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Old School in a New Media World

I’m old. Or at least old school.When someone on my team asks me to look at a document they’ve written, I usually print it out and then mark it up old-fashioned style with a red pen -reminiscent of my days as a copy editor at Network World in the early 90′s. When I hand my co-worker back a hard copy with my notes in the margin, they look at me like I just walked out of the caveman exhibit at the Natural History Museum. Read More »

Creating a Strategic Asset

Many people across our industry believe that the role of an effective Analyst Relations function is to get the industry analysts to say and write nice things about their company and its products. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.Hey, don’t get me wrong -having analysts opine (that was for you, Jim) on the fabulousness of your products and technologies is a good thing, and it’s definitely an expected deliverable from my program here at Cisco. [Disclaimer added for my supervisor's benefit.] But, that’s the hoped-for result of my team’s efforts; not its role. Read More »

Productivity via Collaboration

I attended our Financial Analyst Conference earlier today, and while there were several interesting themes that emerged, I was most intrigued by the discussions around how companies will achieve productivity gains in the future. To no surprise of long-time followers of Cisco, we believe that collaboration will be at the heart of that winning formula.In his opening keynote, our chairman and CEO, John Chambers, indicated this was the most excited he’s been in a decade because Phase II of the Internet evolution is about to take off. That’s good news not only for companies that will be able to enable new, innovative business models and processes, but also for governments in developing nations who’ll be able to achieve true country transformations. And the bottom line for both will be measurable gains in productivity.The combination of capital expenditure with business process change and innovation will lead to those productivity gains, according to Chambers. That innovation wave will be driven by collaboration, which will manifest itself in things like video. If there is a killer application out there, it’s video -and we’re not necessarily talking about that solely from an entertainment perspective, but as a way to change the way we work. One aspect of that play for us is our TelePresence high-definition video platform, which enables business transformation and aligns very nicely with the portfolio of Web 2.0 tools that are emerging across the industry.Another aspect of productivity discussed at FAC was globalisation (after three years of living in Great Britain, I’m permitted to randomly replace my zeds with esses). An effective globalisation strategy will allow companies to tap into new talent pools; find new areas of growth; and scale their innovation efforts, thus increasing their overall productivity and expanding their business. And companies -as well as countries -can use collaboration to drive that business or socio-economic model transformation. What’s at stake for these organizations as they head down this path? What are they risking? And how do they ultimately measure the effectiveness of their strategy shift? Each situation will have its own unique wrinkles, but the one common thread that will be pervasive is the cultural and behavior changes required. We’re in the 7th year of that journey at Cisco, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that you can’t change human behaviour (see, I can also randomly add the letter ‘u’ to words, as well) by merely implementing a process.

Collaboration: The Next Frontier

Unless you’ve been living on the edge of the world -which, IMHO, would be the Hotel Eilean Iarmain on the Isle of Skye in Scotland; one of the most breathtaking views in the world as you look out across the Sound of Sleat (but I digress) -for the last six months, you may have picked up that we think collaboration will drive innovation, productivity and growth in the industry for the next decade.Collaboration, however, is a difficult thing to pin down as it means many things to many people. John Chambers, our chairman and CEO, points out we actually started down this path nearly six years ago when we began the shift from a corporate management style based on command-and-control to one centered on teamwork and collaboration. Initially, it was a very difficult transition for us because it was a significant change in company culture and process. We get better and better at it with each passing quarter, but it took time, patience and a willingness to get out of our comfort zone.So it is now with the transition to collaboration tools and applications that many businesses have been undertaking. Consumers have been using collaboration tools for years, and those same expectations and efficiencies they’ve experienced at home are now being expected in the workplace. Businesses have started to adopt these tools, but as we discovered firsthand six year ago, acceptance and usage doesn’t happen overnight. For adoption to be truly successful, the underlying business process or model must change in many cases. As John has noted in the past, there is a set of key characteristics that must be part of any successful collaboration strategy: it must be converged, virtual, open, safe and simple.We strongly believe in this philosophy and have taken some bold steps to invest in this space. We acquired WebEx. We developed a leading edge collaborative tool in TelePresence. We formed a new business unit, the Collaboration Software Group. We are building an internal Cisco Center of Excellence centered around these tools and capabilities so we can learn how to adopt, use and leverage these resources. We will then, in turn, pass this knowledge and experience onto our customers so they can learn from our successes and failures.Our biggest challenge in this transition won’t be the technology, however. Or the tools themselves. It will be in the changes required in culture and behavior. We are creatures of habit. Breaking out of them can be very difficult, even when we know that new thing out there is better, faster or stronger. Leading by example is oftentimes the best approach. We intend to do just that for our customers.At C-Scape as well as the months leading up it, you will be hearing more about our emerging strategy in the collaboration space. I heard a rumor that one or two of you might be interested in that…

Why C-Scape?

Last year was the debut of our C-Scape Global Forum. Many of you will fondly (I hope!) remember the previous iteration of that event, the Worldwide Analyst Conference, or as it was known internally -WWAC. So, why did we ‘whack’ WWAC? (you’ll now have that nursery rhyme”This Old Man” playing in your head for the rest of the day. Sorry…)We made the change because we believed WWAC wasn’t providing either of us with the best value possible. Essentially, WWAC had turned into a reporting vehicle. We had the parade of senior executives from the various business units and product areas with their 40-slide updates, and we ended up pitching at you instead of engaging you.Hence, C-Scape. We realized we weren’t culling the best strategic value from our relationships with the industry influencers, so we redesigned our event to focus on discussion, debate and dialogue. We wanted to bring the prevailing issues of the day to this forum and engage you in two-way conversations. We wanted to create an environment where there was more networking time; more opportunities for one-on-one meetings; and more meaningful discussions.Our philosophy around how we engage and interact with the industry analysts and other influencers has undergone a transformation over the last couple of years, and there is no one better than our chairman and CEO, John Chambers, to explain why that change has happened. This clip was taken from a recent internal meeting with employees, where John answered the question on how his views on the use of industry analysts has changed over time.              Duration: 1 min. 40 sec.Have we been successful in that? You’ll be the ultimate judge obviously. We believe we took some positive steps with last year’s event, but we want to ensure we make any needed changes as we go into this year’s forum. If you have any ideas, suggestions or comments, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.