Networks need to transform. Dinesh Malkani shares why and what Cisco is doing to enable enterprises transform to digital…

This interview abstract is from a qualitative questionnaire administered as part of market survey for GoldBook 2017. GoldBook is a resource guide for communications infra buyers. It is published as March 2017 issue of the Voice&Data monthly magazine.

Dinesh Malkani, President, Cisco-India & SAARC

 On redefining to align with demand for the digital:

Companies and cities across the world are connecting devices, people, data and processes to create forward-thinking innovation hubs that allow for better connectivity, productivity and security. Cisco products and initiatives have been a catalyst for the acceleration of digital transformation with next-generation IoT, data center, cloud , digital security, software, and collaborative systems. Digitization has been an integral part of our DNA and we believe that technology will enable the problem solvers to build smart cities, create new jobs, deliver new business models and bring in a transformational change within the community.

 On digital technologies of immediate relevance for Indian enterprises:

India will also have 650 million smartphones by 2020 and see a 11-fold increase in mobile data traffic in three years. Given the increased connectivity and concerted government push through Digital India, Skill India and Smart Cities programs, businesses will leverage SMAC platforms synergistically to drive non-linear growth.

With 8.4 billion connected things in 2017, SMACs has engendered new technologies like AI, IoT, cognitive systems, natural interfaces, 3D orienting and futuristic security using biometrics and behavioral analytics.

Mobile devices will be primary platforms for effective social networking and businesses will continue to leverage this connected society to improving workplace productivity, customer engagement, geographical reach and revenue growth. Digital transformation driven by SMAC technologies will create an innovation-rich ecosystem that will see major disruption across all verticals.

On how enterprises should transition to the digital paradigm:

Companies across all verticals are concerned about the next big disruptive force on the horizon. The pace and upheavals caused by digitization have forced many leading enterprises to adopt digital technologies at a faster rate. The combination of cloud, social media, mobile and big data are delivering immense opportunities. But the attempts by organizations to make most of these systems are hamstrung by outdated legacy systems.

But legacy need not always be an encumbrance. Seasoned CIOs should look at the whole picture rather than rip and replace working hardware. It is prudent to factor in the budget and build from bottom up to squeeze the last dollar from IT infrastructure. The clincher is to identify the role that the particular infrastructure plays in delivering the company’s objectives.

In 2017, cloud will transform enterprise computing. With the growing start-up ecosystem and proliferation of SMAC platforms, businesses are looking for avenues to cut costs, enhance data security and improve business flexibility, scalability and agility. The Indian Public Cloud services market will hit $1.75 billion and the data center workloads are expected to surge with increasing automation and growing complexity of applications. Legacy systems will be pushed to the limit to navigate the innovation pace and growing appetite for data and mobility.

CIOs need to evaluate if the existing legacy systems are crowding out innovation and impairing the business’s ability to be responsive to market needs. Digital transformation should be driven as a strategic need as agile and adaptive IT infrastructure is critical enablers for innovation.

On digitization framework for a smooth transition:

The journey to digital impacts the entire organization. It requires a complete overhaul of the business, operations and technology strategies wherein all the business and customer journeys are mapped to enable complete visibility, agility and control. Businesses across all verticals are constrained with siloed networks, security loopholes, data overloads, legacy systems, complex integration challenges. A recent survey estimated that only 54 percent of the respondents mapped out the customer journey and 71 percent were not sure about the impact of digitization on customers.

At Cisco, we have developed a framework to ably support organizations embarking on the digital journey. Our integrated approach focusses on holistic transformation, which encompasses infrastructure, capabilities and outcomes with products and solutions that are customized to customer requirements. This includes:

  • Unified connectivity which replaces siloes with a single unified network.
  • End-to-end security wherein the network acts like a sensor and enforcer to identify threats and enforces security policies.
  • Fog computing with built-in evaluating capabilities on the network to manage the deluge of data.
  • High-end data analytics and automation capabilities to gain intelligent insights.

Cisco’s digital framework is focused on outcomes and will connect people, processes, data and things to create a connected network. These customer-specific architecture and technologies will provide end-to-end visibility, generate insights and automate operational processes to drive complete digital transformation.

On effectiveness of off-the-shelf tools for digitization:

Digitization cannot have an off-the-shelf strategy. The transformative journey requires organizations to identify their core strengths and customer touchpoints, evaluate existing systems and capabilities, assess financial feasibility, and understand customer requirements. Technology should not be approached as a one-stop solution for all woes. Businesses should have a 360-degree view about the working of digital forces – cloud, social, mobile and analytics – and identify the best fit for their company.

Gartner proposed that by 2020, 75 percent of businesses will be digital. Companies need to use digital tools and technologies to improve their businesses and become better at what they are doing. The new nexus of forces like cloud, social media, mobile and analytics should be leveraged to optimize business process, increase automation, enable seamless supply chains and engage with newer and younger customers. These technologies have lowered the entry barriers for competitors with easier access to capital, markets and customers. Organizations that are sandboxing their digital side and not digitally transforming their existing legacy systems will see costs rocketing as they struggle to support both. Digital transformation should help organizations to transform across all departments to keep them agile, scalable and flexible to maximize returns.

On awareness-related issues that are holding enterprise from harnessing digital benefits:

Digital transformation needs a long-term view and should create a culture which embraces change and innovation. It involves creating seamless and personalized customer experiences, smooth supply chains, engaged workforce and a live enterprise that predicts the future and acts on it. Enterprises are still acting in siloes and the workforce is not in sync with emerging digital needs. Trends like BYOD are bringing in security challenges.

