Digitization at Cisco: A One-Year Perspective

August 26, 2016 - 8 Comments

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


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  1. Agree with your established assertions in this article. Anyone who wants to be in business needs to evolve ASAP. Keep pace of any business, market or processes change, and be creative towards innovation…

  2. Por esta razón, es fundamental contar con estrategias de social media claramente definidas, con objetivos acordes
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  3. I’ve been preaching to my team in Customer & Partner Services about Digital Business Agility and how to make that real on a day to day basis. It’s working, mindsets are changing, and we are excited about our future with Cisco. Thanks for your continued thought leadership Kevin.

  4. Great post here Kevin. I remember speaking to you in San Diego at PS and this is exactly what you laid out, and you are right it is all coming true. Our partner community finds itself in this same vortex of change and culture is the place to begin. Thanks for your leadership. I look forward to your follow up perspectives. See you soon.

  5. Kevin,

    Great perspective and I look forward to driving our operating model transformation with you next year.


  6. Thanks Bruce. I actually will begin to unfold examples for the benefit of internal and external readers in coming blogs. For now, I will share we are literally down to a policy, process, system, regional data sovereignty, product introduction, etc level of detail. The focus is on redefining how Cisco refines who we will run our business in its entirety to take advantage of the opportunities being created in the market by digital disruption.

  7. Point well put. That said, can you provide examples of how Cisco is walking the talk . . . how are we digitizing our business in ways never before imagined, so others can learn from our example?

  8. A year goes by quickly, Kevin. Seems like a short time ago that you were appointed to your new role at Cisco. You said “Companies first need to build their digital operating models, beginning with culture and talent…”– How are you achieving that cultural transformation and talent development objective? Does you approach including training, mentoring, hiring more experienced digital practitioners from outside the company? Please add some color to your commentary, regarding progress at Cisco. Share some lessons learned. Thanking you in advance.