Q&A: Cisco CIO Offers Tips for Talkin' Business

In this Q&A, Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby shares advice on how IT pros can translate technology needs into business terms, manage the devices employees bring to the office and make a variety of collaboration tools work together.

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Thu, April 14, 2011

CIO — Cisco CEO John Chambers this week announced a major restructuring of the company's business after two quarters of disappointing financial results. Namely, Cisco plans to stop producing consumer products like the Flip video camera and will roll its Umi consumer telepresence product into its business telepresence line. In addition, there will be a workforce reduction of 550 people.

As Cisco distances itself from consumer products, it will refocus all resources on its core competency: the networking, collaboration and video needs of the enterprise.

To this effect, the networking giant is opening a new state-of-the-art data center in Texas this week to help deliver traditional networking services via the cloud.

With cloud, collaboration and unified communications in mind, Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby sat down with CIO.com to discuss the future of the enterprise worker, as well as how IT can manage different mobiles devices and operating systems and justify cloud investments to the executive suite.

Rebecca Jacoby
Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby

The following is an edited version of Jacoby's interview with CIO.com's Shane O'Neill.

At the enterprise level, collaboration tools and unified communications sound great and can work well, but are often difficult to implement. How is Cisco helping to facilitate this transition to UC tools, both internally and for enterprise customers?

At Cisco we raised unified communications to a strategic imperative about three years ago. This allowed us to take a holistic look at how our communication systems come together, and do it in a way where we are not just pushing technology on people, but letting them interact with it. We invited people from outside IT to test our collaboration platform and tell us which collaboration and communication technologies they find useful. We knew we didn't have strong expertise in this area [unified communications] so we used the technology to invite employees in to help us learn.

Employees gave feedback on how they could apply UC technologies in real working environments. We set up a board with reps from every part of the company. It allowed us to customize our collaboration platform for specific business units such as customer service, engineering and manufacturing.

What about interoperability? What are the challenges of getting UC tools and platforms from different vendors to work together?

Interoperability is a huge priority for us internally and for our customers. As a CIO, complexity costs money. So it's important to be interoperable. IT organizations produce a lot of the costs from integrating and testing technologies. Communication systems need to be seamless, and the convergence of data and communication networks with voice and video is making it seamless.

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