Digital will dominate enterprise IT strategies in 2017 with more and more enterprises attaining digital maturity. Trends like IoT, AI, mobility, bimodal IT and other technological innovations will continue to push the envelope towards digitization. Industry will also make focused investments in cybersecurity as data losses and threat perceptions impact the surge in digital applications. It is also imperative for businesses to support a connected work place. Eighty-five percent of the executives feel that a connected workforce will be commonplace by 2020 and 50 percent think it will raise productivity in an industry survey. Companies should support this with BYOD polices, video, collaborative systems and other technologies which support a mobile workforce.

 On NFV & SDN roadmaps for enterprises:

Today’s organizations must operate across a broad landscape of domains that include data centers, private clouds, hosting/co-location, public clouds, and the edge/IoT. While virtualization and cloudification certainly plays an important role in an organization’s IT strategy, it is part of a greater whole that must all efficiently work together to deliver desired business outcomes. Our history and experience with solutions and partners that span all domains gives Cisco a unique perspective and technical advantage when helping organizations develop and execute an IT strategy that addresses the broad and diverse array of challenges facing them in their digital transformation.

On relevance of emerging technologies such as AI and IoT vis-à-vis cloud, big data, et al:

As per the latest Gartner report, the top major strategic technology trends that are clearly emerging in the ICT landscape are AI, Machine Learning and IoT. If you look at the development and innovation happening around these technologies, it is very clear that these themes are driving the trends – intelligent, digital, and mesh. Whether you are trying to sell product or services or technology, these themes play a highly influential role.

AI and ML (machine learning) have already reached the critical mass and managed to invade our life with tools that leverage natural language processing and machine learning technologies. Pervasive AI tools like Siri or Cortana, chatbots, driverless cars or a connected shop floor are gamechangers. The early adopters of AI and ML – powered by analytics – will gain a first mover advantage in the digital transformation journey.

At Cisco, our experiences in developing and implementing these technologies have shown that it is not some one-time event – rather, it is a journey. With the market economy transforming into a hyper-connected economy, businesses do not want to be left out of the race. They are ready to embrace and leverage these technologies; and numbers are proving that.

On adoption of business process automation and its benefits:

Business process digitization and automation are a business reality and essential to optimize operations and increase RoI. New age companies focus on delivering products and services swiftly with a seamless customer engagement and experience. Customers want real time information on their products, immediate services and expect providers to have answers to all their queries without having to repeat their information everywhere. Digital businesses – with their armory of advanced algorithms, big data insights and total visibility – can provide intuitive interfaces, personalized treatment, standardization services and seamless experiences.

On adoption of social media as part of  Unified Communications & Collaboration (UCC) strategy:

The main objective of UC strategy is to improve user productivity and enhance business processes and customer experience. There are challenges when it comes to maximizing the benefits from deploying a range of collaboration suites for an organization as you are transforming the way people work, make process changes and deploy new technology systems over legacy systems. Unless business leaders get all stakeholders on board, implementation can backfire. Also, a thorough assessment of the existing ecosystem must be made in order to identify gaps and plug them. The assessment can be on costs, skillsets, infrastructure or how UCC will impact demands on network infrastructure. This will help enterprises develop a long-term plan and leverage existing platforms.

Essentially, we need to link the UCC objectives with organization goals, create a core team in IT to support the project, create a capability roadmap in terms of productivity, operational effectiveness and cost savings and align all this with the UCC strategy. This is important, as unless every stakeholder is convinced of this implementation, it will be difficult to bring in the expected change and realize the benefits.

Stick to basics – strategize, plan, select a solution, deploy, operate and evolve. There is no shortcut to success, and every organization needs to go through all these stages for successful UCC implementation.

On impact of digital on data center strategies:

Digital transformation enables organizations to create new customer experiences, empower workforce innovations, and transform their business model and processes. Digital transformation with a Cisco ASAP data center implies Analyze, Simplify, Automate, Protect. This architectural approach ties analytics, simplicity, automation, and protection (ASAP) tightly with a consistent policy across a hybrid cloud built with industry-leading data center networking, security, converged Infrastructures, and software-defined solutions.

This empowers customers with the choice and flexibility to run any of their traditional and cloud-native applications using converged and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions that can be deployed across on-premises, managed, and public clouds.

The focus is on helping organizations to modernize their data center and older IT infrastructure with a hybrid-IT solution that maximizes application performance, mitigates risk, and increases operational agility in order to guide their digital transformation journeys.

On tackling enterprise mobility complexities in a digital era:

Digitization is placing unprecedented demands on IT. Billions of things are getting connected. Companies are running their business via real time analytics. And security threats are getting more complex by the day. Yet, 80% of IT budget are spent keeping the lights on. Something has to change.

The old way of doing simply wouldn’t scale in the digital era. With this in mind, we are revolutionizing how we build and manage networks. We’re transforming enterprise networks from manual, rigid and hardware-centric, to automated, flexible and software-driven. We believe the network will either be the digital foundation or a digital anchor.

(This interview abstract is from a qualitative questionnaire administered as part of market survey for GoldBook 2017. GoldBook is a resource guide for communications infra buyers. It is published as March 2017 issue of the Voice&Data monthly magazine)

You can pick up a copy of GoldBook 2017 here


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