For all that is levelled at him, Cisco CEO John Chambers is an engaging and persuasive leader of the firm. Selected leading AP based analysts were fortunate to get over an hour of his time today (Dec 4th), to get his perspective on the performance, positioning and capability of Cisco and that of the market.
The overall tone of the meeting was positive, in fact, bordering on arrogant, with a regular dose of humility.
Chambers did admit that Cisco had made some mistakes, both in geographic coverage (12 locations in China is poor at best), and in approach to the market, e.g. C-Suite coverage in the F500 is below expectations. This played off the overall confidence and clear pride in the recently released quarterly numbers of Cisco. It was very clear that Cisco is focused on being the “leading IT company” globally (not using revenue as a measure, but metrics more suited to Cisco).
Cisco always takes time to dig into HP, Huawei and Juniper, highlighting many real or imagined flaws in those organisations. However, this year, IBM in particular was measured vs perceived Cisco strengths multiple times. Usually, these firms play nice to each other. No longer. Cisco clearly wants to take the mantle of leading IT company in the world from IBM.
An interesting comparison of the two firms relates to Connected vs Smarter. Connected Cities, grids and other infrastructure is clearly where Cisco goes for a non-IT market transformation approach. Whilst it is still a nascent part of the Cisco organisation, it is the only product company that has managed to develop a cohesive positioning in key (albeit niche) sectors that can come close to the IBM push behind Smarter.
The overall theme for the future from Chambers was to expect more aggression against Huawei, potential alignments with other Chinese based Network providers (ZTE) as well as a consistently confident Cisco. It needs this and more to be the leading IT company in the world in any measure, but it now appears to have the confidence to believe it is possible. Execution, well time will tell.