Feature Story

Cisco Connects in Toronto with a strong message on the need for digital experiences

Cisco President Rola Dagher underscores the importance of customer experience and personalization.

Cisco President Rola Dagher underscores the importance of customer experience and personalization.

Guest post by: Sean Michael Kerner

Cisco today is a global organization, but 28 years ago it only had one office outside of the U.S. and that office was in Canada.

On Oct. 30, Cisco Canada President Rola Dagher kicked off the Cisco Connect Toronto event with a video montage celebrating recent Toronto sport triumphs, including the NBA 2019 Champion Raptor and US Open Tennis Champion Bianca Andreescu. Her goal was to help get the crowd of 3,100 attendees energized and excited, which for a polite Canadian audience, isn't always an easy task.

"We opened our first non-US office for Cisco here in Canada 28 years ago when there was only 800 employees at Cisco," Dagher said. "Today we're over 70,000 globally and over 2,200 just in Canada."

Dagher used her time on stage to also celebrate diversity in Canada and within Cisco Canada. She noted that one in every five Canadians, including herself, is an immigrant. Diversity in her view isn't a checkbox item, rather it's absolutely a smart thing for every business.

The Age of Experience and Personalization

While technology has progressed dramatically over the last 28 years, in Dagher's view the future is all about customer experience and personalization.

Every interaction today needs to be personalized and simplified.

"Every interaction today needs to be personalized and simplified," she said. "Only through the right technology innovation, will you be able to deliver that experience."

See also: People@Cisco: Rola Dagher

That's a sentiment that was validated on stage by Hesham Fahmy, VP of Technology at Loblaw Digital, which is the digital enablement division of one of Canada's largest grocery chains. He said that his group is really tasked with building out digital experiences.

"Digital experiences are brand loyalty, and it's so critical for us," Fahmy said. "Realizing that our competition is no longer just other grocery stores, but the hundred other apps that people have."

One of the ways to create personalized experiences is through data. Fahmy said that simply collecting data and then having dashboards to show that data isn't enough. What's needed is taking a data strategy to the next level to understand business impact. For example, he suggested that product owners should be able to use data to understand that if they do a certain promotion, or make a change at the checkout, they can improve sales conversion rates.

How can we actually help them optimize the data and make it easy accessible for everybody.

"You want people to be data driven," Fahmy said. "So what we're looking at is how can we actually help them optimize the data and make it easy accessible for everybody."

Cisco SVP & Chief Strategy Officer Anuj Kapur also emphasized the need to create digital experiences during his time on the Connect Toronto keynote stage. Toronto is Canada's financial hub and home to the head offices of many major financial institutions, which in Kapur's view are subject today to digital disruption.

"It's all because a 25 year old today finds no allegiance with banking infrastructure the way you and I defined it," Kapur said. "What they care about is the experience and the digital experience of an application, customer experiences fuel brand loyalty not a tower at the corner of King and Bay St."

Why IT is Still Relevant

Looking beyond digital experience, Kapur also spoke directly to the audience, reminding them that they all still have a role to play. Many organizations are embracing the cloud and with it has come many questions for IT organizations about relevance.

See also: What CIOs need to know for a Wi-Fi 6 and 5G world

Kapur said that the question that is on everyone's mind is that in a world where cloud resources are available at the swipe of a credit card, what is the role of IT and are IT people still relevant?" 

The answer is a resounding yes, though the role of IT has changed. Kapur said that with services available from many sources IT now has an expanded role. 

"You need to evolve from being a builder of IT to being a broker of IT," Kapur said. "Our challenge to our customers is that you've actually never been more relevant."

Making data and services available is also about collaboration and empowering team members with the tools necessary to be able to handle issues rapidly is a critical function.

"When you walk into an emergency room at three in the morning, you don't want to see 10 different doctors sticking 10 different languages, each having a 10th of the data they need to be able to actually to diagnose what's going on," Kapur said. "You want to be able to get them the information they need at the time they need it and you need to think about your infrastructure in the same way."

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