Cisco’s customer advocacy helps biz grow

By : |June 4, 2008 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: Today customers are looking beyond device-based value propositions and are demanding solution-based value propositions, more proactive thought leadership, increased knowledge transfer, tailored offerings, and consistent quality.

Cisco’s Customer Advocacy enables it to help customers improve their productivity, reduce operational costs, and get their applications and services to market as quickly as possible, says G B Kumar, senior VP – Customer Advocacy, Cisco India and SAARC.

In an interview with CIOL, Kumar elaborates on Cisco Services and Customer Advocacy.


CIOL: What is Customer Advocacy? Explain.

Kumar: Globalization and market trends such as personalization are creating the need to deliver highly customised service offerings around the world to customers with diverse capabilities, skill sets, and requirements. Cisco sees Customer Advocacy as partnering with customers, and engaging in a mutual dialogue, to accelerate customer success with Cisco network technology and applications that meet their business needs. Customer Advocacy enables Cisco to help customers improve their productivity, reduce operational costs, and get their applications and services to market as quickly as possible.
CIOL: What made Cisco Services offer this service/solution?

Kumar: At Cisco, customer satisfaction has been an essential component of the corporate culture since the company’s inception in 1984. Sandy Lerner, one of the founders of Cisco, created "Customer Advocacy” as a unit specifically tasked with ensuring that customers were well provided for. In fact, to ensure all employees are committed to the customer, employee bonuses at Cisco are based on the results of customer satisfaction reports. The Cisco culture seeks to encourage employees to go beyond in-the-box customer service and mandates that Customer Advocacy start with Cisco’s people.

Today customers are looking beyond device-based value propositions and are demanding solution-based value propositions, more proactive thought leadership, increased knowledge transfer, tailored offerings, and consistent quality. With the creation of Cisco Services, Cisco has evolved from a product-based to a solution-based offer. In doing so, Cisco is responding to customers’ demand for more proactive thought-leadership, increased knowledge transfer, tailored offerings, and consistent quality.

Now, Cisco not only supplies the network, but also provides the support necessary to ensure that customers make the most of their networks. This allows them to build more integrated relationships with their customers and their partners. Uniquely, Cisco also stages annual Customer Advocacy awards for business partners whose performance and behaviour is most aligned with Cisco’s advocacy principles.




CIOL: Your view about Indian enterprises in the services sector?

Kumar: Over the last five years there has been a dramatic change in the market for maintenance and support of Local and Wide Area Enterprise Networks. As users demand new, powerful yet bandwidth intensive applications, companies are replacing their legacy, and, often, proprietary network equipment with best of secure IP based networking products and solutions. Although these products are reliable, the speed of change is bringing its own challenges.

Cisco has made a significant commitment towards offering its entire ‘Services’ offering to the Indian market. We are rolling out our Advisory Services capabilities with SEZs, satellite towns, large campuses and similar real estate undertakings. The other market segments we are looking at are Banking & Finance, Retail, especially the large-format Retailers, who are expanding in a large way.

Like companies everywhere, Indian companies, irrespective of their size, have three major concerns, which Cisco Services is uniquely placed to address throughout the Network Lifecycle.

·  Improved Staff Productivity, Minimised Total Cost of Network Ownership – Companies can improve staff productivity and decrease their overall total cost of network ownership by working proactively in the early phases of the network lifecycle. Preventive efforts can help companies avoid re-work, ensure that important requirements are not missed and reduce or prevent major network problems, thus reducing or avoiding costly network down time and saving network support staff hours and costs.
·  Increased Network Availability – Network availability can be increased by focusing on lifecycle service and support.
·  Increased Business Agility – A lifecycle strategy can help companies increase their business agility based on faster implementation and deployment of new features as a result of effective planning and preparation.

CIOL: How do you explain the value of the ‘Lifecycle’ approach?

Kumar: Cisco Services focuses on supporting business requirements throughout the Network Lifecycle. Today, companies work toward achieving network-related business goals (mentioned above) throughout the lifecycle of the network. The network lifecycle has six distinct phases: prepare, plan, design, implement, operate, and optimize. A lifecycle approach orchestrates the alignment of business and technical requirements at every phase.

Prepare: True alignment with the business is necessary in order for IT to provide companies with competitive advantage. In the prepare phase of the network lifecycle, a company establishes business requirements and a corresponding technology vision. The company develops a technology strategy and identifies the technologies that can best support its growth plans. After the financial and business value of migrating to a particular advanced technology solution has been assessed, the company establishes a high-level, conceptual architecture of the proposed system and validates features and functionality documented in the high-level design through proof-of-concept testing.




Plan: In the plan phase of the network lifecycle, a company assesses its network to determine if the existing system infrastructure, sites, and operational environment are able to support its proposed system. The organization tries to make sure that adequate resources are available to manage the technology deployment project from planning through design and implementation. To plan for network security, the company assesses its system, networks, and information against intruders and assesses the network for threat of outside, untrustworthy networks gaining access to internal, trusted networks and systems. A project plan is created to help manage the tasks, risk, problems, responsibilities, critical milestones, and resources required to implement changes to the network. The project plan aligns with the scope, cost, and resource parameters established in the original business requirements.

Design: During the design phase of the network lifecycle, a company develops a comprehensive detailed design that meets current business and technical requirements and incorporates specifications to support availability, reliability, security, scalability, and performance. In addition, the company develops a comprehensive design specific to the technology system’s operations and network management processes and tools. Where applicable, custom applications are created for the technology to meet the organization’s requirements and to enable integration with the existing network infrastructure. A variety of plans is developed during the design phase to guide activities such as configuring and testing connectivity, deploying and commissioning the proposed system, migrating network services, demonstrating network functionality, and validating network operation.

Implement: In the implement phase, a company works to integrate devices without disrupting the existing network or creating points of vulnerability. The company might stage and test the proposed system before deploying it. After identifying and resolving any system implementation problems, the company installs, configures, and integrates system components and installs, configures, tests, and commissions the operations and network management system. Once network services have been migrated, the company validates that its operational network is working as intended, validates system operations, and works to close gaps in staff skills.

Operate: Network operations represent a large part of a company’s IT budget. An organization spends substantial time in this phase, living with the technology in the company’s environment. Throughout the operate phase, a company maintains the ongoing health of its system, proactively monitoring and managing it to maximize its performance, capacity, availability, reliability, and security. The company manages and resolves problems or changes affecting its system, replacing or repairing hardware as needed. It makes physical and logical moves, additions and changes and keeps system software and applications current, and it manages hardware and software suppliers to help ensure efficient delivery of products or services.

Optimize: The paramount goal of the optimize phase is achievement of operational excellence through ongoing efforts to improve the performance and functionality of the system. A company tries to ensure that its operational system is meeting the objectives and requirements established in the company’s business case and works to improve system performance and security. Management practices are enhanced by improving network deployability and operational efficiencies through a network management system that automates, integrates, and simplifies management processes and tools. Business requirements are regularly updated and checked against the network’s technology strategy, performance, and operations. The network must be adaptable and prepared to cope with these new or changing requirements. As it is changed to support new business requirements or to enhance performance, the network reenters the prepare phase of its lifecycle.

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