Julie Canepa recalls a time a few years back with the industry was discussing the demise of the chief information officer.
“I think the discussion has waned as businesses realise that the role of the CIO actually needs to elevate, not recede,” she says. “Running IT, whether it’s your own or through an ‘as-a-service’ model is a critical role.”
Canepa is the CIO at Cisco Australia and New Zealand and naturally, innovation is core to every aspect of the global technology company’s business.
Canepa says Cisco drives technology innovation in everything from its workspace designs, customer experience journeys, product innovation, how it goes to market and sells, how it secures the enterprise, and engages its staff.
There are many advantages in being able to drive technology-led innovation in a technology company, she says. For example, simply being close to the source of technology innovation itself and being exposed to the future direction the industry is headed is a great advantage, she says.
“Being immersed in technology innovation and having an opportunity to co-develop with product engineering teams as ‘customer zero’ helps our IT team create a vision for the future and build skill sets.
“Another big asset is having a tech-savvy executive team which fundamentally believes in the opportunity for technology that lies ahead. This helps with getting the support and buy-in required for getting new technology innovations off the ground.
“On the flipside, there can be challenges. We have a lot of technologists within the company with high expectations for our internal IT team. With 25,000 engineers sometimes our employees want to take matters into their own hands or think they know best.
“Like any IT shop, we still have the challenges of running IT as a business and making decisions which will be good for the long run. We need to think about future operating costs and scale. While we invest in new technologies, we still have to rationalise our investments and drive operational excellence. This can be a tough balancing act,” Canepa says.
Driving a digital marketplace
One of the most innovative projects Canepa was involved in this year was the launch of a new digital route to market called ‘Cisco Start Marketplace.’
The marketplace digitises the go-to-market model for Cisco’s small and medium business customers and the Australian and New Zealand operation is the first worldwide deployment. It reduces supply chain complex for smaller customers and simplifies the decision making and purchasing experience, says Canepa.
The marketplace provides a platform where partners can create their own offers suited for various specialties and the needs of SMB customers. Customers can also view partner offers suited for them, and for the first time, they can securely transact online. This simplifies the buying experience and improves supply chain fulfillment.
Instead of building the marketplace from scratch, the platform was implemented by customising existing cloud solution in five sprints over one-and-a-half months.
Further, a chatbot provides interactive support to help guide the selling experience for SMB customers; a data analytics solution helped fine tune offers based on needs and customer behaviours; and integration with cisco.com and Cisco global platforms to streamline the customer experience.
The marketplace was launched in February and has 5000 hits in the first week and 30,000 hits in the first three months.
“Cisco sales and marketing saw an opportunity to do something different for the Australian marketplace which is moving rapidly to cloud and subscription-based offerings. Getting this off the ground in Australia first helps drive digital transformation forward and sets an example for new models across other regions,” says Canepa.
Canepa adds that the marketplace roll out has taught her that success is as much as people as it is about technology.
“Although this was recognised from the outset with this project, I believe the true extent of the change to business was under-estimated. When the tool rolled out, some expected instant revenue to roll in. What we came to realise is that the need to change how we do things, to drive digital process, in the case develop new routes to market on a digital platform, requires an entirely new skillset.
“This is something we need to continue to develop with our internal business teams and channel partners. This is about much more than a new tool or a platform – it requires a significant cultural change for IT and business.”