Cleaning up the Cisco house

Cisco Systems is looking inward — and cleaning up house — as the company touts the benefits of mixing business process engineering with embedding intelligence into the network.

Speaking to more than 1000 partners and customers at Networkers 2004, Cisco Systems’ senior vice-president of operations, processes and systems, Randy Pond, said the goal was to drive complexity out of the business.

He said breakthrough productivity would come from linking applications and processes.

“Driving productivity frees up resources and gives a competitive advantage,” Pond said.

Sources of productivity included ensuring a network backbone, deploying a single ERP, focusing on an Internet application mentality and maintaining data integrity, he said.

And while Cisco had been adept at asset management (the company bulged from $3 million in 1987 to $21 billion in 2001) and in investing in people, it fell short when it came to business process management.

“In the downturn, we’ve taken a hard look at ourselves,” Pond said. “We found we didn’t measure business processes ... We let the different functions of the business operate in silence.”

He said there was a huge duplication of teams, redundant tools, multiple databases, poor project prioritisation and poor out-tasking coordination (particularly in software development), along with inefficient spending across the enterprise.

But, Pond said, the company was closing the gap and now driving efficiency across the board by eliminating the silos.

Partners, suppliers and customers could also drive the enterprise with business process management by focusing on three key pillars: the performance factor, network intelligence, and scaling the architecture, he said.

“There are huge inefficiencies between partners, disties and end-users,” Pond said.

The push towards intelligent networks was about three to five years away from widespread adoption, he said. The company was now in phase one.

“The intelligence movement of data, voice and video across a system of networks is happening today,” Pond said.

Phase two involves dynamic networking of resources, while the final step includes virtualisation of applications and services.

As the Internet architecture continued to evolve, he said, and the convergence of data, voice, video and storage became more real — partners would have a role in helping organisations drive down the complexity of the IT infrastructure.

But for the concept to work the trick was to change the business process at the same time the application technology was being deployed.

Other growth areas in the advanced technology realm include IP tele­phony, security and home networking.

“Technology is not an expense, but a business enabler” said president and chief executive officer, John Chambers, kicking off the event through a taped video message.