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Entrepreneurs: Your Invitation to Innovate with Cisco in Europe – Second Season Application Now Open

It was only last November that I wrote about our first Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) cohort in Europe. I knew then we had started something special – an incubation model that allows Cisco to tap into the immense talent of the European startup community and helps address many of the unique challenges entrepreneurs face in the region. Only a few months into our first European season, our startups have gained significant traction inside Cisco – and are demonstrating potential for strategic relationships and differentiation with us.

With this success in mind, I am pleased to announce we are now accepting applications from startups located in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR) to join our second season cohort in the region. We have partnered with Pioneers once again and are looking forward to announcing the winners on stage at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna in May. Find out more and apply here.

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Enabling “The Easy” Button for Insurance

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a blog titled, “Mayday for Insurance and Financial Services,” where I detailed how next-generation customer experience capabilities, such as virtual interactions between business experts and customers, are transforming business processes – such as the “Mayday” button technology offered on Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX. The purpose of that blog was to explain virtual interaction capabilities and discuss how they are likely to become integrated into the insurance industry in the near future. So what’s changed? Well, I’ve gone from blogging about the changes to come, to speaking at insurance industry conferences about how virtual transactions are now transforming how the industry does business and how Cisco is helping fuel these virtual interactions.

I attended the Property Insurance Report National Conference, and had many great discussions. The focus of the conference was on ways the property insurance world is changing, through consideration of new ideas and the utilization of new tools being built. It’s widely considered that with the arrival of better information and tools, the most sophisticated insurers will be able to separate themselves from those who don’t take these changes as seriously or employ them as skillfully. Features such as online video sales and support are working in the real world for other industries, so how they can be applied to insurance?

At the conference, I gave a keynote presentation titled, “Omni-Channel for Insurance – Virtual Enhanced Distribution & Service Channels”. The presentation specifically focused on how virtual interactions are transforming the insurance industry and improving customer experiences.

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Context is Everything in Customer Care

“Let’s eat grandma!”
“Let’s eat, grandma!”

Punctuation makes a difference, doesn’t it? So does context.

Photo by Takkk, Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Takkk, Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a basketball fan with March Madness on your mind, “Drive the lane!” might make you think of something a coach yells to his players. On the other hand, if you’re teaching your teenage son to drive, it means something else entirely. Context matters! (By the way, march madness also refers to the breeding season of the European hare; context is a tricky thing.)

What’s one of the most annoying things about calling a contact center? For me, it’s entering my account number to an interactive voice response (IVR) system and then having a customer service agent ask me to repeat it moments later. In his recent blog, Zack Taylor refers to this as a “Do It Again” moment. Come on, people! We put a man on the moon in 1969 (or not, if you’re a conspiracy buff), but we can’t get an IVR system to send account numbers to agents? Actually we can. But most businesses don’t because it’s been too difficult or costly. We’ll get back to that shortly. Read More »

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As Cisco Intercloud Turns One, Two of its Architects Reflect On How The Strategy Was Born

A Q&A with Cisco President Rob Lloyd and Cloud Senior Vice President Nick Earle

Rob Lloyd Nick Earle Cisco

 

 

 

 

 

One year ago this week, Cisco announced a plan and a billion dollar investment to build the world’s largest Intercloud – a globally connected network of clouds from Cisco and our partners. As we arrive at the one-year anniversary, I took a few minutes to chat with Cisco President Rob Lloyd and Cloud SVP Nick Earle – two of the ‘architects of the Intercloud’ – about how the idea came about, and what they have learned in the year since the vision was unveiled.

David McCulloch: Can you take us back to early 2014 and remind us why Cisco needed to evolve its cloud strategy?

Rob Lloyd: In late 2013, even as sales of Cisco’s SaaS and cloud enabling technologies continued to rise, we started to see demand for a new cloud model: a hybrid cloud model that took into account our customers’ current IT investments and augmented those with a choice of cloud providers, and access to local and national cloud options to more easily comply with data privacy and industry regulations. We realized that if we could deliver all of that with one holistic hybrid cloud strategy that gave customers a high degree of control over security, policy and application performance, we had a huge opportunity on our hands.

DM:  Enter Cisco Intercloud! How did the idea come about?

Rob: A few weeks before Cisco’s annual executive leadership team meeting, Nick Earle, Edzard Overbeek (head of Cisco Services), Jim Sherriff (chief of staff) and I met to brainstorm what it would take to deliver the hybrid cloud strategy our customers wanted.  We knew we had some valuable assets already: Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) was capable of enabling consistent security and policy across clouds. Intercloud Fabric enabled portability of workloads between clouds. And our Integrated Architecture offers in the Data Center were already market leading.  But we realized we could go further still if we fully embraced our extensive global ecosystem of partners. If we could combine Cisco’s strengths together with those of our partners, and move quickly, we knew we could disrupt current cloud models and become the market leader in hybrid cloud solutions.

