Cisco’s John Chambers: I’m pumped about new leadership

Outgoing Cisco boss John Chambers shares his thoughts on the future of the business as he prepares to step down from the bridge

On an analyst conference call convened to mark its third quarter results to 25 April 2015, outgoing Cisco CEO John Chambers reflected on his 20 years at the top and set out his hopes for his successor, Chuck Robbins.

Chambers said Cisco had put its neck on the line to declare that the internet would alter the fortune of companies, countries and people back in 1997, and had been vindicated in doing so.

More recently, he went on, it had started talking about the internet of everything (IoE), which has also gone mainstream.

“The conversations we are having today with our customers are so similar in many ways to those we had 20 years ago,” he said in his closing remarks. “We have always been the example and saw the transitions early, and when others start noticing them, they are well underway.”

“Chuck, I know you will leverage the things that have made us great to date. I also know you will make changes when needed and drive innovation and new capabilities at a faster pace,” he said.

“You and I are on the 18th hole and we’re already ahead by five strokes in team play, and all of our competitors have hit their golf balls off into the woods. We’re going to finish this game, and by the time we’re through, they’re still going to be looking for the golf balls.”

Read more about Cisco's CEO transition

Chambers told analysts that Robbins’ stewardship to date of the enterprise business boded well for the future.

“Am I pumped? Oh yes. And could I be more excited than ever to turn it over to Chuck and watch what’s going to happen? I feel real good about our future, a lot of growth in revenues and a lot of growth in profits.”

Robbins, meanwhile, set out his intention to continue to combine internal research and development partnerships with acquisitions as a means to elevate Cisco’s technology portfolio, and set out his agenda for the first 90 days.

“I want to spend the next 90 days just talking to our leadership team, our employees, our customers, our partners, our shareholders, analysts, to really make sure that the theories and the things that I think we should be doing are in alignment.

“Beyond that, we’re going to focus on aligning our resources against their best priorities for the company. I really want to focus secondly on clarity and simplification of our messages, and that’s internal and external,” said Robbins.

Digitising businesses

The networking supplier and sector bellwether made sales of $12.1bn (£7.6bn) during its third quarter, up 5.1% on the year-ago figure of $11.5bn. Net profit of $2.4bn was up by 11.7% compared with $2.2bn in the third quarter 2014.

Cisco top brass said it was in a strong position at the end of a solid quarter, as it continued to help its customers digitise their businesses.

Company highlights included the opening of an IoE innovation centre in Berlin, and the announcement of another such facility in Australia; the introduction of Cisco Collaborative Knowledge, a software-as-a-service product for sharing expert advice, learning and knowledge in real time; the acquisition of Embrane, a lifecycle management platform for application-centric (or software-defined) network services; and the establishment of software resale agreements with Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR for their Apache Hadoop data management capabilities.

On the customer side, Cisco announced it was deploying small cells through UK mobile network operator EE to help it support its enterprise customer base; sold a virtualised mobile internet system to support AT&T’s carmaker customers in developing connected cars; and deployed a major technology and telecoms infrastructure upgrade at São Paulo International Airport in Brazil.

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