My team’s recent fun event was on a cruise liner on the calm, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean hugging San Francisco. Besides soaking up the panoramic vistas and general bonhomie, I particularly enjoyed my conversation with the skipper. Our worlds were completely apart and yet I found the conversation to be completely relatable. Most specifically, I found so many parallels between his talk of navigating ships and the Agile transformation we are currently navigating at Cisco engineering.

Our engineering development process at Cisco is ever evolving. We are proud to be keeping with the times and overhauling some of our archaic processes, all while keeping the engines humming, producing software that runs several billion devices at thousands of customer premises.

We had several imperatives to launch an agile transformation at Cisco engineering. Primarily, building deeper customer context and therefore smarter products through co-development with customers. We also wanted to improve the overall experience of engineers through the formation of self-governing teams. This allows for faster decision-making and speed. Overhauling our time-to-market and quality were also key factors. And finally, a quick dipstick competitive analysis, especially here in Silicon Valley, showed us that our smaller competitors were adopting agile and reaping benefits. We’re soliciting client participation in our development process through agile/co-dev. Please connect with your Cisco CE today to learn more.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 11.39.01 AMTurning a big ship around, apparently, can take time and effort but exactly how much of it depends on the nature of the carrier. The skipper eloquently spoke of how a cruise ship, designed for luxury travelers, will take longer since it focuses on passenger comfort and doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure onboard to handle a quick volte-face. A battleship by contrast is built for exactly this sort of maneuvering. Essentially, turning an engineering organization on a warpath of waterfall development to an agile model requires nimbleness and skill without disrupting our customer’s lives.

The benefits of our agile transformation have been immense as demonstrated through software stacks like IOS XE and IOS XR built entirely using a customized agile development methodology. Customers get an early window to influence our product development and partner closer with the engineers writing the code. This further results in reduced deploy times and a drop in testing and certification processes. Besides our customers, the benefits for Cisco and the engineering teams are immense. Not just does this move to agile development keep us competitive, we also have better control on the development process and better quality products being built.

Agile Transformation JourneyI am proud that this next wave of our agile journey will be one of the (if not THE) largest agile transformations, in the world of embedded software development, at this scale. What makes me prouder is that we acted like a battleship even while caring for the comfort of our customers like a cruise liner.

Do tell me about your agile development journeys in the comments section below and let’s swap notes on best practices.


Venky Nanniyur

Vice President, Engineering

Enterprise Networking Business