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Inflection Points Are the Catalysts for Innovation

Cisco COO Maria Martinez shares how our experience-led approach is powering things never thought possible.

There are moments that change the course of our personal lives. These moments are inflection points—a graduation, a new partnership, the birth of a baby—events that define a clear "before" and "after." Similar moments exist at the macro level, and these events change the course of our collective path.

There are also milestone moments that stress the very core of our lives—natural disasters, pandemics, wars, or resource scarcities—that force us to reimagine a new way of life. This year, we've been tested, both personally and professionally, to do just that.

IT organizations across the globe did not escape these challenges and, in fact, found themselves at the center of solutioning for them. Overnight, millions of employees started working from home, in-person meetings went virtual, and connection became our currency. Out of sheer necessity, the tempo of transformation picked up at an unbelievable pace.

Despite the circumstances–and maybe even because of them–Cisco, and our incredible community of customers and partners, demonstrated the resilience required to rise above what felt impossible. In the turmoil, we transformed together. When we were backed into corners, we opened new doors–not just to survive, but to thrive. Trust, collaboration, and innovation took the lead, forever changing our ability to create outcome-driven experiences at scale and with speed.

We started doing things we never thought were possible, and we aren't stopping now.

Build and maintain agile infrastructure

In today's wildly unpredictable world, businesses are under pressure to deliver value to their customers faster than ever before. Faced with ambiguity, we've seen organizations succeed by removing complexity in their systems and processes, and partnering with Cisco to update technology, eliminate redundancies, and automate for efficiency.

Take one of Australia's largest supermarket chains, Woolworths. With more than 3000 stores and 30,000 network access points, Woolworths needed to organize and optimize its infrastructure to meet the needs of its millions of customers. 

The team at Woolworths had a vision for their business and how they would serve their consumers. They wanted to begin by being able to offer every customer a seamless, personalized shopping experience. To do this, they needed to have real-time customer insights and access to always-available in-store Wi-Fi. By removing the intricacies of its legacy systems, Woolworths was able to build a simpler technical base for its business and bring that vision to life.

Focus on data

Part of the way that organizations will continue to succeed and drive value for their customers is by improving their ability to collect data, synthesize information, and create actionable insights to build better customer experiences. Take Vodafone, a leading telecommunications company in Europe and Africa, for example. It has an ambitious vision to build a reliable, strong network as a platform that its customers can plug into via APIs and provide services to their customers faster. To do this, it needed to provide a network that has few problems in the first place. As Ara Yildizli, Director of Vodafone Network Operations explains, "One way of avoiding risk is to have a view of the network down to the software level. We cannot take the risk of only learning in hindsight from things that went wrong. We need to proactively learn from the network and the data to prevent problems. Now we are."

Put experience first

As with any disruption, it's the people who are most affected. This past year, the disruption has been both personal and professional, and many of us are navigating unknown waters. Mindful of this, IT leaders have had to conscientiously build a culture of inclusivity—without being in the office or traveling to meet with stakeholders. At Cisco, we've done this by hosting frequent company-wide check-ins, encouraging days off for rejuvenation, and building even more flexibility into our work schedules to accommodate colleagues juggling multiple priorities.

We have taken this time to really listen–to our employees, to our customers, to our partners–because getting curious was the quickest path to being able to create new, meaningful experiences. We've doubled down on our investments to deliver both the human and digital experiences that add real value and result in success. With a focus on the people behind the product, we are creating more moments that really matter.

We win together

These global inflection points can be a catalyst for growth and innovation. Organizations that ride this wave smoothly can sail to new heights, and we've seen so many of our customers lead the way. It's an honor and a privilege to work alongside our customers and take part in their journeys. Of course, none of our work would be possible without the tremendous support of our incredible partners, who help us scale our services and build trust with our customers. More than ever, the last year has proved that it takes a village to succeed, and each of us has a role to play in our collective achievements. With all of us in this together, we've proven what can be possible.

We're so proud to be a part of this village.

What are some things you've learned this past year that help drive your organization's success?

Learn more at cisco.com/cx

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