Cisco still all about the networks

Cisco is a company that I find very interesting indeed, as it has completely understood the importance of online networks not at just a technical level (its machines are what makes up much of what the internet is built on) but at a strategic business level.

That means much more than effusive but impractical “this changes everything” sentiment in the boardroom. Cisco, led by John Chambers’ born-again zeal for the potential of the hyper-connected world, has put its brains and brawn to work on building a networked company.

I blogged about the Cisco approach two years ago in a post called “Command and Control is Dead”. As I said, that means things like:

  • Accepting that the social network sum of its people is smarter than its C-level team
  • Embracing complexity and uncertainty about where technology, business and the whole world are headed
  • Designing business processes and growing a culture that takes both of the previous two points as its context
  • Being able to work in upwards of 25 major initiatives at once, where previously two at most were possible

Anyway, do read that original post and watch the video of John Chambers at MIT for more information.

Two years on, Cisco hasn’t deviated from pursuing the vision it laid out there. I was really interested to read an account by Andrew Sharrock of another Chambers keynote, this time last week in London, talking about how Cisco was doing and where its strategy was taking it next.

It seems that Cisco’s vision has deepened with experience, and the concept of Networked Economy taking over from the Information Economy is being discussed.

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Adapting to the age of networks is an imperative not just for technology companies, but whole nation states, for most of the West, Chambers says. When we’re seeing R&D jobs leaving the UK for emerging markets, this view really rings true.

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I was also interested to see the slide on Cisco’s Vision, Strategy and Execution, which shows global councils (see my previous post) still at the heart of being able to move on several fronts at once, seemingly producing the effect of allowing a big company to be agile, freeing itself from 20th century structures and accessing the latent power of its own human networks.

if you’re interested in reading more about Cisco’s Global Council approach, Andrew’s post also links to another by Raph D’Amico, which includes a diagram showing how Cisco prioritises opportunities.

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