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Almost every weekend, Cisco implements 25-30 projects upgrading our core network infrastructure, involving sites around the world. These network projects run from simple office moves and partner connections to complex technology upgrades and acquisition integrations. They also include all the changes that are part of the Cisco IT fleet management program, where we regularly review the network infrastructure at each of our 500+ sites for needed upgrades, and schedule the upgrade cycles. This upgrading work is distributed, detailed, and involves repeatable processes, which makes it ideal for outsourcing:  but there are tricks to handing off responsibility while maintaining extremely high standards.

Previously, our own Cisco IT engineers performed this work, which meant we had many expert employees who we were put on planes all the time. This led to problems with employee burnout, and we would lose their experience when they inevitably moved to another job that required less travel. Also, because we were always focused on the next project, we were often too relaxed about documenting the processes and lessons learned from current work so that we could apply them in the future.

Today, we follow standardized processes with our in-region outsourced partners, who actually perform much of the implementation work for us – once we establish the standard implementation plan together. At the core of these processes is our “5-5-5 Rule” for a new IT project that is implemented in multiple sites:

This 5-5-5 rule is beneficial for both Cisco IT and our outsourced partners in several ways:

Following this rule produces a good learning experience for everyone. For example, there are things that the outsourcer’s engineers ask that our internal engineers wouldn’t necessarily think about. This approach also allows Cisco IT to avoid the difficult task of providing and maintaining a suite of detailed documentation for an external vendor to perform the job successfully.

By following the 5-5-5 Rule, we are able to keep up the pace of implementing nearly 2000 IT projects per year. And it helps our implementation partners work more effectively, which benefits partners, Cisco IT, and ultimately, the users we serve.

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