Cisco’s John Chambers’ Recession Tips For CIOs

by drjim on August 10, 2009

John Chambers Knows How To Survive A Recession

John Chambers Knows How To Survive A Recession

It can be a long and lonely journey through a recession for anyone, including CIOs. The company’s very survival may be at stake, the CIO’s job may be at risk, and of course there is that big unanswered question about what needs to be done to prepare for life AFTER the recession is over. Maybe Cisco’s John Chambers can offer us some insights…

Who Is John Chambers?

Michael Malone over at the Wall Street Journal had a chance to sit down with John Chambers and ask him for some guidance  for how CIOs can make it through these troubling times.

Just in case you don’t know who John Chambers is, he’s the CEO of the computer networking giant Cisco. Roughly 3/4 of all Internet traffic is estimated to run over Cisco gear and if you own a LinkSys router in your home or use one of those little Flip digital cameras then you are a Cisco customer.

John Chambers was at the helm of Cisco when the tech world really took a dive back in 2001. When he talks about what CIOs need to do to survive the current downturn, he knows what he’s talking about…

Chamber’s Suggestions For Surviving A Recession

John Chambers has a playbook that contains four key elements for how to survive a downturn. The playbook has been created based on years of experience in the tech industry and having had a chance to watch once great companies fall by the wayside. Here are Chambers’ key points:

  • Be Realistic: All too often CIOs like to pretend that the challenges that they are facing are all caused by the current economic situation. In reality, it’s more often a combination of what’s going on in the market as well as challenges that they are creating internally. Being able to realize that these are two separate groups is the first step in coming up with a plan to deal with them.
  • Assess Your Situation: When  a CIO discovers that a recession is starting to happen, he/she needs to ask themselves how long they think that this is going to last (they always end eventually!) and how deep it’s going to be. The answer all too often turns out to be that it’s going to last longer than you anticipate and be more severe. Knowing this you can create plans that will see you though the entire downturn, not just some made up short period of time.
  • Get Ready For The Upturn: This is the part that so many CIOs miss – all recessions eventually end. Although the ability to do a good job of cutting costs will help see the company through the recession, it’s the ability to position the IT department to help the company burst into the lead once the recession is over that will prove a CIO’s true value.
  • Get Closer To Your Customers: You would think that this would have always been on Cisco’s list, but Chambers admits that it was added only after the 2001 recession. The closer that you are to your customers, the sooner you will realize when a recession is starting because you’ll see the pain that they are starting to feel. This helps you to react quicker and better.

Final Thoughts

In an era in which firms seem to go through CEOs like copier paper and in a region of the county, Silicon Valley, in which there are very few survivors, John Chambers has not only survived, but he has done a great job of thriving. His experiences with multiple recessions provide a great lesson for all current and future CIOs who want to help their companies to grow quicker, move faster, and do more.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The very first baby boomer was born on January 1st, 1946. Soon after that a LOT more baby boomers were born. This generation of workers is just now reachingretirement age en-mass. With the possibility of having a large group of experienced workers leave the workforce all at once, should CIOs be worried?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

David Deans August 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

One more tip to consider, that Cisco has applied itself, appoint a CIO that focuses on the applications of IT that positively impacts business operations and creates competitive advantage. Meaning, IT is a means to an end objective.

Moreover, most CIOs will thrive (post-recession) when they open their mind to the benefits of selective out-tasking, and managed cloud services. The 21st Century CIO will embrace a hybrid services model that includes both internal and external computing and networking resources.

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Dr. Jim Anderson August 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm

David: good points. What you suggest is actually very hard to do because it goes against the grain of all of those CIOs who think that every firm already has the internal resources that it needs to solve all of its problems. Realizing that outside help is needed is the first step to creating a new IT solution…

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David Deans August 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Granted, few early adopters will likely transition to the 21st Century CIO persona immediately — perhaps that’s exactly why there’s a current window of opportunity to attain a meaningful competitive advantage.

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