Industry Spotlight: Windstream Enterprise President Michael Flannery

March 18th, 2024 by · Leave a Comment

Anticipating Key Trends in the Industry for 2024

Michael Flannery is President of the Enterprise business unit at Windstream. A seasoned business leader with more than 24 years of industry experience, he oversees all components of Windstream Enterprise and transformative initiatives within the enterprise world.  We spoke with Michael to get his perspectives on trends he believes will shape business strategies in the telecommunications sector this year. He shares his thoughts on business continuity planning, the complexity of multi-cloud environments, movements in how organizations are managing their IT infrastructures, new security solutions and, of course, AI.

TR: Now that the new year is fully underway, what are some of the most anticipated trends you see in the telecommunications sector for 2024?

MF: To start with, for many businesses, 2023 taught continued lessons about resilience and adaptability in the face of change. However, as we begin 2024, there is an undeniable need for better preparation around business continuity. It has become a forced priority for executives, given the myriad of potential disruptions, from natural disasters to cyberattacks.

TR: Why do you see this as a key trend and what steps can businesses take to ensure their continuity plans are robust?

MF: With the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, ensuring 24/7 network connectivity and uptime for businesses is a real necessity this year. Considering the potential impacts of disruptions, such as the high cost of network downtime, continuity plans must encompass various scenarios.

There are many steps that businesses can take to ensure their continuity plans are robust. Outlining processes and leveraging modern digital infrastructure by embracing solutions like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and adopting proactive IT strategies can greatly enhance their agility and safeguard against disruptions.

TR: Security is always a paramount concern. How do you perceive the evolving threat landscape in 2024, and what measures can organizations take to protect themselves?

MF: Cybersecurity threats are evolving rapidly, as you know, and businesses are arming themselves with sophisticated defense strategies. Solutions like Security Service Edge (SSE) and SASE offer comprehensive protection by integrating multiple security layers — a unified approach that enables them to counter emerging threats more effectively and protect their network and digital assets.

The increasing sophistication of these threats in 2024 means business IT leaders have to prioritize integrated network security architectures like SASE for their organizations. They are collaborating with independent security experts to fortify their defenses and ensure their company is best positioned to mitigate these threats effectively.

TR: We can’t talk trends without talking about AI. What are your thoughts on how AI will shape business operations in 2024, and what considerations should organizations keep in mind?

MF: AI adoption is obviously gaining momentum and offering opportunities for enhanced efficiency and productivity. No longer just a buzzword, it has quickly become a practical tool for streamlining workflows, improving customer support and much more.

One of the biggest priorities for 2024 for all businesses should be to focus on building reliable digital infrastructures and curating trusted, cleansed data to support their AI initiatives effectively. Without operational readiness, and a more pragmatic approach to AI adoption, it will be next to impossible to harness it effectively.

The first step businesses can take is to strengthen their digital foundations. This involves building seamless digital infrastructures capable of supporting AI applications and integrating organizational data for optimal performance.

It’s hard to deny AI’s transformative role in enhancing everything from customer experiences agent productivity, marketing and operations. Leveraging AI to deliver personalized support across multiple channels is the way of the future but, again, organizations must have the fundamentals in place before they can optimize these solutions. They must ensure they have a strong foundation in their contact centers. Not only transitioning to cloud-based network infrastructures and implementing advanced security measures like SASE, but also providing their internal teams with tools to maintain high-quality data and cultivating a strong internal understanding of AI and how it integrates with their security, compliance, and governance systems.

With the right preparation, the potential benefits for employees, customers and the entire enterprise are virtually limitless.

TR: Given the complex nature of contact center operations, how can organizations ensure they choose the right AI-driven solutions that align with their requirements?

MF: Choosing the right AI-driven solutions requires organizations to align their goals with their specific security, compliance, and budgetary needs. It’s essential to assess the capabilities, skills, and costs of potential providers, and seek referenceable customers and use cases that closely match their requirements.

TR: Windstream Enterprise is now a complete managed IT services provider. Do you see more enterprises moving towards outsourcing in 2024? How do you recommend a company know when to outsource versus keep IT in-house?

MF: Outsourcing becomes an opportunity when resources and skillsets, blended with budget, start to interfere with performance. When either your talent is becoming harder to maintain or replenish due to market conditions, or your budget makes it impossible to maintain the talent and skillsets to perform at the level necessary to protect your business against attacks, then it’s time to look at outsourcing some or even all of your cybersecurity personnel, processes, and products.

We see this trend of outsourcing IT infrastructure management gaining traction in 2024 because it offers organizations greater flexibility and cost certainty in managing their multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments. The complexity of multi-cloud environments is prompting businesses to seek expert assistance in managing their infrastructures. With outsourcing, they can leverage third-party expertise and navigate the intricacies of cloud environments more efficiently. It also allows their IT teams to focus on driving business outcomes vs. constant troubleshooting.

TR: But aren’t there functions that are risky to hand over to service providers?

MF: Risk is unavoidable, and you always look at the best options to mitigate.  Does the risk of handing over outweigh the risk of failing internally as your resources dwindle and getting qualified employees becomes more challenging?

The best method of choosing the right MSP is to get clear internally about your goals based on the security requirements you face (self-manage, co-manage, outsource management, compliance, budget, skillset) and compare those to the capabilities, skills, and costs that the MSP can provide. Get referenceable customers and use cases that closely match your requirements to ensure they can deliver what they say they can.

Start small, outsource where your biggest gaps are forming, and base expansion on success — from a capabilities and resource perspective, as well as a cost perspective. Success varies by customer but is mostly based on security risk reduction, application performance, and budget attainment wrapped in mutual trust that the MSP truly is an extension of your team, not merely a service provider.

TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!

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Categories: Artificial Intelligence · Fiber Networks · Industry Spotlight · Managed Services · SDN

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