Points of Light

William Spivey helps Lucent shine in the global marketplace

When Lucent Technologies restructured in November of 1997, William Spivey knew that he’d be spending more time than ever away from home. Uniting 15,000 employees spread out across 14 countries proved no easy feat.

Today, as group president of their Network Products Group, Spivey oversees the development, manufacturing

and marketing of Lucent’s fiber optic, copper cabling and power systems. Armed with an operating budget of $3.5 billion, last year Spivey’s group was responsible for $4 billion in revenue-15% of Lucent’s overall take. Additionally, Spivey’s group is growing at a rate of 30% annually, twice the market rate.

Lucent, an AT&T spin-off, ranked 37 on last year’s Fortune 500 list. According to Zia Daniell, an analyst with Jupiter Communications in New York, Lucent has succeeded because, “the company continues to run with the intensity of a start-up venture. Its development cycle is amazingly rapid.”

Spivey concurs. In addition to maintaining an inventory of over 8,000 products, his group is responsible for all connectivity research and development. Subsequently, Lucent’s ability to create new and improved cable is unheralded. “The need for bandwidth is constantly growing,” says Spivey, who explains bandwidth by comparing it to how much water a pipe can accommodate.

In the connectivity industry, fiber optic cable has superior bandwidth, but it is far more expensive than copper. Thus fiber optic is generally used for long distances and copper for infrastructure projects such as building networks. So when Spivey’s group released its GigaSPEED copper cabling last year, which allowed a bandwidth previously unheard of in copper, clients began clamoring for the stuff. And last June the release of a new undersea fiber optic cable that allows for increased capacity brought similar results.

“With the explosion of the Internet in the U.S., and with countries like India and China just now putting communication infrastructures in place,” notes Spivey, “we can’t make these products fast enough.” He adds that once Lucent develops a new product, it’s common for competitors to match it within three to six months. “This is a business where you can’t slow down.”

Additionally, the cost of installing networks is expensive, thus clients need systems that will be usable for the next two decades. “We have to offer technology that will take our customers as far into the future as they want to go,” he says. Lucent, the industry leader with a 15% market share, serves a wide array of clients, including AT&T, Qwest, Viatel and many of the regional Bell operating companies.

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, Spivey began his career at General Electric as a design engineer. After nearly a decade, the Brunswick, Georgia, native went to work for Honeywell, where, as a manager, he began to realize that “with a background in physical sciences, I knew little of the social science of business.” so while working full time, he earned a Ph.D. in administration and management from Walden University in Minneapolis. Spivey left Honeywell in 1991 to join Tektronix, where he eventually became president of the company’s development division.

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