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This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

New survey data shows the clock is ticking for
businesses to shift to a digital organization.
Cisco Services wants to help them get there.

About a year ago, Cisco embarked on a new branding campaign, telling its customers there’s “Never Been A Better Time” to become a digital organization and create new experiences for employees and customers. However, the path to becoming digital may not be that obvious, as we are connecting more things to our network, costs are escalating, the skills gap is widening, and IT is becoming more dynamic and distributed.

Put this all together, and CIOs face a difficult situation. Digital transformation requires businesses to use technology to move fast, but IT complexity is clearly on the rise. Technology leaders are now in a situation that seems to be untenable: Accelerate business transformation while trying to completely revamp the way IT is run within the organization. I’ve heard the analogy that it’s like changing the wings on a plane while it’s flying, but it’s more like changing the entire plane and the people flying it while flying. So, where can businesses turn for help?

Cisco Services help customers deploy digital technology

If you’re a Cisco customer, you can turn to its Services group to aid in this transformation. In many ways, it’s the unsung hero at Cisco. Everyone loves new products, and things such as ACI, Tetration and the Spark Board grab lots of headlines, but the Services business unit helps customers de-risk the deployment of much of the technology. One little known fact is that Services is now the second-largest revenue-producing business unit at Cisco behind only Switching.

The company recently held a Services Summit in New York to educate analysts on the state of the business and what’s coming in the future. One interesting set of facts that was presented was from Cisco’s Digital Transformation Survey.

Respondents of the survey stated:

  • An average of 3.7 of the top 10 companies in every vertical will lose their place in the top 10 within the next five years.
  • Hospitality and travel will have the highest rate of churn, with 4.3 companies in the top 10 being displaced. In actuality, this is already happening because companies such as Lyft, Uber and Airbnb have already disrupted their industries.
  • Substantial change in market share is expected to be felt in only three years.
  • Only one in four organizations are actively responding, so 75 percent of businesses are already behind the proverbial digital eight ball.

Most Cisco customers are familiar with Cisco’s technical and training services. It’s very common today to purchase Cisco SMARTnet either directly from Cisco or through a partner to help with the ongoing diagnostics and support of Cisco technology. Also, the majority of Cisco customers I work with have at least one Cisco Certified Engineer on staff who has gone through extensive training programs.

In addition to those, Cisco claims it has services that extend across the entire technology deployment lifecycle—from development of the strategy through ongoing operations. Cisco’s steady growth in advisory and validation services has coincided with its approach to engaging its customers.

At one time, the advisory services tended to revolve around Cisco’s technology, such as Unified Communications and networking. However, Cisco has taken more of a business outcome, cross-domain approach and can help businesses that want to do things such as “enable the cloud,” “automate IT processes” or “secure the business.”

Also, Cisco has done enough of these projects that it can quantify the benefits in both business and technology terms. For example, Cisco claims that network and service automation can reduce the average maintenance from 11.2 hours to 5.3 hours, provide a 30% revenue uplift because of faster go to market and improve customer satisfaction by 40%.  Whether these metrics translate to every organization or not, its at least a starting point to help IT leaders justify projects that may be viewed as having no business relevance. Priorities for 2017 include cloud, security, digital architecture, data center modernization and automation.

As Cisco’s survey data showed, the clock is ticking for businesses to shift to a digital organization. Those that are able to accomplish this have a chance of becoming a leader in their industry. Those that can’t will struggle to survive, and many will go away.

Cisco Services can help its customers navigate the entire lifecycle of digital transformation—from the development of the strategy through implementation and optimization. Most businesses take advantage of Cisco’s technical services, but it’s time to take a look at the rest of the portfolio.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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