Cisco Blogs

The Digital Age: Work Reimagined, Value Reimagined

November 4, 2015 - 25 Comments

I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I love coming up with wildly innovative ways to solve problems and create business value. This entrepreneurial mindset is a requirement in today’s digital age—as technology changes business landscapes and rules.

If you read the media, you associate entrepreneurs with start ups and small companies. But as technology rapidly disrupts every industry, the challenge for every enterprise—small and large—is to rethink their business models and enable their entrepreneurs to drive their digital strategy. I can tell you first hand that there is amazing entrepreneurial talent hidden in large enterprises like Cisco. This hidden talent can help identify new revenue streams, increase productivity, or even transform an entire industry.Slide1

That is why I am so excited about my mission as Cisco’s Chief Digital Officer. I have license to rewrite the competitive and operational playbooks for Cisco—to unleash the capability and innovation across the company. And I have the opportunity to do it for every one of our customers, in every industry, who wants to rewrite their playbooks with digitization at the core.

We’re well on our way to making Cisco the best example of a digital company. It’s a journey for every aspect of our business—from our systems and tools, to our engineering, to our people, and I am thrilled by the partnership, energy and commitment across the company.

As I talk with customers about what we’re doing and what they want to do, the conversation always goes to “Where do we start?” I thought I would share a few critical observations and conclusions I’ve drawn:

Driving a digital transformation is not automating existing workflows or layering new tools and technologies on top of traditional processes. It isn’t an IT strategy trying to catch up with a business strategy. It isn’t cloud, collaboration, systems or applications. And it isn’t just a technology issue.

Leading digital companies connect all the motions of our business—from engineering, to servicing customers, and everything in between—in a synchronized and agile way. It’s about creating a continuous cycle of innovation in the product portfolio and in the operating model. It’s about going to market more efficiently without institutionalizing old processes. It’s about monetizing every investment we make with the intelligence we have access to. It’s about reaping all the benefits of technology, new processes, great talent and the reams of information sitting in our data systems.

Our customers ask us all the time about business transformation and reinvention on a completely different scale than even during the Internet age. The conversation is about business challenges and opportunities, with technology as the key enabler. How their business and technology strategies come together is now top of mind for all companies that see the potential, and the risks, of this digital transformation in their industry and world.

We’re moving fast to help lead this digital transformation across our company and with every one of our country, city and enterprise customers. Many have asked me to share what we’re seeing and doing, so you’ll hear more from me soon. We can see the future and potential, and the fun part comes in realizing all that is possible.

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  1. You said “Driving a digital transformation is not automating existing workflows or layering new tools and technologies on top of traditional processes.

  2. One thing for sure, CEO will do anthing to improve their business and organization performance with/without digitization. And digitization is old handphone with new casing, it has been there for sometime since computer invented and Internet emerged, though recently accelerated by ICT usage beyond IT department driven customer adoption of mobiles.

    Not every organization can be successful on digitizing their business toward sustainable competitive advantages because of two thing: the fast changing business environment and one very important aspect that miss on this blog is “culture” that differentiate one company with other.

  3. Nice blog! Will read again

  4. My manager and I talk about this weekly. The pain points from being on the receiving end of an archaic sales/service delivery process are confusing to the customer, make it difficult to provide excellent customer service, and start the relationship with the customer on a bad footing as there is a steep learning curve. Thank you so much for being a voice of reason. While I have wild visions of super efficient magical solutions to improve operational problems to address the ‘now’ mentality of the newest generation, a good first step would be to stop using PDFs and Excel as the primary tools of communicating with the customer, conducting internal business, and tracking progress. Simple solutions exist to address these problems which can be coded by a novice programmer. More advanced solutions are available from our larger corporate partners – if we leverage them. The three three components I would focus on are: (1) Keep it simple – this allows replication and fosters adoption (2) Make sure it is agile – so you don’t have to change it again in 3 years (3) Engage ALL employees to find out where the pain points are and use Six Sigma tools to determine low hanging fruit and high priority items – this will help gain traction as employees, managers, and directors see the improvements. Good luck on this journey! Please let me know if you need a local champion. I am very passionate about process improvements and change management.

  5. I thoroughly appreciate the open dialogue taking place on this article. No change is ever possible without healthy communication and a recognition within the employee base, not just the leadership, that evolving the company has considerable opportunities for all to thrive. i am afforded the opportunity to hear directly from global employees and our leadership across the company so I can assure you Cisco is poised to advance our efforts to be a defining example of how a company operates in a digital world. More so than ever, being able to enable our own digital operating model has to account for the digital evolutions taking place within our customers and their verticals.

    As I told a group when I addressed them in a keynote, the biggest limitation to succeeding in this digital world is the lack of imagination. Change is happening faster and more pervasive than every before. Cisco must and is pushing ourselves to step well beyond the normal boundaries to help not only ourselves succeed but also our customers when in the digital age…I truly believe we are the core of their evolutions!

  6. Nice Blog. I am seeing most of customers struggle to map tactical activities into their strategy resulting in mid level and CxO not aligned. I am also hoping digitization will reduce the long change cycles if we want our next gen (with limited patience) to work in traditional industries.

