Cisco's Chambers: IT Is Cool Again

"We're cool again," Chambers said of IT, speaking during a keynote address during the Cisco Live conference in Orlando, Fla. "You're no longer a cost center, so you need to stop acting that way. You need to say, 'Here's how we can enable our business leaders' and government leaders' visions in a way that no other department can.' "

John Chambers delivers his keynote Tuesday.

Many IT workers have a skewed view of their primary purpose, Chambers said.

"Most IT professionals believe their primary role is to deliver the same services at lower costs. But I'm already two times as productive as my peers, and we're moving into new markets, so it's the [IT department's] ability not to save money but to increase sales and dramatically increase profits."

Using Cisco as an example, Chambers noted that the way the San Jose, Calif.-based company sells to and supports customers is going to transform dramatically this year, changes driven by its own IT initiatives.

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Cisco is set to double its sales calls while halving sales travel, based on its broad implementation of video, collaboration and Web 2.0 tools, Chambers said. Usage of videoconferencing, wikis, discussion forums, blogs and video blogs are all on the rise within Cisco, he said.

"We're doing the same thing with our [sales engineers]. They're touching 50 percent to 100 percent more customers per week, and travel for road warriors is down two days per week," he said.

In addition to the business improvements, Cisco's increased video usage also helps reduce the company's environmental footprint. Cisco Tuesday pledged to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from its global operations by 25 percent by 2012.

Chambers added that Cisco's network loads have increased 200 percent in one year, driven by usage of its 200 internal TelePresence high-definition videoconferencing systems.

He also said that Cisco plans to introduce TelePresence products into the home market within the next 12 months.

Chambers also demonstrated WebEx Connect, new technology coming later this year that enables customers to create collaborative spaces online. Users can see other personnel working on a given project team, log chat sessions between individuals so other team members can view them, create video blogs and search a corporate directory of user-created profile pages to find employees that have needed expertise. From those pages, users can initiate video calls with each other and share digital information.

During the demonstration, Chambers and Cisco Chief Demonstration Officer Jim Grubb showed how video calls can be seamlessly transferred from the WebEx Connect online workspace to an Apple iPhone. The duo also showed a feature called "casting" through which one iPhone user could throw a call to another iPhone user (The motion mimics the casting of a fishing line, hence the name).

WebEx Connect is just one of six major technology launches Cisco worked on in its third quarter, a feat made possible by Cisco's internal IT initiatives, Chambers said. "That's more announcements than we'd normally make in a year," he said.