In this month’s We’re Listening blog post, I have a number of updates on Cisco’s progress to improve software quality, and how we’re using your feedback to make improvements that will most impact your experience buying and using Cisco software. As part of my leadership responsibilities for customer and partner experience, I have the opportunity to work with the teams that are transforming software quality at Cisco, and ensure that their efforts align to your top concerns. Read on for the latest, and join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts.

In 2002, John Chambers was giving a keynote presentation at an annual Cisco user conference, and in typical John style, he wasn’t holding back on the tough issues.  In front of thousands of attendees, he admitted that our customers were more dissatisfied with the quality of our software than with any other aspect of our products.

At the time, our Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score for software was well below Cisco’s overall CSAT score.  Our customers expressed concerns that our software quality was inadequate, with complaints ranging from too many customer found defects (CFDs) to being unaware of what software release to deploy.

Since then, our software CSAT score has improved by 12% – but we’re not going to stop there because we know there is room for additional improvements. Last fiscal year, we introduced Software Quality Transformation (SQT), a company-wide program to make Cisco’s software quality best-in-class, improving our customers’ experience and supporting Cisco’s business goals. SQT initiatives are focused on three principles:

  • Building quality products by leveraging 25 years of software development experience to accurately predict software defect rates, implementing standard release readiness criteria, and testing our products and solutions in-house via the Cisco-on-Cisco program.
  • Delivering a quality experience for our customers through world-class support services and powerful online tools.
  • Measuring quality by constantly listening to customers and responding to their needs.

There are multiple initiatives and best practices in place to support each of these principles; they range from predictive metrics that ensure quality in our development process to ongoing improvements to our Technical Support services for a quality end-to-end experience. Let’s look at some of the key steps we’re taking to ensure consistent quality products and experiences.

Building Quality Products:

Universal Release Criteria (URC)

URC is a new policy designed to provide consistent and objective release readiness criteria for feature releases. The policy applies to all Cisco products and associated software releases, and employs supporting checkpoints and measures that will be included in Cisco’s product development process.

Cisco on Cisco

Leveraging Cisco IT, we deploy, operate, and test our own solutions in a real-world environment before they are released to customers. This not only helps us identify and eliminate CFDs, but also helps Cisco’s salespeople experience the user benefits firsthand.

Delivering a Quality Experience:

Smart Software Selection

Customers can access Smart-Selection capabilities on Cisco.com for help in planning their software migration strategies. The system also reports back to Cisco salespeople so that we know which customers have adopted the recommended software releases and which might be at risk from not having taken action.

Software Research Tool

Through multiple customer feedback channels, you’ve asked us to help you select the right software for your needs, so we developed the online Software Research tool. Now you can access customized Cisco-suggested releases which will make it easier for you to run your business.

On January 9, we also turned on the Cisco-Suggested Release option on the Software Download site.

If you use these options, please consider providing feedback via the online form located at the top-right hand corner of the webpage. Your feedback will greatly help us evolve the Research Tool site to be of optimum value to you.

Measuring Quality and Responding to Customer Needs:

Despite all this progress, there is still opportunity for improvement as we work to increase software satisfaction scores. We are constantly following up on low scores and using customer feedback, whether via social media, surveys, advisory boards or emails, as a means of continuous and ongoing improvement.

“Ease of use” of our products is an important thread we see from your feedback. As recently as 2009, we received feedback  that our products looked different from one another and didn’t work together as well as they should. We also heard that many tasks were overly complex and difficult to accomplish.  Since that time, we have put a lot of effort into creating a common look and feel across our products. We have also done a lot to modernize and optimize many of the features and capabilities delivered by that software.

The feedback you’ve provided has sparked some of our most recent improvements to the software quality experience, such as the Software Research tool mentioned earlier. Another improvement was made in response to feedback about process deficiencies around Release Note Enclosure (RNE), i.e. documentation of bugs within products. We created a strategy to address the process deficiencies as well as an appropriate cross-functional response; now you have accurate and useful information about real and potential problems with Cisco products, both software and hardware, available within the Bug Search tool.  In an effort to continue the dialog on RNEs, you can also rate them, so be sure to keep up to date and share your feedback within the Bug Search tool.

These improvements would not have been possible without the insights our customers offer us into the end-to-end experience they have with our business and our products.

We think all of these changes are making an impact – the customer satisfaction scores are up, and the feedback that I personally hear in customer meetings is much more positive today than it was 5 or 10 years ago. But we need to constantly validate that we’re focusing on the right issues and making the right changes. I encourage you to reach out to myself and the team with your thoughts – are we headed in the right direction? How would you rate Cisco’s software quality, and what changes do you want to see in future?  Please send any questions or feedback you may have to ciscolistens@cisco.com.

We are committed to improving Cisco’s software quality and you can expect me to share our journey with you. Thank you for your time to help us improve, and see you next time on the blog!




Curt Hill

Senior Vice President

Customer Assurance