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Transforming the Global Landscape through the New Digital Age

Worries about diminished GDP growth, a shrinking middle class and rising geopolitical conflicts are rampant. Many may be concerned about the direction our world is headed in, but complete disruption of the ways our cities and countries operate is key to turning it around.

Digitization will impact productivity like no other disruptive trend being discussed right now – tapping into the 50 billion devices that will come online over the next five years – this will have 5 to 10 times the impact the Internet has had on our lives so far. This will be key to how countries maintain global competitiveness, increase GDP growth, foster innovation and create new jobs.

A great example is France. Government leaders clearly understand the importance of digital transformation and are taking the digitization process a step further by building an ecosystem that will grow innovation power. Collaboration between corporations and startups will be key to maintaining international competitiveness across Europe. I traveled to France last week for the opening of the Paris Innovation and Research Center, which will bring together government, companies like Cisco, startups, universities, developers, researchers, and the venture capital community to ensure continuous innovation and accelerate of France’s digital transformation. With tools like a floor to ceiling interactive video wall, groups from around the world can collaborate seamlessly. Through the right infrastructure and resources, France will be able to build an environment that supports new ideas to improve the citizen experience and transform the way the country operates. Over the next 10 years digitization could help France generate $101 billion contribution to GDP, 1.1 million jobs, and $51 billion in value from a sustainable innovation network.

While people question whether economic slowdown in emerging markets is an ongoing trend, India has laid the groundwork for prosperity. I sat down with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his trip last month to Silicon Valley. As the first Indian head of state to visit California in three decades, he sent a clear message about his commitment to partnering with industry on projects for his Digital India initiative. One key area that this will impact greatly is a highly skilled workforce – we’re already seeing this in the ICT industry, a frontrunner in creating a talent pool ready for jobs of the future. Additionally, Modi has set a vision for India to be a key manufacturing hub for the world, which will enable local innovation, jobs creation and increase India’s global competitiveness. Finally, with the Startup India initiative Modi has shown full support for creating an environment that is conducive to next generation companies. With the right technological investments, and partners, India can completely change how citizens, businesses and the government interact, potentially adding $224 billion in economic value for the country over the next decade.

I believe the time is now for industry and government to take the initiative on transformational projects to harness the power of digitization. We must take advantage of the $4.6 trillion public-sector opportunity the next phase of the Internet holds. Through training programs for the workforce of the future, harnessing an innovation ecosystem, leveraging the power of partnerships, and building a secure digital infrastructure with the ability to scale, countries can not only survive, but will thrive in this new Digital Age, unlocking new economic growth.


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The Branch: A Retail Bank’s Secret Sauce to Success

So This Guy Walks into a Branch…

I like to think of myself as a tech-savvy consumer, and that includes my banking habits. That means that I rarely step across the threshold of my bank’s branch, since most of what I need can be accessed online, or via my bank’s mobile app.

However, when it comes to complex interactions and larger spending decisions, I still prefer my local branch. What’s more, I have repeatedly gone back to the same bank as we have added new investments, even when they didn’t offer the best rate. Why? Because I value their expert advice, their understanding of my history, and, most importantly, their ability to see the whole picture — rather than just an isolated transaction.

Bank Customers Want It All

In this sense, I am not alone. The digitalization of banking has transformed customer expectations and behavior. Advances in technology have allowed customers like me to manage our own accounts remotely, from any place at any time. Yet for the more complex transactions, we still prefer personal interactions at our local branches.

Ian's blogAn annual survey of 1,000 U.S. adults for American Bankers Association (ABA) by Ipsos Public Affairs, in August, 2014 found that consumers are embracing mobile banking in ever-increasing numbers. However, in-person branch visits are still popular with many customers. Preference for branch banking had increased year over year from 2013, from 18 percent to 21 percent, and 89 percent of customers who come to the branch required advice for complex financial products.

Today’s customers expect the best of both worlds: the convenience and easy access to online banking, along with the expert advice and personal guidance from their local branch. In short, they expect a blending of the physical and virtual, a value proposition that online-only banks cannot match. Read More »

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Determining the Value of the Virtual Shopping Experience

We are increasingly hearing about the value of improving the shopping experience by adding virtual expertise to the store. As head of Cisco’s Retail & Hospitality practice, I frequently talk to customers who are exploring this concept – though what I mainly hear are questions! While many are interested in the idea, they are still trying figure out whether or not a virtual customer expert is going to add more revenue to their bottom line.

