I attended Cisco Systems’ Live European regional event in Barcelona last week, which happened to coincide with the Chinese New Year celebration. From my standpoint, Cisco successfully celebrated customer experience (CX) with several key announcements. I would like to share my insights from the conference.
Why is customer experience such a big deal?
Many organizations laud the fact that the customer is “king” and should be the focus of any business strategy. I couldn’t agree more, but I often find this to be lip service. A successful CX strategy in networking infrastructure must not only include hardware and software, but also extend to its delivery and consumption. What impresses me about Cisco’s effort is that it is holistic, rooted in a lifecycle approach, and extends to an extensive partner network through IT channel programs as well as its DevNet developer program. As a proof point, Cisco announced its Collaborative Intelligence platform at the event. Collaborative Intelligence weaves together telemetry, use cases, best practices, artificial intelligence and machine learning to facilitate simplified infrastructure management. Portal access provides an intuitive dashboard view of devices, advisories, tips and access to experts and learning opportunities. Enhancements to AppDynamics were also announced. I find AppDynamics compelling since it provides real time visibility to potential application issues before they happen with remediation recommendations. Cisco claims that the platform is a huge success in improving CX at organizations such as Alaska Airlines, BMW Motors and the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. I would agree given the fact that such functionality empowers IT staffs to focus on more value-added activities to support knowledge worker productivity.
In order to better align its developer program to strategic CX initiatives and partner success enablement, Cisco also announced that the DevNet organization will join its broader CX team. The realignment should maximize training, certification and developer efforts as well as accelerate hot networking trends such as automation. Susie Wee leads the DevNet organization and shared at the conference that Cisco’s customers and partners are asking for assistance in not only automating networking infrastructure, but also solving fundamental business problems. Case in point: Ms. Wee shared that United Kingdom partner Natilik recently leveraged Cisco’s DevNet Express workshop series to educate customers and prospects about data center automation. Within two short months, Natilik was able to realize an astounding $1.5M in incremental sales. That’s a win-win for Cisco, its partners and customers alike.
Industrial IoT solutions that scale
Cisco is not new to industrial IoT. Its infrastructure portfolio includes hardened switches, routers, gateways and low power wireless connectivity solutions that span LoRaWAN, Wi-Fi, 4G LTE and eventually 5G. However, the company recognizes there are challenges in driving adoption. These include asset visibility (given a lack of cohesive standards), the traditionally unsophisticated nature of OT industrial plant operations in comparison to the IT “carpeted” areas of the enterprise, and difficulty in unlocking data within walled environments based on industry-specific protocols.
In an attempt to address these issues, Cisco announced its Cyber Vision and Edge Intelligence software platforms at the event. Cisco Cyber Vision enables IT and OT identification and discovery of assets, policy definition/enforcement and monitoring, in order to deliver a comprehensive industrial IoT cybersecurity architecture. It’s the first platform of its kind to be embedded in the Cisco industrial networking portfolio, and, based on the demos that I witnessed at the event, should address a number of adoption challenges.
Cisco Edge Intelligence is a second software platform also deployed in the Cisco industrial networking infrastructure portfolio that intends to unify the extraction and management of IoT edge data. That concept is powerful since this was historically a complicated process involving multiple vendors. Unification dramatically simplifies the management of any process—I look forward to tracking its adoption over time.
I believe Cisco now has an impressive ecosystem of partners and an exceptional set of blueprints to accelerate adoption of its industrial IoT portfolio. From a blueprint perspective, Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) are based on real world implementations and represent over a dozen vertical applications, including oil and gas, manufacturing and utilities. From my perspective, these announcements also extend the benefits of CX into Cisco’s industrial IoT infrastructure portfolio.
Cisco Live Europe went far in my mind to punctuate the company’s focus on CX. The benefits are immeasurable—IT partner loyalty and stickiness, revenue and profitability upside and, most importantly, happier customers. In China it may be the Year of the Rat, but at Cisco it’s the Year of the Customer.