Cisco’s huge customer event Cisco Live was virtualized and moved to this week. This was the first virtual event I’ve done with a focus on networking and communication. CEO Chuck Robbins did the opening keynote, and he has stood out as one of the most passionate folks when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility and taking care of both customers and employees during these difficult times.
He opened by pointing out that according to surveys, 73% of the folks surveyed are under some form of severe mental stress. Robbins has been on a mission to reduce that stress by focusing on connecting people that need to be connected (like those under quarantine) and automating the tools Cisco sells. In addition, throughout the keynote he wove in elements of Corporate Social Responsibility, showcasing the impressive way Cisco and its customers helped during these difficult times.
Cisco Live was one of the better-run keynotes with a blend of talking, videos, and additional speakers who made the event comparatively more engaging than most I’ve seen.
Let’s talk about my impressions.
One of the first significant messages was that Cisco has a substantial focus on getting their customers up and running for this new Pandemic normal. Robbins praised the IT folks his people worked with repeatedly for taking on the related tasks aggressively, both protecting their fellow employees and the business. Something like 88% of them, when surveyed, indicated they had become far more strategic during this Pandemic catastrophe.
Cisco itself was at the forefront of this change, shifting 98% of its workforce to remote over a matter of days. The lessons from this move made Cisco far more capable of helping their customers. However, Robbins called out some customers, like Met Life, who had already made a significant investment that allowed them to make the shift quickly, effectively, and with little drama.
Throughout the event, Cisco called out customer after customer who had executed well—praising the IT teams who went above and beyond. This praise is crucial because IT has had to massively shift support while they, too, are suffering from the related health risks. Presenting them as heroes helps overcome the belief that their efforts were under-appreciated (and it was not only really nice, but the right thing to do).
One example was a Honeywell superhero video that showcased how they rapidly went from 35K remote workers to over 100K. They also spoke to news services like CNN that are aggressively using the technology to connect their now remote guests and hosts to the studio. In doing this, news programming wasn’t more adversely impacted.
Cisco has internally been doing massive readjustments. They reimagined (and are continuing to reimagine) applications, looking at better ways to secure data when dealing with a remote workforce, transforming their infrastructure, and empowering their now remote teams. What they learned doing this is being shared with customers who are having to go through the same process. One area getting a lot of focus is the customer experience. Engagement has become more complicated, and the tools and people are undergoing a process that will make them fare more effective under these new conditions.
To address the massive increase in workload for an IT organization, Cisco is advancing its AI ML (Artificial Intelligence Machine Learning) capabilities so that the tools will increasingly become a force multiplier for IT and be able to move towards autonomy for the future.
The significant difference with Cisco Live is the embedding of Corporate Social Responsibility. Tae Yoo’s team working with Robbins has done a fantastic job integrating this concept throughout this event. Most often, CSR is a separate item to be checked off a list, not built into the firm’s culture.
This separation lowers the overall impact of the effort and makes it look like it is more smoke than substance. By integrating their efforts to make the world a better place throughout the event, they made it a part of their company’s image and culture, establishing it as a far more critical part of Cisco in the eyes of this audience.
As a result, I think most left this event feeling far more positive about Cisco. To Stella Low and her team that put on the analyst portion of this event: excellent work!