Calix ConneXions 2023: Revolutionizing Broadband Solutions with Scott Neuman - ETI
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February 23, 2024

Calix ConneXions 2023: Revolutionizing Broadband Solutions with Scott Neuman

The following transcript has been edited for length and readability. Listen to the entire discussion here on The Broadband Bunch. The Broadband Bunch is sponsored by ETI Software and Vetro FiberMap.

Joe Coldebella:

This episode of The Broadband Bunch is sponsored by ETI Software and VETRO FiberMap.

Hello and welcome to another episode of The Broadband Bunch. I’m your host, Joe Coldebella. We are at Calix ConneXions 2023 in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. Joining me is Scott Neuman, the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Calix. He is one of the mad scientists behind this event. Scott, welcome back to The Broadband Bunch.

Scott Neuman:

Thank you, Joe. Thanks for having me back.

Welcome back to the Broadband Bunch

Joe Coldebella:

It’s funny, as I go through the different episodes in terms of the guests that we’ve had, you’re sort of like our SNL Five-Timer guest. Are you familiar with the Five-Timer Club?

Scott Neuman:

I am, and I’m honored.

Joe Coldebella:

Yeah, so maybe at one point you’ll get a robe with a Broadband Bunch logo emblazoned on the back.

Scott Neuman:

I like that.

Joe Coldebella:

Okay.

Scott Neuman:

Yeah, a little terrycloth thing you got going on?

Joe Coldebella:

Absolutely, right. It’s not as nice as the ones here at the Wynn, but I’m sure we’ll-

Scott Neuman:

By the way, they do sell those. You can take that home with you if you like.

Joe Coldebella:

I’m not really a robe guy.

Scott Neuman:

Okay.

Insights and Plans for Continuous Improvement

Joe Coldebella:

This is my second year at the event. You guys do an absolutely phenomenal job. Would love to just get your final thoughts on the show. I’m sure you’re just exhausted because you have been going probably 500 miles for the last few.

Scott Neuman:

Just a little bit. Yeah, I mean this is my favorite time of the event, to be honest. I get to look back on it and go, “We are still standing.” But as you can imagine, as Michael likes to say, “Better, better, never best.” Just before this interview, I was sitting down in my notebook. And I just keep adding to my list of things that we can do better next year. And I’ve got a whole punch list of things.

Joe Coldebella:

That’s a great attitude, right? Exactly. It’s like, you put on a great event, but you just want to make it just a little bit better every year because that’s also how we grow as people.

Scott Neuman:

Right, right. So one of the things that Michael talked about on stage, he talked through all of our advisory boards from our leadership advisory boards, the GMs, to network engineers, our broadband operators, our customer support leaders, and our go-to-market leaders. We have a finance one. And we have a new tribal community advisory board.

Customer-Centric Innovation

Joe Coldebella:

Okay. Great.

Scott Neuman:

All of this is designed specifically to help us understand what the needs of all of our customers are, so we can actually come up with ideas to innovate and deliver new solutions. This event is no different. The fact that we are saying feedback is not only welcomed, it’s expected. And we want you to come back to us and say, “Hey, you know what? I love this and this. And it’d be great next year if you considered the following.” And that’s exactly where we come up with some of these great ideas that we do every single year.

Joe Coldebella:

So true. You and I are in the trenches. We’ve got these blinders on, and we’re focused on this. And someone who is not really honed in on exactly what we’re trying to do may see something and as soon as someone brings it up, it’s clear as day. It’s like, “Oh my God, how have we not been doing that?

Prioritizing Networking Opportunities at ConneXions

Scott Neuman:

Right. I mean we’re trying to figure out how to optimize every single day. A year ago, we were all excited about another session, another session because we had so many requests. A big common feedback was, “Can you pump the brakes for a minute and give us a little bit more time just so we can network and relax and meet our peers?”

So we removed a whole bank of breakout sessions just so they could spend more time with each other. And so the feedback I’ve been hearing is, I just bumped into a GM who was a first-timer at ConneXions. He said his social network has tripled in size in just two days because of his ability to just take the time and meet with his peers and other GMs who are like, “Yes, give me a call. I’d love to talk to you about what you’re working on.”

Joe Coldebella:

You know what? I love that. It’s such a counterintuitive sort of thing, it’s like, “Hey, listen, we’re not going to grow. We’re going to scale back a little bit,” but at the end of the day, that’s a win for the folks that are here.

Scott Neuman:

Yeah, less is more, sometimes.

