Gartner Keynote: Cisco CEO Chambers speaks out

In an engaging and wide-ranging keynote session this morning at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo, Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers weighed in on a wide variety of issues, from the coming shakeout in the top six enterprise IT vendors to the CIO's role as a stepping stone to the CEO's office. Here are 10 key takeaways from the conversation.

  • He sees CIO role as a stepping stone to the top job at Cisco. "The CIO is one of the top places to learn the business, so we’ll rotate [executives] through the CIO role."
  • In the future, business processes and IT must converge seamlessly. Over the next five years the fabric of IT will need to be so deeply embedded in every business process that you won’t know the difference between IT and the business processes, Chambers said. But he puts the odds of CIOs pulling it off at “50/50 at best.”
  • CIOs must evolve IT's role. For that to happen CIOs need to evolve the role of IT to be a business partner first and knowing how to implement IT second. A cross pollination that involves the transition of business people into IT and vice-versa also needs to happen, he said. "The role of an IT person needs to change more than the role of a CIO does." The CIO's business-focused approach to IT needs to propagate down. IT needs to retrain to solve business problems, he said.
  • The Big Six of IT will soon to be big four. Of Gartner's list of the top six IT vendors to the enterprise today, at best four will be on the list five years hence. The only sure winners he named: Cisco (not surprisingly) and Oracle."There’s a window open for companies to sieze the leadership for all of IT as well as communications. We’re going to try to be that company," he said.
  • Three elements are required for future IT vendor success. To make that top six list a company will need to be able to combine expertise in software, hardware and ASICs." The companies that lead will be able to do all three. If you only have the software you can’t move at the speed of people who have all three."
  • Cisco is doubling down on software bet. Chambers said that Cisco's internal goal is to double software revenue over the next five years. Look for easier to use software and tighter integration between applications such as WebEx, TelePresence and Jabber.
  • Oracle's biggest challenge is open software: "The industry is set up for an open software player that integrates with every device." But, he adds, "I’d never bet against Oracle."
  • Chambers rates ease of use for Cisco products as only fair. "Complexity will slow us all down... Ease of use is key... We get all excited about the functionality [but] it's a lot better to give fewer choices." Taking the complexity out of products not only helps customers but allows Cisco to design and build products faster, he added. But today, he said, "I would give us just a fair mark on ease of use."
  • The Patent process should be nuked. "I’d completely throw out everything and start from the beginning. It is a mess... Patent trolls are everywhere." Chambers went on to admonish his competitors: "You should not be suing your peers. We are slowing down our industries and ourselves. It’s unacceptable, it slows innovation."
  • On the qualities Chambers thinks his eventual successor will need: "They will be more collaborative, less command and control and know what they know and what they don’t."
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