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The Modular Enterprise

- June 17, 2015 - 0 Comments

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Just before setting off for Cisco Live I heard an economist on the radio talk about the relative performance of leading countries. The key measure was productivity: GDP per worked hour. Certainly historic outcomes are important but they do tend to provide a historic view.

As we accelerate into the digital revolution, I started to think about the best way to measure company performance. Critically, what might indicate future market leadership? Where should a company focus when it comes to communications and collaboration? What is core and what will enable leaders to set themselves apart from competitors?

I decided to spend some time at Cisco Live asking customers for their perspectives. I arrived in San Diego with a long list of potential items. But after John Chambers spoke about market disruption brought about by digitization, I came away with a simple model:  The Modular Enterprise.

Those I spoke with had slightly different ideas about the implications for collaboration. But we agree on two common imperatives: Elastic IT and the Agile Enterprise.

Elastic IT

The market is evolving rapidly, bringing about amazing new capabilities, exceptional user experiences, and tremendous flexibility around mobility and the cloud. With this backdrop, it’s essential to ensure value and investment protection through a flexible IT approach. And to put particular focus on three areas that would enable IT greater modularity:

  • Plan architecturally and deploy open infrastructure. It’s important to build a solid infrastructure foundation that is service-orientated and takes advantage of open standards. This opens up all the value being created by developer communities and APIs. And creates possibilities to integrate services and transform business process – thus driving productivity. To help address this growing need, Cisco continues to focus on its DevNet program. And it recently acquired Tropo, a company providing a cloud API platform that simplifies embedding real-time communications within applications.
  • Focus on time to value. The latest cloud-embedded development and deployment options have brought about continuous delivery. The evolution of DevOps enables IT teams to put the latest software into the hands of users rapidly and reliably. This evolution is driving multiple business outcomes and real competitive advantage. And it’s one of the core tenets of the strategy for the Cisco Collaboration Cloud.
  • Supplement through a brokerage model. Demand for the latest services can lead to users to circumnavigate IT (shadow IT). Be proactive and look at how to evolve to a hybrid environment where you can bring in services on demand through an approved catalogue. And include Cisco services like WebEx and Spark for team collaboration.

Agile Enterprise

The business landscape is evolving fast. Startups reach big business valuations rapidly, while it seems as if an established brand disappears each month. In his keynote, John Chambers spoke about the impact of the digitization on business and the need to evolve rapidly — or fail. A common theme across each conversation I had after John’s keynote was how interconnected enterprises need to become. And how modular and flexible collaboration must become within and across teams:

  • There is no i in team. Personal productivity has reached a point of diminishing returns; team performance is now the Holy Grail of productivity. A recent study from CEB states that nearly one-half of an employee’s impact on business-unit profitability comes from network performance. It’s a shift from 2002 when nearly 80% of an employee’s impact came from individual task performance.
  • No department is an island. Innovation can happen in pockets, inside and outside your organization. To succeed, leaders need to ensure that the business is set up to encourage innovation across the board. (Kip Compton outlines how Cisco has approached this in a recent blog post.)
  • Top-down and bottom-up evolution. Change will happen organically from all areas of the business. Much innovation will come from the front line, but IT leadership will also needs to ensure that it is nurtured, directed, and maximized across the business. It will be essential to encourage a balanced evolution.

Now it’s your turn: What are you focused on and do you have a plan to make your organization more modular? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. The day after Cisco Live, I sat on the bank of San Diego harbor, which happens to be the principal home port of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. As I drew the U.S.S. Midway I thought about what John Chambers had said about how digitization will change every industry. All of a sudden, a very modern and fast jet flew overhead. It made the ones on the flight deck in front of me suddenly look very dated indeed…

USS Midway

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