks at L3 have been notifies that Feb 3 will be their last day. I’m not sure how many were notified.

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