The one point that all IT leaders would unanimously agree upon is that customers are central to digital transformation. For Cisco India too, the primary push for a Digital Transformation Office was triggered due to requests from a customer for assistance and counsel concerning various technologies they would need for digital transformation. “They (the customer) were pushing the boundaries on how technology can solve problems, and were experimenting in areas never seen before. They were the first in the country to announce a Digital India program, and hence required a lot of assistance in that aspect,” informs Daisy Chittilapilly, Managing Director, Digital Transformation Office, Cisco India and SAARC.
Chittilapilly’s role at Cisco is primarily focused on external transformation, where she communicates with business leaders and policymakers on the customer side. “The expertise of my vertical is a steady mix of technical as well as domain knowledge. We understand both the domain and technical requirements of a customer and can implement the best practices based on their business environment. We have a Cisco point of view, which is derived from our Center of Excellence, partners and customer feedback. We walk our customers through our perspective and examine if the change would be meaningful for them and their business,” she says.
Cisco initially identified Smart Cities as one of the critical pillars of digital initiatives. Later, it was figured that India has other key initiatives like Digital India, digitisation of the manufacturing sector, education up-skilling, etc., which are very relevant in the form of infrastructure. The company showcased technological interventions and capabilities with both private and public entities, and this is how the formation of the digital transformation team happened.
In an interaction with Express Computer, Chittilapilly shares more on her journey in Cisco and how digital transformation is driven in the company and for its customers. Excerpts.
Can you please shed light on some of the technological innovations that Cisco will be coming up with?
Our history is indicative of our future. At over 200 acquisitions, we are a company that is good at both building and buying innovation, and we have done it through the ages. We have not turned off our switch on either internal innovations or external acquisitions, some of which have already been announced publicly. We recently announced our intent to acquire an optical network solution named Acacia that will help us with 5G readiness. Considering that the 5G spectrum announcements will be made by the end of this year, we are expecting it to be commercially available in another two years.
What innovations are you driving on the AI front?
We do have a lot of AI in our technology at Cisco. For example, Webex Teams our team collaboration platform. The platform is used internally as well as by some of our largest customers in the country. When you get into a meeting on Webex Teams, you can attend the meeting from anywhere, share content as well as collaborate on that content, in real-time. The platform does not have any device restrictions. While you may use it on your phone, someone else could be accessing it on a high definition video system. Through repeated meetings, it will be able to determine which colleague you are trying to dial-in, based on recency, frequency and other parameters. Also, you can ask the platform to set up a meeting for you. And, when you walk into that meeting, it will not only identify and recognise you but also identify your colleagues.
We use AI in our data centre technology as well. We have data centre platforms which have been specifically built to handle machine learning processing as this is a critical component where AI is concerned. We use our technology to build AI platforms for our customers across locations. While these are some of the examples, it will not just end here with AI in collaboration and data centre.
Do you think the profit and loss accountability is on your shoulders (based on how you implement digital transformation)?
When people are asked to identify Cisco, they identify us for one central tenet that we have established as a company, and that’s for being customer centric. We are known for being customer centric despite the fact that a majority of our business happens through partners. If you look at the way we do business worldwide, over 90 per cent of our work is done through our partners.
They hold the contractual service level agreements (SLA) with customers in many cases but that has never stopped us from jumping in where the customer is concerned. To us, delivering on the promise we have made to our customers takes priority over our profit and loss statement, and this comes with culture of Cisco.
Even before the days of our digital transformation, in the most traditional parts of our business we have been customer-centric. It is because we deliver on our promise that customers trust us and have relationships with us, which extend from one space of the enterprise to the other, through the years.
Today, in the industry, on an average, around 25 per cent of IT budgets are allocated for digital transformation. My job is to ensure that Cisco bridges the gap between tech and business domain focused on co-creating digital projects using technology as the primary lever. It is about creating a more complete and comprehensive value-driven and experience focused transformation for Cisco customers.
In your capacity, what are the digital transformations that you have brought about?
In manufacturing, we have pushed the boundaries and gone into warehousing, distilleries, dairies, mines, etc. We are excited about the new proof of concepts (POC) in the office today with the government. We are participants to the government’s Urban Observatory in New Delhi. Those are some of the POCs that we have had this year. The impact and results of these will become visible in the coming few months, and we hope to showcase it to our stakeholders then.
Can you please share details on Cisco’s project on agriculture in Kerala?
Our organisation recently made a public announcement where we signed an MoU with the Kerala government to establish smart farming practices. As per the agreement, Cisco will build an Agri-Digital Infrastructure (ADI) platform and set up Village Knowledge Centers (VKCs) across Kannur district to enable them with the necessary knowledge and services required for farming. We created the concept of a Village Knowledge Center (VKC). A VKC is a physical place where a farmer or fisherman can gain access to e-learning and advisory services in Kerala. Therefore, the project is loaded in two areas – agriculture and IT, which assists the Kerala government in getting a holistic solution instead of just a network.
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