The European edition of Cisco Live took place this week in Berlin, which is a fitting location given the amount of innovation happening in that city right now. If you ever find yourself in Berlin, be sure to check out Cisco’s Open Berlin innovation center where inventive start-ups are building and showcasing solutions that run on Cisco technology.
Innovation and digital transformation are linked together like Kirk and Spock. You can’t have one without the other. At this week’s event, Ruba Borno, Cisco vice president of growth initiatives and chief of staff for the office of the CEO, gave her first-ever keynote to a Cisco Live audience. Not surprisingly, she focused on digital transformation. However, unlike many keynotes I have seen, Borno didn’t just talk about digitization at a high level. Instead she was more prescriptive and gave the audience a guide on how to proceed with making the shift to a digital enterprise.
To get her point across, Borno compared the journey to digital via Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you’re not familiar with the theory, Abraham Maslow observed human behavior and theorized that you can’t grow as a human without having some basic needs. As the diagram shows, at the most basic level, humans need physiological things such as oxygen, food, water and sex. Once that is achieved, then we need to feel secure and so on.
Layer 1 of Cisco’s Hierarcy of Needs: Digital defense
Borno painted a similar picture for digital transformation where IT teams need to fulfill certain basic requirements before they embark down the digital path. The first layer of Cisco’s hierarchy is “The Best Digital Defense.” In other words, you can’t begin the digital journey without having the right security in place to protect the company and its customers.
The security world is changing, and it’s no longer enough to have a bunch of best-of-breed, point products sitting at the enterprise perimeter. Cisco has been steadily improving its security portfolio and now has products that can secure the edge, data center, branch, cloud, users, IoT endpoints and anywhere else. The security foundation is a necessity in today’s world where breaches can cost millions and cause customers to flee.
Layer 2 of Cisco’s Hierarchy of Needs: Automation
The second level is “Let the machines run the machines.” This takes a big leap of faith from Cisco customers, as most engineers aren’t comfortable with the thought of a network that configures itself. Also, manual configuration methods have been done for years, and as the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The fact is, network operations is “broke” today. Digital organizations need to move with speed, and the only way for IT to keep up is to automate. Also, for the network engineer, it’s critical to look at building new skills, such as programming and data sciences. But how can you do that if all your time is being spent doing a bunch of mundane operations tasks. The time for automation is now, and Cisco’s APIC-EM can help businesses build a network that runs itself. One important point with APIC-EM is that it’s designed to be multi-vendor in nature and supports many technology alliance partners.
Layer 3 of Cisco’s Hierarchy of Needs: Cloud
Third in Cisco’s hierarchy is “Who gives a cloud?” Despite the odd title, Cisco has several solutions to help its customers embrace a multi-cloud world, including security, analytics, management and orchestration. When it comes to cloud, one size certainly does not fit all, and the Cisco cloud toolkit helps customers leverage hybrid, multi-cloud environments.
The first three layers—security, automation and cloud—can be thought of as the foundational components of digital transformation. These are the technologies needed to get the digital ball rolling. The next three are the advanced capabilities that will enable businesses to pull away from the competition.
Layer 4 of Cisco’s Hierarchy of Needs: Data insights
The fourth imperative is “Unlock Your Insights,” which focuses on providing analytics for the whole company. Digital businesses are driven by data, and organizations that can “see” the data, analyze it, store it and retrieve it have a distinct advantage over organization that cannot. Cisco has a wide range of data collection and analytics tools including Tetration and the recently acquired AppDynamics product. Cisco can literally track and monitor the performance of customer, employee or application transactions, enabling IT to be proactive with infrastructure changes.
Layer 5 of Cisco’s Hierarchy of Needs: Spark brilliance
The fifth layer, “Spark Brilliance in Everyone, Everywhere,” aims to make workers more productive. In the digital era, competitive advantage comes from being able to make the best decision with the right people quickly. To accomplish this, agile teams need better tools, such as the recently announced Cisco Spark Board, which was worked into Borno’s demo. Most know Spark as a team-messaging app similar to Slack, but it’s much more than that. The Spark cloud enables workers to maintain a persistent collaboration experience across a wide range of devices, including mobile endpoints and the new Board.
Layer 6 of Cisco’s Hierarchy of Needs: DevOps for Your Brain
Lastly, the top of the pyramid is “DevOps for Your Brain,” which is Cisco’s way of telling everyone to think differently and be willing to disrupt the status quo. DevOps is based on a concept of constant innovation, so DevOps for your brain would mean constantly changing it. For IT people, this means learning new skills. Give up the manual processes that suck up so much time, embrace machine learning and automation, and invest in new skills that are in line with the digital era.
If you are on the business side of your organization, challenge the status quo and look for ways that technologies such as IoT, the cloud and artificial intelligence can improve or revamp a business process. One of the biggest challenges in the digital era is understanding what’s possible, but for businesses, the first mover advantages are significant.
Technology lets people work more efficiently, but more important, it enables them to be creative, collaborative and change the world. Security, the cloud and automation are the foundation of Cisco’s hierarchy, enabling businesses to harness the power of collaboration, analytics and critical thinking.