Cisco CEO John Chambers at Cisco Partner Summit 2015
Cisco CEO John Chambers took to the showfloor at Cisco's Partner Conference 2015 in Montreal to outline his updated vision for the company, which is rapidly moving to evolve its business model to suit the era of the Internet of Everything (IoE; Cisco's Internet of Things).
One of the key facts of life for any modern business will be digitisation, and that will inevitably lead to fall out not just among vendors, but their partners and distributors.
Of today's Fortune 500, only 24 per cent of them existed 25 years ago.
"A third of them will not only not only not be on the list in the next 25 years, but they'll be out of business," he said a year ago.
Now he has revised that figure even further, claiming that he was "way, way too optimistic" and that the figure is probably around 40 per cent now.
"Its a tough time to be a CEO, they are under immense pressure."
The rate of disruption as more industries are becoming fully digitised, especially in the face of more nimble start ups and as IoE becomes more mature, means that CEOs need to fundamentally rethink their businesses.
"Startups don't think like we do. They dont think linearly in terms of growth, they think exponentially. They don't think about the amount of resources they can throw at a problem, but 'how can i run my organisation unbelievably lean, how do i pare it down to the network edge, and have less layers?' They want to move with a speed that is not one or two times faster, but 10 to 20 times faster," he said.
So many companies have fallen by the wayside, simply because they missed a single technology transition.
"I've always thought the best thing to do for shareholders is to make decisions two to three years out, and dont let the quarter or the year impact your view," he said.
"You cant do that anymore today. You have to strike the balance between the long term and the short term.
"You miss one market transition, and you will be left behind in this industry. Look through all the companies that used to be great companies — Alcatel, Lucent, Nortel, Digital Equipment, Dell... look at where they are today."
Not that Cisco has been without fault, just two years shareholders were baying for blood as the company felt the pressure from white label hardware vendors.
"Cisco has many faults, and lord knows i do as the CEO of Cisco as well, but the issue we dont miss on, is our market transitions."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.