Cisco’s New Boss Robbins: ‘We’re Going to Have to Move With Greater Speed’
As of July 26, Chuck Robbins, Cisco’s (CSCO) new sheriff in town, moved more front and center than anyone has at the networking giant in 20 years, or since John Chambers ascended to the helm in 1995 and emerged as one of the more prominent IT leaders in the world.
Ahead of his move-up day, Robbins did a lengthy and end-to-end interview with IDG US Media, which ran the piece in Network World. The new boss, who characterized himself as involved in the details more than his predecessor, offered his views on the market, customers, Cisco’s competition, digitization, the IoT, SDN and a variety of other topics.
Chief among Robbins priorities was his overriding emphasis for Cisco on speed–in thinking, delivery, execution and organization. Speed, speed and more speed.
Here are a few of the highlights from the Robbins interview: (Hint: There’s a lot of nods to speed…)
On the market:
My view is that the market is too complex, moving too fast. We have to shift to creating a very diverse leadership team that has very different perspectives. Then we have to take advantage of those perspectives to drive our strategy going forward–and that does not mean slow. It means fast collaboration, leverage the value of the diversity that we have and move quickly together…The biggest difference I see going forward is how we’re going to have to move with speed but leverage a lot of diverse input.
You’re going to see this distributed capability all the way through the network out to the edge where the data exists. That’s the biggest change that’s going to occur. I also believe that the entire network needs to be programmable and automated.
On Cisco’s organization:
I think we are going to have to move with greater speed and no one would deny that smaller teams can move faster. That’s why when you’re building small teams that have to move fast, it’s so important to get the right mix of experience.
With the speed we want to move at, we have to drive a greater degree of clarity and simplification in our internal communication, our external communication and how we’re going to help our customers achieve that.
We treat our partners the way we would like to be treated. We treat our customers the way we would like to be treated and it creates a high degree of value in our relationships.
The difference between John and I is that I probably get into the details a little more today, but I’ve been told that three years from now I probably won’t be able to do that.
On IT’s role with customers:
We believe we can help those companies who are putting technology at the core of their strategy.
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.
On the digital transformation:
Over the next two to three years we’re going to build these hyper-distributed architectures because the data is going to be pervasive everywhere. The value that’s going to be derived by the organization is going to come from insights from that data.
I think that as long as we are trying to move with speed, then the simpler the messaging, the greater our ability to move. It’s a general desire to take complexity out because as we think about moving faster, complexity is our enemy. It’s that simple.
Some of the key areas we need to focus on are accelerating the automation of programmability of the entire network, unleashing the analytics that are of value that exist within the network today…I think we need to accelerate the security architecture and our teams have done a tremendous job…We believe the OpenDNS acquisition is going to be really key to us and you’re going to see us focus on accelerating that.
We think that the value of SDN is for it to be automated and we think that we’re uniquely positioned to do that through a combination of our network capabilities and then bringing automation from the top.
I think the word “virtualization” gets a little misconstrued here, when it’s really automation and programmability and it’s about speed and lower operating costs.
Our acquisition strategy will remain relatively consistent. We don’t think big ones work very well. We have our thoughts around cultural alignment, geographic proximity to facilities, all those things. But if I step back and look at our overall innovation strategy, I think it will continue to be made up of internal R&D, our M&A and, increasingly, even more interesting partnerships.
On the IoE:
We have a tagline that I really like. Amazing things happen when you connect the unconnected. It’s true.
The biggest issue today is that customers, on average, have 45-50 security vendors, so it’s logical that you’re only as safe as your weakest point. We believe customers are going to begin to look at this much more architecturally.
On storage: (Asked before Cisco exited the Invicta business)
We have had tremendous relationships with EMC, with NetApp, with Hitachi, even with IBM and, to date, what our customers need from us we’ve been able to satisfy through those partnerships. As we look at this architecture that I described for the future, then we will clearly step back and look at what we need to deliver and what parts we need to own, what parts we need to partner for, and that will drive our decisions in the future.
On how much Diet Coke he consumes:
Not nearly as much as John (Chambers) does.