By 2020, connected things will outnumber humans 26 to 1. Digital disruption is reshaping whole industries. By some estimates, 40 percent of incumbents will be displaced within three years. We’ve been asking IT leaders who attend our conferences what it will take to survive and thrive. The answers are remarkably consistent. The biggest difficulty they face? The speed of business. Biggest concern? Security. Biggest barrier? Culture.


To Go Faster, Involve Operations

Our customers expect us to constantly deliver new solutions to help them succeed in a changing world. To speed up our pace, we’re bringing HR, supply chain, facilities, and IT into business decisions. We make sure that operations teams know what their business unit does, how it makes money, and what executives worry about. Then we actively invite them to contribute their ideas for bringing new solutions to market faster. Some of our guiding principles:

  • Listen to customers. We adapt our products and services based on their successes and failures.
  • Be willing to rewrite the rules. No business process or operating model is too sacred to re-imagine.
  • Encourage different operational teams to join forces. For example, our facilities Workplace Resources team works in partnership with IT to maintain our Texas data centers. Here’s a blog.
  • Realize that digital transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. Some changes will take a long time, so we pace ourselves.


Make Security Part of Every Business Discussion

In 85 percent of companies, IT and Information Security (InfoSec) are adversaries, with InfoSec seen as the naysayer. In 10 percent of companies, IT and InfoSec work as partners. In 5 percent, security teams participate in business discussions right from the beginning. Taking that approach, Cisco IT and InfoSec were able to offer secure access from employees’ personal devices well before BYOD became an everyday acronym. Here’s the story.

To manage the risk of digital business, make sure your InfoSec group understands your company’s business goals. Weigh the security risks of new products and services against the business value. Finally, give IT service owners full responsibility for the security of their services. This approach helps IT and InfoSec work toward a common goal instead of clashing.


Build a Culture that Nurtures Digital Transformation

Digital transformation depends on people, process, and technology. People are the bedrock. At Cisco, our culture starts at the top, with leaders who encourage transformation and expect the same of their managers:

  • Encouraging different organizations to collaborate.
  • Celebrating the successes of highly productive groups and introducing their practices throughout the company.
  • Expecting employee teams to own their projects and to take pride in their successes.
  • Constantly reevaluating the skills our workforce needs for the future and providing training.
  • Giving employees reasons to be proud of where they work. This helps companies recruit and retain top talent. Personally, I’m proud that many of my coworkers help out during disasters like floods and fires by traveling with our Network Emergency Response Vehicles (NERVs). Several volunteers travel with the truck for weeks at a time to help people in need.