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Cisco exec: Turnover in engineering no problem

Jim Duffy | Oct. 20, 2014
The engineering reorganization currently underway at Cisco is intended to streamline product development and delivery to customers, Cisco says.

The engineering reorganization currently underway at Cisco is intended to streamline product development and delivery to customers, Cisco says.

That it is prompting some high profile departures is an expected byproduct of any realignment of this size, which affects 25,000 employees, says Cisco Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Pankaj Patel, who is conducting the transformation.

"People leave for personal business reasons," Patel said in an interview with Network World this week. "Similar transformations" among Cisco peers and customers "see personnel change of 30% to 50%."

The recent exodus of high- and mid-level executives from Cisco is not only the result of the company's previously disclosed 8% workforce reduction, but also of frustration with the annual restructurings, realignments and resets Cisco has undergone over the past four or five years. The 6,000 layoffs announced in August come after an almost20,000reduction in headcountsince 2009 as Cisco annually "transforms" itself to streamline operations on high-growth market segments like cloud, mobility, data center, security, and the Internet of Everything.

But this most recent transformation in engineering is notable for the departure of several high-ranking or visible officials within weeks of each other. Sources say it's essentially detached engineering from product management and marketing, leading to uncertain accountability for a solution developed and delivered to a customer.

Not so, says Patel. If anything, it's eliminated silos of autonomous development within Cisco's business units and created a more efficient process for customer solution development and delivery. And it began more than 15 months ago

"This is about preparing engineering for the development environment of the future," Patel says, "with a streamlined go-to-market to create our focus on product (synergies). Our customers are demanding us to change and how they work with us."

Cisco has taken separate business units responsible for specific areas of base-level hardware and software development and combined them into two groups: core hardware, including routing and switching ASICs and optics, under Senior Vice President and General Manager Ravikrishna Cherukuri; and core software embedded operating systems and feature sets under Senior Vice President and General Manager Ravi Chandrasekaran.

On top of that is the Cloud and Virtualization Group led by Vice President and General Manager Gee Rittenhouse, the former president of Bell Labs. Rittenhouse came to Cisco in December 2013.

The top organizational layer in engineering is a software application group. All of these resources are accessible to senior vice presidents Rob Soderbery and Kelly Ahuja, who are respectively responsible and accountable for solutions developed for enterprise and service provider customers.

But sources say this separates product engineering from product management and marketing, which is under the purview of Soderbery and Ahuja. The current engineering realignment, they say, is creating a structure where Soderbery and Ahuja have no oversight over the engineering resources for that solution because it's being divorced from product management and marketing.

 

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