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Why the Fortune 500 is Fast Becoming the Digital 500

- August 5, 2015 - 9 Comments

As part of its research for this year’s annual Fortune™ 500 issue the magazine polled the CEOs of all the companies on its latest list of industry leaders. When asked, “What is your company’s greatest challenge?” the number one answer among the CEOs was, “The rapid pace of technological change.” Holding second position on their list of challenges was cybersecurity. The magazine remarked on the results, “Today’s CEOs clearly recognize that new technologies are going to radically change the way they do business. And they know that they need to figure it out before their competitors do.”

A major contributor to this change is the emergence of the Internet of Everything. Billions of devices, machines and equipment are being connected to the Internet at astronomical rates. These hyper-distributed things are creating unprecedented demands for data understanding and new business processes from every player in every industry value chain. The result will be a massively connected and integrated digital community that creates new services and experiences for each participant.

Observing this change first hand as we develop software here at Cisco, I see it, for example, in the steps taken by automotive manufacturers to better connect highly distributed processes across complex, global supply chains. I mentioned in an earlier blog about how retailers are changing the way they engage with customers whether online or off. And I noted in another blog how digital solutions are now found in the most remote locations on earth, as the oil and gas industry explores for new energy sources.

 “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.”

It is not just Fortune 500 CEOs who are concerned about the nature of technical change as businesses become digital; it is also the management and IT leadership of companies of all sizes.  While not a baseball expert by any means, I can admire the irony of Yogi Berra when he said, “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.” But it’s safe to predict that companies that don’t have a solid plan to fully step into the digital future are likely to be left behind.

Cornerstones of the New Digital Enterprise:  Connected Analytics, Processes and Experiences

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As mentioned, at the heart of digital business transformation is the Internet of Everything and the ability to connect the unconnected. However, it is not just about connecting people to people, people to things, and things to things – it is about what you can do once they are connected.

Connecting all these things is not easy. Organizations are struggling because of the hyper-distributed nature of today’s business environment, especially pertaining to the explosion of data generated at the network’s edge. Traditional approaches to data processing and analytics are no longer sufficient. We can’t just keep moving massive amounts of data into a central store and wait for understanding. Data is too big, too fast and too distributed. Real-time analysis is needed when and where the data is created.

Organizations are also struggling with the increasing complexity of business processes which results from the need to include a multitude of new distributed data sources that require real-time decision-making. This means that organizations need to re-think their operational systems. Today’s value chains are becoming increasingly global and distributed. Yet the decisions that need to be made are becoming increasingly local – and need to be made using sound digital processes without checking with someone located thousands of miles away.

Last – but far from least – organizations are grappling with rising end-user expectations for timely, contextual information. The spread of mobile and social technologies along with unprecedented access to data is changing how individuals, groups and organizations engage. This rising expectation begins in our personal life and extends into our expectations at work. Engaging with individuals at a personal level has quickly moved from a nice-to-have experience to a must-have experience, in order to optimize how people interact with technology at work, home and play.

Coping with Digital Change:  Lessons We’ve Learned at Cisco

Change is never easy. But by having a plan, you can control change and harness it to your advantage. Cisco is no different than other Fortune 500 companies. We’re living this digital transformation first hand. Here are five practical tips on how we’re creating a new and broader foundation for the success of our own digital business, in the interest of helping you learn from our experience:

  1. Start with the need to support computing at the edge. Today’s environment requires that you support application development and hosting across fog, cloud and mobile.
  2. Enable an application-centric Infrastructure with application-based policies that de-couple application requirements from network configurations. This allows you to reduce the impact of application changes on performance, security, availability and scale.
  3. Provide for streaming analytics and data aggregation. Streaming analytics should span across data-in-motion and data-at-rest, and ensure rapid logical aggregation of data.
  4. Mandate secure interactions – the growing digital ecosystem of third parties impacting your business requires pervasive security policies that support both business to business and business to consumer interactions.
  5. Finally, demand application integration across hybrid computing environments.

Cisco is uniquely positioned to help enterprises address these new digital business requirements with an intelligent network and service exchange platform that supports a distributed network workload and edge computing, new streaming analytics and data virtualization capabilities – plus application integration that allows IT management to connect disparate applications across hybrid environments.

In the weeks ahead I plan to write more on the specifics of connected processes, analytics and experience. I have some great customer stories to share with you that bring these ideas to life. Until then, I would be interested to learn from you about how you’re approaching the digital transformation of your business. What are your challenges?

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9 Comments

    But let's not forget that even disruptors can be disrupted and entrepreneurial wisdom is more than jumping on a next big thing :).

  1. Your articles are packed with lot of information in a nutshell fashion. I specifically always like the way you organise your article. I can understand the time you put in it as I always experience the same when ever I have to go a project in Toastmaster. I am eagerly waiting for your upcoming articles. Thanks for enlightening me

  2. Great article! Most people writing about this subject write way too long articles. Good facts, nice style, compressed and informational.

  3. Good article. I think a big factor would be engaging with the customer and how IOT will facilitate this. Those firms that figure this out and take the lead stand to gain, and gain a lot. Those that lag may end up losing too much. Thus speed too will be critical.

  4. Thank you very much, nice sharing

    Excellent article and messaging, Mala!

  5. Your articles are packed with lot of information in a nutshell fashion. I specifically always like the way you organise your article. I can understand the time you put in it as I always experience the same when ever I have to go a project in Toastmaster. I am eagerly waiting for your upcoming articles. Thanks for enlightening me

  6. Referring to the impact of the 'Digital 500' phenomena, you said "The result will be a massively connected and integrated digital community that creates new services and experiences for each participant." -- Based upon my own research, I still see more examples of senior executives that are deeply concerned about being digitally disrupted, rather than positively being the digital disruptor. The key challenge: acknowledging that the Global Networked Economy is a borderless landscape, and then preparing for unpredictable disruptive competition that could erupt from anywhere. As an example, look at China and their eCommerce leaders -- such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent -- and imagine that they were to enter your local market next month. Ask yourself, are you prepared to respond?

  7. Your articles are packed with lot of information in a nutshell fashion. I specifically always like the way you organise your article. I can understand the time you put in it as I always experience the same when ever I have to go a project in Toastmaster. I am eagerly waiting for your upcoming articles. Thanks for enlightening me