Like all other big tech conferences held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, networking powerhouse Cisco held its annual blowout conference, Cisco Live!, virtually this year. As a tech analyst, I follow Cisco very closely, so I was not surprised that CEO Chuck Robbins and company were able to seamlessly pull off the digital event with their usual aplomb. Cisco Live! 2020 featured the company’s trademark blend of tech optimism and company news, with its characteristic emphasis on addressing global humanitarian issues. Today I wanted to focus on Robbins’ keynote for Day 1 of the event as well as comments he made in a recent Cisco Live! blog post. Let’s dive in.
Facing down extraordinary challenges
Robbins began his keynote address with an acknowledgement of the challenging and unusual times we’re living in. He cited the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it has upended our society and the way we work. Then, he pivoted to the tragic police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, describing it as a reminder for the need of dignity, respect and equality in all societies around the world. Robbins stressed the need to take the pain and anger of the current moment and turn it into hope and possibility for a better world. Cisco, he said, is here at Cisco Live to talk about possibilities.
Robbins made the point that in addition to the new challenges brought on by the current age, the tech industry is still struggling with the same challenges it was before the pandemic—the quest for simplification, automation, privacy and security, amongst other things. Now, however, the industry must also struggle with how to best support remote work, keep teams productive and maintain beleaguered supply chains.
As leading global provider of networking solutions and collaboration technology, Cisco appears to be taking its role in combatting the fallout of COVID-19 very seriously. Back in March, the company committed $225 million towards the global response, a number which has now ballooned past $500 million. Robbins cited a recent survey that found that 75% of U.S. companies plan on accelerating their digital transformation on account of the pandemic and its fallout, from enabling newly essential services such as curbside grocery delivery, telehealth appointments, digital payments and video conferencing. Cisco’s powerful, reliable network and collaboration tools make it an invaluable partner for enterprises looking to transform their operations and weather the COVID-19 storm. Robbins promised the viewers during his keynote that Cisco will continue to provide the technology and deliver the capacity to “connect, secure and empower” organizations, drive productivity, and enable connections and communications between organizations, partners and customers.
A renewed focus on inclusion
So, beyond COVID relief efforts, what’s next for Cisco? Robbins says that over the last 6 months, Cisco took stock and reimagined its purpose, landing on a new mission statement: “Power an Inclusive Future for All.” This vision for the future, according to Robbins, requires the company to focus on four distinct areas:
1. “The Most Vulnerable”—a focus on partners and non-profits that cater to underserved communities, people who face systemic inequality, and people who are affected by crises disproportionately
2. “Families and Community”—expanding care and well-being services outside of the Cisco workforce
3. “Research and Resilience”—development of technology to accelerate healthcare research and combat social inequities
4. “Strategic Recovery”—providing assistance to education and healthcare institutions so that they may adapt to the challenges of these uncertain times
Robbins stresses the fact that these efforts are not temporary action items—rather, these are meant to be a holistic, long-term strategies that will guide the company into the future. Cisco says it is committed to developing long-term partnerships and solutions to address these areas. I would take the company at its word—in all of its wide-ranging CSR initiatives, it has never been one to drop in, write a check, get the photo op and walk away. CEO Chuck Robbins is immensely credible and you know he believes in all of this.
Cisco, particularly under the tenure of Chuck Robbins (approaching the 5 year mark), is remarkably adept at capturing the spirit of the company in a single catch phrase. Another one that comes to mind is Cisco’s “Bridge To Possible” campaign launched back in 2018 (see my coverage here if interested). “Power an Inclusive Future for All” ties in nicely with the “Bridge To Possible,” conveying Cisco’s commitment to changing the world for the better through its powerful networking technology and global footprint. This comes at a very pertinent time, where many people across all walks of life are waking up to the long-standing systemic inequalities in this country (and the world for that matter). While many companies are right now paying lip service to equality and inclusion, and perhaps making one-time monetary contributions, Cisco has demonstrated time and time again that it puts its money and actions where its mouth is, when it comes to efforts to positively impact communities. All of this looks like textbook Cisco to me—and that is meant as a compliment.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.