Digitization at Cisco: A One-Year Perspective

By Kevin Bandy, SVP and Chief Digital Officer, Cisco

As I look back at my first year as Cisco’s CDO, I am excited about the progress we have made reimagining Cisco’s operating and business models. This tremendous work has built the foundation for Cisco’s future growth as we help our customers digitize their businesses.

I have met with more than 400 business and technology leaders from Cisco’s top customers. These engagements have given me an acute awareness of the challenges and opportunities they face on a global basis.  This knowledge, combined with my experience transforming Cisco, has reinforced that what I anticipated a year ago has played out.

I have seen numerous examples of companies taking the wrong approach—confusing digital and digitization. When businesses have a “digital” mindset, they tend to automate existing processes, which only serves to institutionalize existing behaviors and competencies. Companies first need to build their digital operating models, beginning with culture and talent, moving through physical assets, business processes, and partner ecosystems, and then ending with offerings.  Throughout this process, simplify by removing anything that does not align with the company you hope to build.

True digitization requires connecting all aspects of a business in a synchronized and cross-functional way. Companies must also create a continuous cycle of innovation in their product portfolios and operating models. Too many businesses are taking an incremental approach and hoping for radically different outcomes.

Digital Operating Model Components

Digital Operating Model Components





I employ four guiding principles every day in defining and executing Cisco’s own digital transformation.

  1. Rewrite the rules—incremental approaches do not work
  2. Invest with the future in mind—capabilities that agility and continuous innovation deliver
  3. Work cross-functionally; silos stifle transformation (see my CDO-CIO blog)
  4. Develop both speed and endurance—you must act quickly, yet digitization is a marathon, not a sprint

By digitizing in this way, companies create the agility to evolve their operating models to take advantage of new opportunities and quickly respond to threats. These are critical capabilities in the digital world where companies in every industry are being disrupted and disaggregated at an alarming rate. In fact, companies must get used to actively evolving their operating models every 18-24 months, instead of 5-8 years as they could in the past. The time to digitize is now—tomorrow is too late.

How are you digitizing your business? Which operating model components are you currently transforming? I would love to hear about your experiences.


Keywords: digital, digitization, transformation, digital business transformation, CDO, reimagine, reengineer, operating model, business model, innovation, agility, digital business agility, talent



Kevin Bandy

No Longer with Cisco