Ten minutes with… Charlie Giancarlo

In an exclusive interview, ACN caught up with Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer, to ask him about his views on competition and acquisition.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  September 23, 2007

In an exclusive interview, ACN caught up with Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer, to ask him about his views on competition and acquisition.

John Chambers has talked about the CEO-CIO disconnect - how are you helping CIOs communicate effectively with CEOs?

For a start there's our CEO-CIO conference, which we hold every other year. We also try to educate the CIOs we work with, in terms of not only what we do that fulfils their requirements, but what we do that allows them to fulfil their CEO's requirements. When CIOs look at these things, they think of the operational capabilities of the environment - they think of cost, and of uptime.

When CEOs look at this, they're thinking about how to scale the business, how to drive sales, how to reduce costs. Those two are sometimes out of synch with one another - we need to send both sets of messages, craft both educational stories for both of those audiences, and then we need to work with our partners in the account - our customers - to help them not only perform their daily business functions, but also help them to be able to envision and then drive new activities that will allow them to accomplish their CEO's goals.

Some of your competitors - such as Juniper - seem to rely to a certain extent on picking up accounts that have left Cisco - is this a worry to you?

We're always concerned about competition - competition is what drives a lot of the market. We respect competition - we're glad we have it, it makes us a better company. We do have very high market share in the enterprise - this is both good and bad. It's good, because it means we're doing a good job generally - but it's bad because it means that at this point we only grow as fast as enterprises in general are growing.

Juniper is one of the competitors in the enterprise space - it's by no means our largest competitor in that space. We of course attempt always to be the best choice for our customers, technologically, but also from the standpoint of customer support and customer service. That being said, sometimes our customers will choose a competitor, either because they want more than one vendor in their network - or because they felt like we let them down in some way.

I wouldn't say that the threat today is any bigger than it's been in the past. We have about the same amount of activity in competition in the enterprise as we've ever had - and I expect it to stay there.

How far can acquisitions take Cisco, compared to internal development - will you reach a point where you struggle to integrate these different companies?

At one level we always struggle to integrate companies - it's not simple. I think we do a particularly good job, as these things go - but it's not as if you develop a process, and just chunk it through. Every one is different and every one of them takes a lot of effort.

I don't actually think that there's a point at which you can't do that any more, for a variety of reasons. One is, for us, it's a make versus buy decision - any product we build, on every component in them we make a ‘make versus buy' decision. Sometimes we design our own chip, sometimes we use a commercial chip.

This is fairly analogous to what we do when we go into a new business. Sometimes we've got the skill-set, we've got the team, we think we understand the market well enough - we're going to do this on our own.

Sometimes we don't have those things - we don't have the technical talent, we don't have the market insight - sometimes we're just late, we didn't think of it early enough and now we're behind the gun. Then it says that maybe an acquisition of a firm - if it's the right price, and the right team - makes the most sense.

With Cisco's focus on emerging technologies and other high-tech areas, do you risk alienating enterprises - especially in the Middle East region - that are still on the foundation level?

Here's something quite interesting: in our emerging markets area - and the Middle East is a great example of this - there is a higher adoption of the newer technologies than there is in the developed world. I think this is because there's less infrastructure already in place.

When you have nothing in place, and you look at buying something for the first time, you may as well go for the new technology. I think that's what is taking place in the high-growth markets - the adoption of new technology is actually faster. I don't think we're leaving them behind - in fact we're becoming a closer partner to those organisations.

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