Future IT: The Who, How, What, and Why
What comes to mind when you hear “Future IT”? Your answer probably depends on your role. If you’re in IT, you might think of the technologies you’re researching or starting to deploy: cloud-native, artificial intelligence, machine learning, bots, Internet of Things, and—always top of mind—security.
If you sit in a different part of the business, you might think about Future IT in terms of speed (time to market and innovation), or security for compliance and data protection. And things like robo-advisors, connected workspaces, virtual assistants, cognitive computing, or digital supply chains. In this view, Future IT is an enabler for innovation. But at the same time, we need to make the business faster and keep it secure. Many IT organizations struggle to find a balance between helping the business innovate and just keeping operations running smoothly. Some say they can’t!
Well, what if you could strike that balance and become a fine-tuned machine of continuous innovation?
As the CIO of a technology company, I’m constantly thinking about the next mind-blowing technologies that will help us and our customers reach new heights. And I feel blessed for frequent opportunities to bounce ideas off my peers in other industries, as well. I’ve been listening and brainstorming around Future IT since last year and I’ve come to think that it’s more than just technology. In my mind, it’s also about culture and a connected operating model—not just the “what,” but also the “who,” “how,” and “why.” Here’s my definition of Future IT:
Future IT brings together the best people and teams, who work in a dynamic and agile way to drive continuous innovation and deliver unprecedented outcomes.
Each one of the bold elements is a real thing in our company, not an abstract concept. And the connection point between them is the network. Not just any network, but a network that’s intuitive, secure, simple to manage, and makes it much easier to innovate. Let me explain.
Who: The Best People for the Job, Wherever They Are
The best team contains the people with the best skills (cloud, data insights, agile, security, business acumen, etc.)—regardless of their geographic location or organization. We look for talented people everywhere, not just in Silicon Valley and other technology meccas. And if the person with the best skills for the next sprint happens to be in another organization in the company, we want those folks engaged. We recognize that the best talent may come from outside our direct teams. In fact, more co-creation is happening with our business and engineering organizations than ever before. The desired expertise might not even be at Cisco. So in some cases, we are co-creating with our customers and partners.
But collaborating across locations and organizations only works if you have the right capabilities—and even more important, the right culture. That’s why I constantly remind myself and my teams that Future IT is enabled by technology, but it’s powered by culture. In fact, I’ve heard from many of my peers that cultural change is their biggest hurdle to digitizing their businesses.
How: Agile and Dynamic Teams
Static teams, in my opinion, don’t have a place in Future IT. We’ve shifted to dynamic teams that come together for the duration of achieving their goal, often for just a few weeks or months. Dynamic teams make it much easier to innovate because we don’t have the hassle of constantly changing the org chart.
Once together, our teams utilize a continuous development (CD) model and toolchain. We call this Continuous Delivery as a Service, CDaaS. They also collaborate very closely, often across time zones. To connect team members from different locations and organizations, we use technologies like Cisco Spark to see each other via video, chat, share documents, and see the latest notifications from our continuous delivery toolchain.
It’s not enough to say the words, “Let’s have an Agile mindset.” We give those words teeth by rewarding dynamic teams that can shift their thinking and then we make sure they have the education, collaboration tools, and support they need to be successful.
What: Continuous Innovation and Improvement
The payoff for bringing the best people and teams together to work in agile and dynamic ways is continuous innovation and improvement. Value in minutes.
To make more time for innovation (as opposed to, say, infrastructure or application management), we’re working on making our architecture “self-operating”: self-provisioning, self-learning, self-healing, and self-defending. We’re using cloud-native development, AI and machine learning, software-defined everything, Internet of Things, APIs everywhere, and advanced security (application visibility and control, next-gen IPS, advanced malware protection).
The common thread in everything I’ve mentioned is an intent-based network. A network that is constantly learning and evolving—harnessing the power of intent, context, and intuition.
Why: It’s All About Results
Future IT innovations are measured by their results. Although we’re still early in our journey to Future IT, we’ve already seen some unprecedented outcomes in IT and in partnership with other functions within Cisco. A few of these include:
- 97% faster pace of new feature releases, which improves the velocity to business value
- 60% drop in security vulnerabilities
- 50% decrease in cost to resolve customer issues
- 35-40% reduction in application and infrastructure footprint in key data centers
- 10x faster fault detection and repair of priority-1 applications
In my next blog, I’ll dive into the “who” (Best People & Teams) – and share more about the Future IT culture—my favorite topic. People are our most valuable asset, and we work hard to keep our skills sharp, job satisfaction high, and focus on business outcomes.
What other Future IT topics are impacting your organization? I invite you to comment below.