Putting a collaborative expert into the store – virtual or physical – can actually be critical to meeting the needs of the consumer, especially during the purchase of a high-priced product or for a purchase where it is very important to make the right decision. However, very often this level of expertise is not available in the aisle when the consumer is dwelling there. And yet, the presence of such an expert can be extremely important. For example:

  1. A mother is shopping for an over-the-counter decongestant late in the evening for her child, who is also taking medication for ADD. A pharmacist is not available, but getting the wrong medication could be life-threatening.
  2. A couple is buying a printer for their college-age daughter, who shares an apartment with three other students. They need a printer that can be networked so all four girls can print their assignments and research papers.
  3. A party host would like to purchase several cases of wine that complement the menu, but are not overwhelmingly expensive.
  4. A couple is browsing the latest assortment of home security devices, trying to make sense of what will work with their current network configuration.

Savvy retailers debate how to solve the problem of providing highly paid experts to be immediately available to consumers, without footing the bill for an employee who may be idle part of the time. Additionally, it may be necessary to provide a level of privacy while engaging the expert. The retailer’s quandary is how to attractively offer this service in a way to increase basket and justify this use of valuable selling space.

Forward-looking retailers recognize that this capability is part of providing a truly integrated omnichannel experience. Shoppers are no longer either in the store or online… they are both, and sometimes at the same time. Thanks to our mobile devices, consumers can research, compare prices, and shop with our mobile devices in the aisle. According to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, retailers need to adopt a “digical” strategy – a term coined by Bain & Company’s Darrell Rigby and Suzanne Tager – meaning the seamless integration of digital with physical retail. (For more, check out the article, “The Future of Retail Will Be Won or Lost in ‘Digical.’”)

In any channel in this digical world, retailers will lose revenue if they are unable to differentiate themselves by providing excellent value, combined with the appropriate amount of customer service. And here is where the virtualized experience can drive a new level of engagement for the brick-and-mortar store. Via video collaboration on a consumer’s mobile device, a kiosk display, online, or an associate’s tablet, shoppers looking for advice can easily connect with your centralized or outsourced pool of experts for immediate assistance. Let’s go back to the scenarios above:

  1. A QR code is posted on a sign that reads: “Photograph this sign with your mobile device and you can speak to one of our pharmacists on call 24×7.” The pharmacy service immediately calls the mother’s mobile phone number to discuss which medication will be safe for her ADD son.
  2. An associate in the printer aisle approaches the couple and boots up an expert session on his tablet to discuss feeds, speeds, and price points. This helps the family determine which printer will best fit their daughter’s needs.
  3. The party host approaches a kiosk to engage a wine expert. He enters the date and time of the party so that weather can be taken into account, the centerpiece menu items, and his desired price range. He then engages with a virtual expert who provides options as well as a special discount based on the number of cases. Additionally, he is offered a 50% discount on disposable wine goblets.
  4. As the couple browses an array of home security options, the retailer pushes a promotion to their mobile device: “If you would like a complementary home security assessment, follow this link to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.” This in-home expert then cross-sells and upsells products from a tablet in the home, and schedules an in-store meeting when products arrive to discuss installation.

When used in conjunction with brick and mortar, virtual in-store and online expertise complement the natural selling journey with consumers to fill an important gap in the omnichannel experience. Click here to learn more about Cisco’s thinking in this area, or contact me at

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Espionage in the Internet Age

If you had asked me a few years ago, I might have predicted that the rise of large scale hacking and network-based Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) would spell the end of old-school espionage (poison-tipped umbrellas, office break-ins, dangles and the like). Those of us who fancy ourselves logical, savvy cyber security specialists can be forgiven for thinking such analog antics wouldn’t persist in a digital world.

And yet, human espionage remains a nagging issue. A Russian spy ring was disrupted in New York in January. New stories about employees stealing trade secrets from their employers regularly make headlines, such as this one in May. More than one article alleges that Vienna and Lausanne (home to recent Iranian nuclear negotiations) are swarming with spies from Tehran. And these are just the stories that get reported.

There is no question that spycraft is changing with the times. Recent, damaging breaches of US government employee information—amply documented elsewhere—provide some interesting hints as to how: Read More »

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Unicorns and Global Digital Disruption: Part II

In my last blog, we talked about the current age of digital disruption and how unicorns are changing the tech landscape.

What Does This Mean For You Though?

As a result, IT and LoBs are under more competitive pressure than ever before. A new wave of disruption faces them – hence, businesses need to react fast, innovate and release. This is where Shadow or Rogue IT comes into place – LoBs want to fail fast, and fail often. You can’t do that if it takes 2-4 weeks for a VM, never mind with access control restraints. At Cisco, our Cloud Consumption Service helps find on average 5-10 times more cloud services than the CIO was aware of. Shadow IT or Rogue IT is just the business trying to react to the market: the path of least resistance wins.

Developers and Decision Makers

Read More »

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