How Cisco made continuous reinvention a reality

In an effort to create efficiencies and take advantage of digital developments in their disciplines, line of business leaders are looking to transform their processes. In a perfect world, this would involve close collaboration with IT leaders to develop the environment, resources, and technology solutions required for digital business. However, as we learned in a previous blog, cultural and technological silos often get in the way. This is preventing organisations from enabling digital business and reaching the stage of ‘continuous reinvention’.

A blueprint for DX

At the recent CIO Summit in Sydney, Julie Canepa, Head of IT at Cisco ANZ, echoed the sentiments of other speakers when she explained that IT and the business must form a partnership to achieve digital transformation, as it’s “the only way to move faster”. She said, “The business brings their understanding of the market, and IT brings an understanding of systems and technology. Merging these together is what creates value”.

Unveiling Cisco’s Digital Operating Model, Canepa explained that to align internal IT processes and therefore enable new business models, CIOs need to focus on four key areas:

  • Simplification – Simplify everything and deliver IT as a service. Moving to a simplified, automated supply chain improves productivity, efficiency, and visibility, and enables more accurate demand planning, real-time inventory management, and reliable fulfilment.
  • Automation – Leverage modular IT and automate processes from the network edge to the data centre and cloud, to reduce costs and accelerate speed of change.
  • Monitor and adapt – Bring data closer to decision-makers, self-service and in business language, to enhance insight and support better real-time business decisions.
  • Continuous innovation – Accelerate continuous delivery to bring our stakeholders more capabilities, reduced vulnerabilities, and better quality tied to business value.

Cisco’s story

To show the Digital Operating Model in action, Canepa used Cisco’s own internal transformation as an example. Being in the business of IT and a frontrunner in the industry, it’s easy to think that Cisco would be well ahead of the pack in terms of servicing its internal users. However, until recently Cisco was struggling to control shadow IT, with many of its engineers looking externally to procure technology solutions.

Cisco’s main issue was that it was heavily siloed; rather than having an IT department to service the whole organisation, separate IT teams had developed for each business function. In an attempt to simplify operations and align IT with the business as a whole, the organisation moved to an ‘as a service’ model. This meant redefining the service catalogue in a way that made sense to business users, then forming small teams to supply those services to the whole enterprise, rather than by function. This gave the IT department an end-to-end view of the processes in the organisation, enabling them to see where there was duplication or inefficiencies. The best part? This simplification process drove savings of 32%, and in Canepa’s words, “Suddenly the IT teams were delighted – they didn’t have to just drive down costs, they could have fun and innovate to make services even better for users”.

The IT department used these savings to automate processes and implement an eStore which housed the products and services business users needed from IT, such as devices, connectivity, or infrastructure. Previously, it had not been easy for Cisco’s engineers to create the sandbox environments they needed to build and create with customers with the internal resources available to them. But the introduction of the user-friendly, digital one-stop-shop meant they would go to IT first before looking externally. Part of the eStore’s value proposition was its optimal employee experience, and Canepa and her team highlighted this with the motto, “easy to find, easy to choose and easy to use”.

The IT department orchestrated the provisioning of services so that they too became automated. Something that used to take several service cases and weeks could now be done in a matter of minutes. This amounted to 77% of savings to how IT was run, which Canepa rightly called a “game changer”.

After monitoring and adapting these processes, only now is the IT department in a position to move towards a state of continuous reinvention. So far, this has involved moving from slow ‘waterfall’ methodologies to ‘agile’ techniques, which Canepa refers to as ‘sprints’. For four to six weeks every quarter, cross-functional teams work side by side to produce a minimum viable product, which is then tested with end users. Canepa is working to embed this practice in the organisation so that “we know what we need to build, build it quickly, iterate, and continue”.

Not only has the application of the Digital Operating Model resulted in improved security and quality for Cisco, but it’s changed the workplace culture. Whether an employee is working at Cisco HQ, from a branch, a customer site, or at home, the introduction of collaborative technologies such as video and Cisco Jabber ensures that everyone across the organisation is on the same playing field, and can communicate effectively. It would seem that these changes are having significant implications for Cisco, having won the AON for best employer of the year 2016.

Setting new rules

Continuous reinvention is about listening to the business and working closely with customers, but more than anything, it’s a mindset. Canepa concluded her presentation by saying, “We’re the first generation to go through this, so we can’t rely on rules to guide us. What got us here today isn’t going to be the same thing to move us forward. To be ready for change and move faster, we need to build scalable platforms and agile teams. But it’s as much about speed as it is endurance. Change doesn’t happen overnight; we need to consistently try, test, repeat and iterate. That’s continuous reinvention”.

To learn more about IT leadership in the digital era, download our how-to guide for CIOs: ‘Aligning IT and Business: A practical guide for leading change in a service-defined world’

Tags Digital Transformation, CIO summit, IT Department, IT leaders, Cisco, Digital era


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