During my years at Cisco, I’ve been able witness IT become incredibly pervasive. While traditionally IT has been thought of to just help run a business (and make things work!), today’s expectation of IT is also how it can help change and grow the business.

In my conversations with CEOs across the globe, one major theme keeps coming up: CEOs want IT leaders to figure out how technology can help their businesses transform and expand, as much as make it operate.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a new Cloud Insights video series to discuss IT’s role in driving business outcomes with cloud and collaboration technology. It’s an interesting time as the pace of change is at an all-time high. Communication, collaboration and cloud are front and center, helping drive the transformation CEOs want.

Here are a couple of insights from the series that discuss how IT leaders can embed the role of technology within a business to accelerate more efficiency and promote differentiation among competitors. One thing is certain, the time for IT leaders to lean forward with their business partners and think about how the right technology can solve their problem is now.

 What is collaboration and is there proof it’s actually working?

When you ask what collaboration really is, you can get a lot of answers. Cisco defines it as a convergence of mobile, social, video, apps, and content.

From a consumer standpoint, this convergence happens 1,000 times a day. We pull out our smartphones, we are mobile and can watch videos, engage with apps and talk to Google with content.

At Cisco, we’re trying to bring in the same experience for our employees, customers, and partners. We can actually not only have our devices at our fingertips, but have these app-like experiences as well. We’ve started this transformation at Cisco and I could never have forecasted the results: we have 120 million video meetings a month and through our Enterprise App Store (eStore), employees can access approximately 60 apps on their mobile devices. Speaking of devices, we have over 60,000 employee-owned smartphones and 15,000 iPads. That’s on top of the PCs and Macs we offer as well. Collaboration is happening, and it’s happening all over the globe.

Where does cloud fit in?

As IT professionals, we’re always trying to figure out what’s the next cloud candidate. However, we aren’t at a place where all things should be moved to the cloud, such as financial services. This is where collaboration can step in; it’s easy to implement collaboration solutions when the total CapEx investment doesn’t need to be considered. Collaboration is such a ripe candidate to do more: I can do more pay-as-you-go subscriptions, have a specific function test the value prop, and move this across the organization. There is value in both collaboration and cloud solutions.

What are quick-wins? And how can IT leaders report success?

The best way to deliver a quick-win is to figure out what specific pain point you want to solve and find the technology solution to match that. At Cisco, on the reporting end, we review the reliability and financials of our services (such as mobility as a service, video as a service, social as a service, etc.).

Thanks to the consumerization of IT and the explosion of mobile and social technologies, there is a unique opportunity to embed IT into an organization’s overall business strategy. In my discussions with business leaders, they are all trying to find “that thing” that can make their business better and their go-to-market process faster. Cloud and collaboration solutions play a vital role. When IT leaders define what business problem they are trying to solve and test the right technology solution, they can become an integral part of running, changing and growing a business. That’s a valuable place to be.

Visit Cloud Executive Perspectives to get additional cloud insights for IT leaders and stay tuned for future installments of the Cloud Insights video series.

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