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Digital Transformation – Are We There Yet?


April 24, 2017 - 7 Comments

Are we there yet? If you have ever been on a road trip with kids, you know this question well.  The anticipation of reaching our destination never really disappears. I was recently asked by an astute observer of Cisco’s digital transformation, “When will Cisco achieve its goal of becoming a digital company?”

His question was reasonable given that we are in the process of transforming literally everything we do at Cisco. This includes changing our operating model (how we are organized and work), and reinventing our business model (how we deliver ongoing value to our customers). His question also reflected our natural human desire to finally arrive at the finish line.

I thought the best answer to his query was to paint a picture of our future through a series of questions.

What happens when the local supermarket you’ve been shopping at for years (maybe decades) goes out of business and is replaced by a regional Amazon distribution center that stocks goods based only on analysis of the surrounding areas buying and consumption patterns?

How do we prepare for the reality of autonomous vehicles disrupting not only the automobile industry and adjacent areas such as insurance, parts, parking, and repair, but also real estate, law enforcement, hospitality, and the legal profession?

Which industries will autonomous cars disrupt? All of them.

Source: Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center), a Cisco and IMD initiative, 2017

Audi’s vice president of brand strategy and digital business, Sven Schuwirth, recently predicted that car interiors will eventually morph between driving and sleeping modes. This will dramatically reduce the need for roadside hotel rooms and domestic flights. And, what happens to corner gas stations when the majority of electric vehicles “themselves” determine the most convenient places to recharge. I guarantee it won’t be at corner gas stations, which were designed for driver convenience.

Additionally, about 90 percent of car accidents are caused by human error. In a world of fewer accidents, what will hospital emergency rooms look like? How will the insurance industry adapt? How will personal injury lawyers make up the 35 percent of revenue that currently comes from civil trials?

I’m sure you know where I’m headed—digital transformation has no end. It is ongoing. The new mantra is continuous innovation and reinvention. When we get close to the “end,” the finish line will move—again and again. Importantly, this doesn’t mean we won’t progress. On the contrary, progression will occur faster than ever, we just won’t reach a point where we can say, “Done.”

This is why the digital age is so much more powerful and challenging than previous transformational phases such as the shift from mainframes to PCs, LANs/WANs to the Internet, informational web to e-commerce, etc.

The business demands being placed on Cisco by the ever-evolving needs of our customers as they transform to new digital business models are immense. We must always evolve our operating and business models, and continue to deliver automated, secure, self-learning networks that create the underpinnings of digital business agility that our customers require to thrive in the digital world. Further, our own innovation must push the envelope, yet have daily applicability for others to evolve.

We accept that our finish line will always be just out of reach, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, because this time is different—incremental change is not relevant in the digital age.

So, the next time you’re asked, “Are we there yet?” how will you respond?

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7 Comments

  1. Kevin, thanks for the insights - in particular "When we get close to the “end,” the finish line will move—again and again."Perhaps frustrating to some - but strangely exciting to the innovators and discoverers......looking forward to what awaits beyond the next bend in the road. Let's sit up and anticipate the ride.

  2. Great perspective, Kevin. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for sharing your view Kevin & saying it with such ease . loved reading this Blog

  4. This definition of digital transformation gives clarity unlike the transitions of the past. Insightful piece. Thanks for sharing. ...digital transformation has no end. It is ongoing. The new mantra is continuous innovation and reinvention. When we get close to the “end,” the finish line will move—again and again. Importantly, this doesn’t mean we won’t progress. On the contrary, progression will occur faster than ever, we just won’t reach a point where we can say, “Done.”

  5. Kevin, thank you for such an amazing and insightful article. As you wrote above, autonomous vehicles will very quickly transform almost all aspects of our lives. As we go faster and faster down this digital highway, we will discover not only new and amazing opportunities but life impacting challenges as well. We need put on our high-beams and be wary of the dangerous curves in the road ahead and prepare for them ahead of time. A security mindset must be foundational for all companies in this space as the very hacker who today tries to sneak onto my phone, tomorrow will try to hack my car, or the technical infrastructure on which my car depends. Already today, cars have hundreds if not thousands of sensors and microprocessors controlling different functions. Once cars are fully autonomous, the ability of hackers to wreak havoc, and hence the responsibility of companies like Cisco to secure against those threats will be of paramount importance and have life and death ramifications. I'm happy we have people like yourself at Cisco who can lead us to that secure digital future!

  6. Thought provoking blog on the impact of real digitization!

  7. Kevin - this is great perspective. Cisco leadership has a deep and thorough perspective on measuring your progress of digital transformation. We'd love to see you at Zuora's Subscribed event coming up in SF - a great chance to share the Cisco story with 2000+ disruptive companies in the subscription economy.