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CIO Rebecca Jacoby steers Cisco's IT ship

Like other enterprises, Cisco worked through mobile-employee challenges

By , IDG News Service
December 13, 2010 04:42 PM ET
Rebecca Jacoby

IDG News Service - Running the internal IT operations of Cisco is a big job not just because of the size of the company -- more than 70,000 employees worldwide and a market capitalization in the range of $100 billion -- but also because Cisco is continually developing new IT products across a broad range of technologies and is known for rapidly adopting those products for its own use. Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby spoke with IDG News Service on the sidelines of the NetWork conference last week and shared some insights into the legendary enterprise IT company's own enterprise IT.

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What is the scope of Cisco's IT operations?

We're headquartered in San Jose, but less than 50% of the IT organization is located in California. A large percentage is in Bangalore. I also have about the same amount in Raleigh, N.C., and we have a substantial number of employees in a couple of sites in Europe, and a few in Shanghai. We service most of the globe mostly from those sites, but there are also a number of employees that are distributed globally to various places. It's a little bit over 3,100 employees that are Cisco employees. Depending on what initiatives are going on, we employ probably 6,000 to 8,000 employees [from outside Cisco].

What's the best way for an enterprise to manage employees' mobile devices?

We went through this as a big question ... a couple of years ago. What we've learned is that if you give them no choice whatsoever, that isn't what works for people. We need to be able to give the individuals choice. And to do that, you have to take a shared responsibility to how you address the total cost of ownership of these devices. We actually have applied a certain amount of that cost to the individual, where they're making certain types of choices, but we absorb a certain amount of it within the company as well, in terms of support costs and those types of things.

How do you get employees to use new technologies such as Cisco's Quad collaboration platform?

It's sort of an interesting dynamic in our company, and I think this is true in most forward-thinking companies: I have more of a challenge in terms of getting it to scale to the level people want to use it, versus getting people to use it.

What's the best way for a CIO to deal with growth in an organization?

We review, quarterly, 100% of the dollars we're investing in IT. We actually divide all the investment into three categories.

The foundational level is, what are we doing to run the business? These are services that IT is committed to offering, and that we need to use to run the business every day. We have specific programs every year, as an IT staff, to go after productivity in those numbers.

The second level of investment is what we call business capabilities. It's either optimizing or adding incremental business capabilities to various functions in the business. Working with the marketing department, for example, to bring more business intelligence capabilities based on our current architecture -- bringing them a specific business value.

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