How Cisco's CIO is Transforming IT

By Sean Michael Kerner

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LAS VEGAS: How do you transform IT, when your business is already IT? That's the task that faces the CIO of Cisco.

Rebecca Jacoby has been at Cisco for the last 16 years and has been the CIO for just over four years. During an in-depth discussion at the Interop trade show in Las Vegas with press and analysts, Jacoby explained how she tackles the role of CIO and what her organization is doing to move the business forward.

"The consumerization of IT is a buzzword for us and it's very significant to the way people at Cisco work," Jacoby said. "The big focus is on really working on how we look at cloud services."

On moving to the service orientation, Jacoby noted that it's not an easy task and there is no book or manual that can be followed. She said that when she first took the job of CIO she was asked why the organization couldn't just virtualize everything? The practical reality is that virtualization changes a lot more than just infrastructure when you move to a services orientation. She noted for example, that how you do financial accounting changes in a service environment. That said, Cisco has heavily virtualized its environment over the last few years. At the end of this calendar year, Cisco will be 80 percent virtualized in their workloads.

Jacoby sees her role figuring out how to provide the IT services that achieve business needs. "We have to think of ourselves as the sourcer of services as opposed to the developer of services," Jacoby said.

In her view, when an IT organization think their business is about everything they create, that's not going to fly far. In the future, it's is all about delivering services in via the cloud. "So how do we bring those services together so I can deliver capabilities to the business," Jacoby said. "That's our ultimate vision over the next 18 to 24 months."

Virtualization and the cloud are tools for creating agility and efficiency, which is a trend today's mobile devices enable.

One of her organization's primary purposes is to deliver productivity within the organization. Part of that responsibility also involves managing risk by having appropriate IT usage policies. Cisco has had a fairly open device usage policy so focuses on policy based security, which helps mitigate risk of so many different devices.

Jacoby stressed however that it is important that IT organizations don't get caught up in issues of policy alone. "The real purpose of IT in this day and age is to help create growth opportunities," Jacoby said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.