Enterprise It at Cisco (2004)

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F. WARREN MCFARLAN ALISON BERKLEY WAGONFELD

Enterprise IT at Cisco (2004)

Boston knew the call center project was potentially valuable, but so were many others considered by BPOC. Would its benefits be realized quickly enough? Would all involved groups be willing to incur the hardship of shifting systems and retraining the hundreds of people involved when the time came? The customer advocacy group had already successfully proved the concept in a European pilot, but Boston questioned whether all stakeholders at the company would commit to a full crossborder and cross-functional implementation. The project would require a significant number of dedicated resources throughout the company for over a year.

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Professors Andrew McAfee and F. Warren McFarlan, along with Alison Berkley Wagonfeld, Executive Director of the HBS California Research Center, prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2004, 2006, 2007 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

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As Boston thought about the projects that were going to be covered at the next BPOC meeting, he knew that one request had the potential to generate a great deal of discussion. Cisco’s customer advocacy group was proposing an overhaul of Cisco’s call center processes—the group wanted to build a state-of-the-art customer interaction network that would centralize all incoming calls into a globally managed set of contact centers. The proposed international network would use Cisco’s technology to route and escalate calls in an efficient manner, with the goals of improving the customer experience while reducing expenses associated with handling and resolving calls. Although the proposing team was from one functional area, it was believed that the benefits would accrue to many functions throughout the company. Because of the anticipated wide-scale impact and significant multimillion-dollar expenditure, the team was seeking BPOC’s support in order to encourage other functions to share the costs of the project.

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On a Monday morning in March of 2004 Brad Boston, CIO of Cisco Systems, was preparing for a meeting with the six other members of Cisco’s Business Process Operating Committee (BPOC). This group of senior executives met twice each month to review and prioritize key initiatives that impacted the entire company. Since its first meeting in 2002, BPOC had focused its attention on several major enterprise-wide projects such as upgrading the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and developing a comprehensive customer database. As these projects started to wind down, the committee began considering new proposals that typically fell into one of three categories: “one-off” programs with specific short-term goals, “must-have” programs mandated for regulatory purposes (such as Sarbanes-Oxley compliance), and bigger enterprise initiatives that had to be prioritized relative to other projects with high resource requirements. Although BPOC did not fund the projects it approved, the committee’s recommendations deeply affected Cisco’s overall commitment to various IT initiatives.

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