The Value of Informal Networking and Team Collaboration at ConneXions

Joe Coldebella:

Right. Because the great thing is that you guys, it’s innovation and success. Folks are coming to get that sort of information. Obviously, the folks on the stage are important, but after, it’s in the halls when someone grabs somebody else and says, “Hey, listen, what are you guys doing? Because we sort of want to do what you guys are doing.”

Scott Neuman:

Right. And because we have all of these personalized experiences from general managers to marketers, customer support, broadband operators, and network engineers, they are specifically dialed in to tailor the content to meet their needs. Well, what does that mean? That means actually, if you bring a team of five representing all of those, you are actually spending your respective days apart.

So when does that team physically get back together and go, “Oh, you know what I heard today? And this is what we got to be able to do?” So, part of that is, to your point, maybe if we have one or two fewer sessions, that team can actually sit down and go, “Let’s catch up together because we haven’t had a chance.”

Fostering Community Success

Joe Coldebella:

So literally right before you, I just interviewed Brad Moline from ALLO Communications, and do you know what? He said that exact thing. That’s what he did. He brought a bunch of folks here, and they all sort of went in different directions. And now he pulled them together and talked about what everyone gained from the conference. After this is over, you guys just must be secretly giving each other high fives.

Scott Neuman:

Right, right. And at the end of the day, we’ve always been this kind of subservient brand where we really want to make sure that this is about them and their success. Well, it’s also about their community of peers. And so, the power of this kind of gathering, which we don’t see across the industry, is that ability for them to actually learn from each other. That’s why the whole main stage is just chockfull of story after story after story from them. What are they doing? What do they want to see next? And what is their next challenge for Calix to deliver on for them?

Navigating the Broadband Industry’s Obsession with Bandwidth

Joe Coldebella:

Michael Weening said something on the stage that I thought was really interesting and very true because it’s half of the puzzle. He said that the broadband industry is sort of drunk on speed. Everyone’s like, “Hey, listen, we’re not only going to go a GB. We’re not going to go 10 GB. We’re going to go 50GB,” which is all great. Listen, it’s super important because I think that the technology that’s going to be coming down the pipe is going to need it. But then there’s the other half, and I think that’s sort of your guys’ sweet spot. Would love for you to sort of unpack that in terms of the holistic approach that you guys take.

Scott Neuman:

Yeah. Well if you you look at the big legacy giants in the competition, we know their playbook, right? I mean I think we had a conversation about this on our last podcast. If you watch the Super Bowl, you already saw the game plan. There were two Super Bowl ads from our industry. It was Xfinity and T-Mobile, 5GB and 10GB. And they were each 60-second spots played twice. Do you know how much 60 seconds cost on the Super Bowl this year?

Redefining Success in the Broadband Industry Through Community-Centric Solutions

Joe Coldebella:

$7 million?

Scott Neuman:

That was for 30 seconds. $14 million for 60 seconds. So that much money to communicate one thing. “We have fast.” Really? So you know the play that’s coming. So what we’re helping our customers do is go, “Okay, what are the needs of my community that I’m in a unique position to actually address and solve for them?”

That’s how you break through. You are not going to win a race to the bottom based on tiny razor-thin margins about cheap and fast. So, they’re getting it. And they’re realizing, “Great, how do I do that?” There are a bunch of tools and solutions they’re putting in their hands to figure out, “Well, how do I figure out who needs what? What’s the data I can collect to understand what my message is? How do I support it? And then how do I deliver on that and make sure that my community has exactly what it needs to thrive?”

Delivering Value Beyond Speed

Joe Coldebella:

Right. I always say, what’s the point of difference? Then what’s the benefit of the benefit? So you’ve got all these great things, but then ultimately, what is it that gets to the subscriber, the home, that really benefits them, and then is a win-win for everybody?

Scott Neuman:

Right. I mean think of one of the examples that Matt Collins brought up on stage. It’s one thing to say, “Yeah, we have network security.” It’s another thing to say, “You know what? We have a package. It’s specifically designed for parents and guardians and caretakers.” And you could call it the Guardian Plan as an example. Now you’re tapping into an emotion. You’re tapping into your subscribers saying, “Hey, I don’t wake up in the morning going, God, I wish I had a gig.” No, you wake up in the morning going, “How do I protect my kids from the dark side of the internet?” Because it is a double-edged sword, we all know that.

