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India: Transforming Promise into Performance

Seven years ago, many people (including my mother-in-law) thought I had made a career-ending decision to accept a high-risk assignment and relocate to India. My mission:  build from the ground up Cisco’s second headquarters, a Globalization Centre East in Bangalore focused on innovation, talent and partner development that envisioned 10,000 employees in three years, including the top 10% of worldwide talent. My charter included developing a world-class technology campus that also served as a showcase for incubating and advancing Smart City services worldwide, and to become the most relevant ICT company in India.

Was it the right decision?

Wim #1Although half a world away from Cisco’s corporate headquarters in the Silicon Valley, I thought the new job was still full of great promise. India was and still is the world’s largest democracy, had a growing talent pool, a zest for innovation, a co-operative government, aspirational middle class and a potentially huge economy purring along at 8% annual growth.

In four years, we partnered with national and local governments as well as an ecosystem of commercial businesses to architect and develop a fully networked campus.The Smart + Connected Community inBangalore integrated building systems with IT systems and applications onto one IP network, enveloped by artfully designed buildings and collaborative work spaces.

Today, the 1-million-square-foot Globalization Centre East campus employs more than 11,000 people, houses Cisco’s Research and Development, IT and customer support teams with the best talent in industry. The campus also meets my original charter Wim #2as the incubator for validating our industry-leading Smart + Connected Communities, especially Smart Cities, which today has projects on nearly every continent worldwide, encompassing more than 90 engagements.

All that has been extremely rewarding to see, but was it the right decision?

We achieved every critical objective except one: growing ICT technology throughout India itself. In my four years of living in India and after a number of subsequent trips revisiting there, I now realize that the promise and opportunity of India can be unpredictable.  After several years of nearly double digit growth, India’s economy spiraled down, experienced high inflation, a weakening rupee, allegations of government corruption and financial policy decisions that spooked the international investment community.

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Launching Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence in Europe

I recently wrote about how we are extending Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR)  and our open innovation strategy beyond Silicon Valley through local incubation partners in Chicago, San Diego and Berkeley.  Our presence in these innovation hubs will enable us to discover, influence and learn from new ideas and talent at early-stage startups with potential to disrupt our industry.

Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of Cisco EIR Europe, extending our program to a non-U.S. innovation hub for the first time.  Cisco EIR will be located initially in Vienna, where we plan to launch a small cohort of early-stage European startups by January 2015 – to be supported & incubated by Cisco – drawn from across EMEAR.  As with Cisco EIR in Silicon Valley, we will look for game-changing entrepreneurs in IoE, security, Big Data/analytics, Smart Cities & other transformational opportunities that are in Cisco’s strategic line of sight.  Also as in our Silicon Valley program, the startups will be supported by Cisco engineering & product teams as well as our EMEAR partner ecosystem.  The Vienna-based program is intended to serve as the beachhead – our “Phase 1” – for a broader EU-wide footprint for Cisco EIR.

Key to our success is how we leverage the startup ecosystem that already exists in Europe.  To this end, starting in Vienna, we have partnered with Pioneers, a leading startup community organization in Europe.  More partnerships are in the works.

I know all of you will agree innovation knows no national boundaries.  Europe, with its deep entrepreneurial talent, large market and history of innovation, presents a unique opportunity for usEurope is also one of the key regions for our Smart Cities – as you saw from our recent announcement of a new Smart Cities initiative in Copenhagen, following similar projects in Barcelona, Amsterdam Chicago and Hamburg.

We are thrilled to forge relationships in the European startup community – and support entrepreneurs as partners in open innovation.

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Critical Infrastructure: How Smart Cities Will Transform Latin America

Although Latin America is a developing region, the area is making strides towards becoming more efficient, cleaner and more innovative—characteristics of smart cities and the Internet of Everything (IoE) are making it possible. Many people now beg the question, “Are smart cities real?” Wim Elfrink answers the question with a firm yes, referring to smart cities as tangible and necessary to foster economic and developmental growth.

With more and more people flocking to urban areas, cities that don’t embrace the digital economy will lag behind. Leading cities are reinventing themselves with real-time, networked applications to improve everything from traffic flow and parking to water usage and city-wide energy consumption. In some, passersby can instantly find nearby restaurants, shopping deals, mass transit and more at their fingertips through connected mobile devices.

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Internet of Everything Enabling Connected Cities
Recently, Cisco partnered with AGT to develop an upcoming Internet of Things-enabled traffic management system that Read More »

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The Digital Renaissance Is Here. Is Your Company’s Culture Ready?

Sooner or later we all feel like throwing up our hands and cursing the complexity of modern life. But while technology may seem the chief culprit in making things unmanageable, it is also the ultimate solution to complexity.

In the Internet of Everything (IoE) era, it is particularly important for business leaders to understand the power of technology to simplify our lives and support JBradleySAPinformed decision making. And this was a core theme at Sapphire Now 2014, an event in Orlando, Fla., that I was privileged to attend last week.

By using network technology to integrate people, process, data, and things, IoE counters complexity in unprecedented ways. In a city, this can involve something as simple as cutting the time it takes to find a (connected) parking space. Or IoE technologies can scale up to reroute traffic lights; for example, to head-off highway backups before, during, and after a large event.

In a brick-and-mortar retail setting (a key area of discussion at Sapphire Now), IoE can alleviate the complexity of managing customers, staffing, and products. With data from multiple sources comes heightened, real-time awareness, empowering managers to react faster than ever. For example, they can then stock shelves and reorganize staff in response to constantly changing levels of demand. With predictive analytics they can even respond before a customer rush begins.

The idea of hyper-aware, real-time decision-making resonated during a Sapphire Now panel discussion titled Thrive in the Digital Networks of the New Economy. I was honored to share the panel with such luminaries as Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT; Michael Chui of McKinsey Global Institute; and Jai Shekhawat, Deepak Krishnamurthy, and Vivek Bapat of SAP. And there was much discussion on the impact of bad decisions on failed organizations. Which is why we all take such an interest in technology that enables good ones.

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Carving Out “Me” Time in the Internet of Everything Era

In a typical week, I spend about 70 percent of my waking hours on work-related matters. Another 50 percent is devoted to my family. Which leaves 20 percent for taking care of the household, and ….

Yes, that adds up to more that 100 percent. But there simply aren’t enough hours in a day for all that needs to be done — not to mention protecting that crucial time with loved ones.

So, thank you, multitasking! I can’t be the only one who has held a child while writing emails, taken conference calls from the supermarket, or had several online meetings running simultaneously.

All of this occurred to me as I struggled to find time for this blog. Writing forces me to shut off everything around me and reflect on the things that really matter — in a world that is rapidly changing, increasingly complex, and in which technology can sometimes seem a mixed blessing. When I do finally carve out an opportunity to write, it is precious time, which I cherish.

But writing is hard. Trust me, I’ve thought about creating a blog for years, and my past is riddled with failed attempts to start. Each time, I hesitated for too long, wondering whether people would really want to hear what I have to say. Like many writers, I have wondered if my compositions were too long, too short, too personal, too corporate, too banal, too deep ….

But as much as I appreciate your attention, dear reader, this time around I realize that I am writing the blog for me, the writer. Like many of us, I navigate a harried, high-pressure life. And this blog is my time, my space, to do something creative and expressive.

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