  7. IMHO, we need to automate the tasks that are best done by machine and let humans concentrate on improving all existing workflows and other value added tasks

  8. Agree that we need to avoid ‘automating existing workflows or layering new tools and technologies on top of traditional processes’. Also think that real transformation starts with a vision. We need to SHOW the world what digitizing looks like. Not saying we don’t do that already but we need to do it MORE, remembering that the entire world doesn’t revolve around Silicon Valley and we also need to avoid getting too wrapped up in our technology. Searched for ‘innovation starts with vision’ and this article appeared first.

  9. It’s an exciting time to be in technology to see and be part of how tech can enable positive outcomes in the world. The only guarantee is that things will change. In the end it’s all about people and the change they can make by leveraging the potential and evolving past the legacy.


    This link gives an overview of why we need to go for the digital transformation.

    Can we say, Cisco is a digital matured company ?

  11. I came across an interesting article about digital transformation. This article also has John Chambers commenting about the transformation. Here it is :

    I find that this is a comprehensive strategy rather than just tools/automation/processes/IT as Kevin mentioned. Its a collective organizational strategy to keep ahead and is a differentiator.

    Insightful one indeed ! Thank you Kevin for sharing the thoughts on this.

  12. Just read last week what Vinod Khosla had to say about innovation- observing that not a single worthwhile idea had come out of the stables of IBM, Dell and the rest of the big service companies in thirty years, he stated that “Mostly they’ve spent their last few years engineering financials”. Look forward to hear more from Kevin on this thread and to see green shoots in this emerging strategy

  13. A successful digitization for a company is how they can evolve their business process that are supported by the technologies and continuous innovation. It may also mean how the legacy processes, systems and technology are leveraged to aid the transformation into digital age.

  14. Common business architecture, simplified rules and standardized processes are the need of the hour. Yes, it isn’t an IT strategy. Building Common Architecture between Engineering and Business; HW/SW and services, from the Customer point of view will lead us to Digitization.

  15. Embracing change as a constant, and a focus towards adoption of all that digitization has to offer will be a necessary organizational/cultural shift as we digitize the world!

  16. Excellent point: “Leading digital companies connect all the motions of our business—from engineering, to servicing customers, and everything in between—in a synchronized and agile way.”

  17. You said “Driving a digital transformation is not automating existing workflows or layering new tools and technologies on top of traditional processes.

  18. Technology can be the disruptor and the enabler but I believe as with most major changes, it is the easier or simpler part of the equation. Getting people to change how they work and think, or involving people that can make those changes; and helping them…..that is the complex part of a transformation. Success or failure will come with a corporate culture and personality change.

    The embedded powerpoint slide says “reimagine”, that may not be a strong enough word to capture a break with existing patterns/personalities. I believe a person’s ability to imagine is limited by their experiences – it takes a unique individual to be able to truly imagine outside their perceptive boundaries. And yet I think that is what will be needed to jump to a new digital model. And of course executive sponsorship……………

  19. The same types of activities excite me too. I feel extremely fortunate to be a “serial entrepreneur” inside one of the world’s largest and most successful companies.

    I have been grappling with the difference between sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation and how to help our customers do both. To me, both solve business issues and are successful when they profitably address growth opportunities or pain points. I think our customers struggle with how to get started.

    We can help them identify innovations that:
    –Eliminate labor/mechanization (eg., robotics, self-driving cars, etc.)
    –Redirect labor (airport kiosk, supermarket self-checkout)
    –Eliminate process/process re-engineering (electronic medical records)
    –Substitute activities/deliverables in a particular value network (mp3 vs. cd)

    But in order to drive these innovations we need to match visionary industry experience with digital creativity. I look forward to seeing how you champion changes in how we design, develop, sell, and service innovative products and services using the hidden talent you mention.

    Exciting times!

  20. Cisco has immense potential as a digital leader, hope you can drive it that way

  21. See how technology changes business landscapes and rules.
    Go to #Cisco #techradar

  22. You said “Driving a digital transformation is not automating existing workflows or layering new tools and technologies on top of traditional processes.” — I’ve read a variety of analyst reports, about Digital Transformation, that were published by the major U.S. and European management and IT consulting companies. The common thread from all these studies is senior executive fear of legacy business model disruption — with frequent references to Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, etc. What I found most interesting is how few CEOs are apparently willing to re-imagine their current business model. I welcome your thoughts on this topic. Why is it so difficult to conduct this important exercise?

    • This is true. However assuming C level support exists mid management is also typically a major obstacle. It’s at that level that the rubber starts to hit the road and the need to execute comes first.

      • To conduct these transformations, it all depends how leaders are embracing the impact of the changes wrt the individual contributors. Transformation means change. We might want to have a more granular approach to change management.
        Change management emphasizes the “people side” of change and targets leadership within all levels of an organization including executives, senior leaders, middle managers and line supervisors.
        Effective application of change management increases the success rate of organizational changes to as high as 96% (source: Prosci).

    • I think business leaders are spending 100% energy and focus on keeping the current business running smoothly, with incremental improvements. They just don’t have time to imagine “How would I meet my customers’ needs in a completely different way?” Also, most disruptive retail Digitization examples end with the disruption creator saying “I know a way, and I could write a (mobile) app for that!” And most business leaders aren’t going to be able to say that.