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New Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins heads into "hyper-connected" mode

John Gallant | July 27, 2015
Robbins takes over at Cisco for John Chambers this Monday, promoting a hyper-connected architecture in the face of competition from white box makers and SDN proponents.

John talked a lot in our last few interviews about Cisco becoming the most important IT company and he had a definition of what "most important IT company" meant. Is that still the priority?

It is. The way I think about it is our customers believing that we are the partner that helps them build their digital strategy. I started my career 28 years ago in IT. I was an application developer at a major financial institution. I sat in a cube and I wrote code and I joke that IT back then, we were relegated to the basement. Throughout my career, we've seen IT move from the basement to the boardroom. As I think about where our customers are today, they are looking at how technology can enable their business, which is what we do today and lots of other players do. Many of our customers are now looking at how technology can differentiate their strategy going forward. Then we have some customers who are fundamentally looking at how technology redefines or defines the future strategy of their business. We believe we can help those companies who are putting technology at the core of their strategy. [They are] most likely to be the leaders in their industry or be the disrupters of the future. We did research that basically suggests that even five years from now, 40% of the market leaders in any industry won't be the market leaders anymore because of the pace of change.

When we talk to IT leaders, there is this clear desire to be at that transformative stage in leading the company as well as a very cold reality that very few of them feel that they're actually doing that. How will you help more of them be successful at that?

When I've talked to CIOs over the last year, most of them would tell [me that] they historically spent 75% of their time doing classic systems integration for their enterprise. Think about the desire by the line of business or the business functions to have technology play a more prominent role. The CIO and the IT organization are trying to drive more value and participate in that. They're trying to go from having 75% of their time in systems integration capability to spending 75% of their time strategically adding value to the business, helping the different business functions understand what technology can do. A lot of the communication in the industry has been that the sales organizations of IT companies need to get outside of IT. Industry groups talk about how the spending is moving outside of IT. More frequently now, we're engaging with the CIO and with the IT organization and then we're partnering to help the line of business take advantage of technology. We see IT organizations trying to move with much greater speed but still having that responsibility for compliance, security and the other things that matter to the organization.

 

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