DM: Whiteboard, notebooks or napkin?

Nick Earle: White board! The four of us began drawing the current partner/technology/services ecosystem on a whiteboard in the ‘Bat Cave’, a meeting room that is full of mementos Rob has collected on his business travels. The first sketch centered on applications running in Cisco data centers with remote access provided to our partners and customers, but that posed serious scalability challenges. We realized no company – not even Cisco – could deliver the global reach and local scale our customers were asking for to meet the massive challenges and opportunities presented by the Internet of Everything.

DM: So what was plan B?

Nick: We restarted the design from scratch, this time taking ourselves temporarily out of the picture and drawing everything from the perspective of the customer. We asked: what would it take to deliver the seamless hybrid cloud experience they wanted – irrespective of vendor or cloud provider? This was the key breakthrough. We redrew the global cloud network diagram with a green dot inside each element in the ecosystem – the green dot representing a technology capability that was at once secure and open – that would enable cloud federation.  A pattern of green dots began to emerge and the lights went on – this was it! We had no name for the idea at the time so we began referring to it as the ‘Green Dot Strategy’.

The original 'Green Dot Strategy' sketch on the 'Bat Cave' whiteboard

The original ‘Green Dot Strategy’ sketch on the ‘Bat Cave’ whiteboard

DM: So how did the ‘Green Dot Strategy’ become the Cisco Intercloud strategy?

Rob: We wanted to make this strategy real for our customers as quickly as possible. So we compiled an inventory of all the capabilities we would need to pull it off: Secure hypervisor agnostic distribution of applications? Intercloud Fabric. Check! Application policy extensibility into other clouds? ACI. Check. Real time data analytics to billions of new devices and data at the edge of the network? Cisco Data Virtualization. Check!  An extensive partner ecosystem that could put data centers in every country to provide global data sovereignty and provide a huge go to market advantage? Check again. We realized we had a winning strategy on our hands and we needed to move quickly to launch the strategy – at ‘Dev Ops’ speed.

DM: And we did move quickly. Cisco unveiled its Intercloud strategy fifty-six days later at our Partner Summit in Las Vegas. But that was really just the beginning, wasn’t it?

Rob:  It all began with Telstra, our first Intercloud alliance partner, but once our ecosystem of partners had a chance to digest the concept, the feedback and uptake was off the charts! Now, one year after the unveiling, we’ve filled in a lot of the ‘green dots’ that we sketched on that whiteboard. We have amassed 60 Intercloud alliance, ecosystem and cloud provider partners with a footprint of 400 data centers across 50 countries, and the momentum continues.

Last week, I announced new Intercloud services together with DT at CeBit in Germany. This week I reviewed the revenues being generated by SunGard Availability Services that leverage their domain expertise in cloud recovery services, SAP and public cloud, and witnessed the faster time-to-market enabled by Intercloud.

When I see those advances, it’s clear to me that we have a created a big idea with the potential to truly be a game changer.  Consider this: within nine months we’ll have a service availability capability that matches what the best known player in this category has taken nine years to build.

DM: What’s next?

Nick: Ha! You ain’t seen nothing yet!  We’re really still at phase one of our strategy. In time, we’ll add hundreds of cloud service providers with thousands of services into the mix. That will arm our customers and crucially our partners with the industry’s best cloud service portfolio. The next phases are all about scaling out the availability of those services globally with alliance partners like Telstra, Deutsche Telekom, and others to be announced. Ultimately, we plan to create the world’s most compelling global cloud service exchange for business, where orchestration and management of services on Cisco and non-Cisco environments comes with world-class security, visibility, control and analytics. You can expect to hear more about that this summer!

How did your big idea come about? We’re curious to hear your innovation story! Post #innovativeideas.

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Listen Your Way to the Win

Many people believe that big talkers make the best sales people. But actually, the best listeners prove to be the most successful not only in sales, but in any business profession. More than 35 business studies indicate that listening is a top skill needed for success in business. So if listening is so important why don’t more people practice good listening skills? Well, hearing is easy but listening is hard.

Considers these statistics:

  • Immediately after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50 percent of what they said.
  • Long-term, we only remember 20 percent of what we hear.
  • Most of us are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful about 75 percent of the time we should be listening.

How do you set yourself apart from the general population when it comes to listening? Follow these four steps to more success. Read More »

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