Well, you have the ability to actually package an offering that specifically addresses that concern. So the next time someone says, “Hey, for $49.95, you can get super-fast internet, but nothing else.” And then you’ve got from your local provider, “Hey, you want to protect your family? We have a Guardian Plan. And it’s all packaged in with parental controls, advanced network security, Bark for social media monitoring, all in one package.” Of course, it’s built on amazing speed, but it’s so much more than that.

Empowering Communities Through Integrated Broadband Solutions

Joe Coldebella:

I spoke with the folks from Hunter Communications. They were awesome. We spoke specifically about Bark because they had folks in their family who either experienced it or heard stories about it. You just got to be proactive, and it’s good to have things like that to make it easier so folks can at least have that option, right?

Scott Neuman:

Right. And the beauty is they’re leveraging a single platform to do this. So, if you’re talking about Hunter Communications, they’re going from everything they’ve done in the smart home. Now they’re quickly getting into smart biz, same cloud, same systems, just depending on how you want to configure it, the same ability to look at it from a support perspective, from a go-to-market perspective, from an operations perspective.

So then you can go from smart biz to smart town. And you can start blanketing the entire community. And now you’re getting into multi-dwelling units, smart MDU, same cloud, same platform, same system. So, it’s simple for them, but now they’re becoming a full solution provider for the entire community, not just, “I got cheap and fast for the home.”

Exploring the Impact and Accessibility of Virtual ConneXions

Joe Coldebella:

Right, because at the end, when it’s a race to the bottom, nobody wins.

Scott Neuman:

Nobody wins.

Joe Coldebella:

Yeah. So the event here is winding down. I always like to say that I’m here at the bitter end for all the lifers, so I get extra interviews. Do you guys also do an online event?

Scott Neuman:

Yes. Yeah. So we live-streamed the opening and the closing general sessions on Monday and Tuesday mornings. In three weeks, we’ll be hosting Virtual ConneXions. Virtual ConneXions is a combination of live events that’ll take place throughout the day. It’s a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This is the week of November 6th, so it’ll be November 7th, 8th, and 9th I believe. Day one will be for marketers; day two will be for network engineers and operators; and day three will be for customer support leaders.

And it’s a full day. It’s a mix of replays for those who couldn’t punch their ticket to Vegas and come to the conference because not everybody can come. You have to keep the lights on when some members of your team come. And this allows them to dive into the same experience, both live, on-demand, and semi-streaming. The other benefit is, because of a little thing called the space-time continuum, even if you attended ConneXions, you physically can only be in one room at one time.

The Value of Virtual ConneXions in Broadening Event Accessibility and Participation

Joe Coldebella:

Very true.

Scott Neuman:

There are other tracks and things you missed, and this is your chance to go back and actually see those.

Joe Coldebella:

I go to a lot of events, and one of the things that frustrates me is that I don’t always get a chance to see folks speak. But when I do, there are times when I sort of shake my fist because I can’t be at two places at once.

Scott Neuman:

And we traditionally get, probably another thousand people will log in and experience Virtual ConneXions. From the data we’ve seen, two-thirds didn’t get to come. And the other third came, and they’re coming back to Virtual ConneXions for things that they missed.

Joe Coldebella:

That’s awesome. So when do you get to rest?

Scott Neuman:

Rest? What are you talking about?

Joe Coldebella:

Rest is for the weary.

Scott Neuman:

No, we’re full at it. I mean this is the high season to make sure that our customers are set up well, especially as they’re starting to think about, “What am I going to do? Where am I going to go big in 2024 and beyond?

The Power of Storytelling in the Broadband Community

Joe Coldebella:

One of the things that I love about this event is that you guys sort of have the same mission as we do. It’s all about telling stories. So we can’t thank you enough for letting us come here and speak with the operators that you work with. They have tremendous stories for the whole broadband world, whether it be in the United States, Canada, the UK, or anywhere in the world. We love sharing them. So thank you so very much for having us.

Scott Neuman:

Absolutely, Joe. And thank you for helping amplify these amazing stories from all over the industry.

Joe Coldebella:

All right, Scott, I know that you’re hard-pressed for time, so let’s end it here. Thank you so very much.

Scott Neuman:

You bet. Thanks, Joe.

Joe Coldebella:

All right, that’s going to wrap up this episode of The Broadband Bunch. Until next time, we’ll see you guys later.

© 2024 Enhanced Telecommunications.

About the Author

Priscilla Berarducci - Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Priscilla manages digital content and supports sales/marketing efforts for ETI. She also serves as brand manager for the Broadband Bunch podcast where she books industry professionals who want to share their broadband stories.