Your company and Cisco are similar. Surprised?

You might be surprised to know how similar. Just as within your organization, digital is transforming our business as well.

That’s right. A company that helps others navigate the tides of digital business transformation is also feeling the tidal force. And, the force is growing stronger.

According to Forrester, “The things that used to set companies apart—economies of scale, distribution strength, and brand—are far less potent than they used to be. Digital technology has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the markets in which we operate and the speed required to remain competitive.”

At Cisco, we’ve been working for years to weave together strategy, technology and solutions on our journey to a digital business. Along the way, Cisco IT is sharing its experiences to help others reshape their businesses for the digital era.

From our experiences, we have compiled five considerations that underpin a successful digital transformation in virtually any organization with real-life examples.

  1.  Simplify Everything. Deliver IT as a Service.

Think about your last restaurant visit. Did you choose from a menu of items? Did you weigh cost vs. enjoyment value? Did your meal arrive within reasonable time? Probably, or you would have found another restaurant. 1

Consider your IT department. Do you offer an IT services catalog? Can your customers pay for only what they need? Do they receive services in a reasonable timeframe? To support digital business, IT needs to “offer internal clients the power of choice. Allow them to pay only for what they use. Deliver it speedily.” 1  IT functions less as a department and more as a business.

Cisco is forging an IT as a business culture. For example, the service owner for email and calendaring accepts the comprehensive responsibility to provide this service to the company—ensuring that it delivers the right user experience, meets cost targets, and manages security risks. The service owner owns everything about that service.

Regular IT management reviews reinforce this ownership model by tracking KPI metrics such as delivery, cost, quality, user experience and risk. These insights help management weigh tradeoffs and make better business decisions.

2.  Build Modular IT and Automate

Modular IT is about breaking code into reusable chunks, simplifying and reusing them for greater efficiency and cost control. By continuously enhancing a code “chunk” and redeploying it across many services, you compress the time from coding to business value.

An example is Cisco’s “click-to-connect x” capability. In technical support, when an agent opens a support case, an online collaboration room opens. The agent can bring in subject matter experts right then to collaborate on solving the problem.

Further, any application can reuse this same modularized capability. A developer simply inserts the code “chunk.” It links a person’s name to the directory and launches a call with a collaboration tool. Reusing the same code creates consistency, fosters simplification and saves time.

3.  Deliver Data to Drive Business Decisions

The driving force behind digital transformation is customer experience. Customers expect easy, automated processes, whether placing an order, checking a reservation, or researching a purchase. That unified experience results only from a foundation of unified data.

Typically, data is broken up across different departments that each use disparate spreadsheets and fragmented data sets. A successful digital business dismantles these data silos, connecting data elements to act as one.

At Cisco, we moved data to a single, consolidated, and unified view across the company. We took an architectural approach, starting with consistent and shared platforms in data centers. Then systematically, we brought together cleaned data sets to form a single master set (single source of truth). We dissolved silos to forge a common data platform to connect the unconnected, leveraging capabilities like Hadoop. Finally, we provided a simplified platform for business users to access the consolidated data.

It’s a significant undertaking and cannot be done all at once. Yet each step forward powers additional insights, innovation and business value.

4.  Adopt Continuous Delivery

Digital business denotes innovating with speed and agility. This necessitates an approach for delivering fast, frequent and high-quality releases of function (code), with less risk while rapidly incorporating user feedback.

At Cisco, we moved to continuously developing and delivering incremental, small-value code, resulting in more frequent business value generation. We accelerated adoption across IT by training all software developers in agile fundamentals, scaled agile framework and scrum master certifications. In only 18 months, we expanded continuous delivery from 23 percent to 73 percent of our services.

Continuous delivery requires IT to get close with its business customer. Cisco IT and its business colleagues jointly identify the smallest function that produces business value. IT then takes on the responsibility for its delivery and success. This seemingly small shift—asking for and delivering things smaller and faster—is key. It ensures that we deliver the right thing for business and build it the optimal way.

 5.  Embed Security Everywhere

Digital transformation simply cannot happen if the organization fails to keep critical assets safe. Cisco relentlessly pursues a pervasive security approach, based on continuous, policy-based threat protection. It reaches across the entire infrastructure—through the data center, to the edge of the network and into the cloud.

An example is security with continuous delivery. A common concern is that in the pursuit of speed, quality and security will suffer. This is not necessarily true. At Cisco, we designed the end-to-end security approach to secure every aspect of our value chain. We ensured quality from day one based on acceptance criteria. We automated test cases and embedded checks into the release process.

We doubled our delivered capabilities and increased quality by 92 percent. Here’s the sparkler. Vulnerabilities simultaneously shrunk by 60 percent.

Ready to Share

Cisco has accomplished much on its digital journey, and we’re building new capabilities every day. We’re ready to share our learnings to help you navigate your digital future.

Learn more about Cisco’s own digital journey.

Spark your thinking about the CIO’s golden opportunity ushered in by a digital future.



1 IT as a service: Cornerstone of the digital enterprise, Toby Weiss blog, Pointnext Advisory Services, June 4, 2017.


Nada MacKinney

Marketing Mgr, Digital Transformation

Enterprise Solutions Marketing