Every market and every industry is moving from the Information Age to the digital age, and the pace of change is happening faster than ever before. Every company, city and country is realizing they must transform to survive and thrive in this new era. I predict this race to go digital will be more like a marathon sprint; however, not everyone will make it to the finish line. Gartner predicts that only 30 percent of digitization efforts will be successful[1], with the inability to reinvent as the number one reason companies will fail in this new era.[2]

As a leader of a company that has successfully seen around corners and reinvented itself, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to win in an environment of exponential change. Here is my advice for other leaders as they move to the digital age:

Digitize and Disrupt.

Now, more than ever, you must reinvent yourself to embrace the opportunities that digitization presents. It used to take almost 20 years for a company to show commodity-like behavior, but now it only takes a matter of two to three. Spotify and Square, for instance, have disrupted music and point-of-sale respectively. These are only a couple of the innovative companies that are putting increased pressure on businesses to disrupt themselves by challenging traditional models.

By 2020, 75 percent of businesses will be a digital business or will be preparing to become one. Companies that don’t digitize and harness the power of the Internet of Everything (IoE) will miss out on its $19 trillion opportunity and be left behind. This will require companies to rethink everything — from how they are run, to how their products are created and how they deliver outcomes for customers. Companies that digitize will be better positioned to unlock new revenue streams, provide better experiences, and create new operating models that will drive efficiency and value.

Make Your Digital Strategy Your Business Strategy.

Today, companies aren’t able to focus on new digital projects because 70-80 percent of IT departments’ budgets are tied up maintaining existing systems. It’s up to C-suite executives and board members to set their company’s digital agenda, think disruptively, and make transformational technology decisions.  To move faster and more efficiently, companies must shift their focus and build their business around mobile, cloud, social, data, and analytics. If companies don’t take advantage of these intelligent networks, it will inhibit their ability to move with the speed, scale, and security required. The pace of change is accelerating in every industry – success depends on companies’ ability to make the digital transformation and leverage new IT structures.

Reinvent Your Culture.

The easy part of digitizing any business is technology; it’s the organizational change that can be difficult. Companies that want to keep pace must foster a culture that focuses on speed, innovation and, for most of us, delivering outcomes. I know first-hand that change is not something everyone is going to agree with. Cisco has had organizational changes throughout the years and, while they were tough, they have allowed us to better focus on delivering outcomes for our customers and to be more agile overall. I’ve learned that you have to think exponentially in order to build an organization that has this ability to adjust to the market so quickly. This mindset will be necessary to win in the rapidly changing world we all face.

This transition to the digital age calls for massive change – technological, organizational, cultural, and beyond. We must be bold and have the courage to disrupt ourselves in order to compete, or otherwise risk being left behind. The question for businesses is simple: are you ready?

This blog was originally posted on John Chambers’ LinkedIn Influencer Profile.


[1] Gartner: Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2015 and Beyond: Digital Business Is Driving ‘Big Change’

[2] Gartner Research Consulting – Cisco IoE Engagement Findings December 2014


John Chambers

No Longer with Cisco