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Cisco Company’s Technological Change Management


Change Management is considered to be an integral component of IT Service Management. The fundamental purpose of Change Management with regards to this context is to make certain that standardized techniques and procedures are made use of for the competent and timely treatment of all changes to the controlled IT infrastructure, so as to minimize the number of modifications and effects of any connected incidents on the service offering. Alterations made to the IT infrastructure may take place reactively as a reaction to issues in a process or externally enforced necessities, e.g. legislative amendments, or proactively from looking for enhanced efficiency and productivity or to facilitate or reflect business proposals, or from initiatives, business ventures or service enhancement initiatives. (Gilley 2009)

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Change Management is an important function that helps to ensure standardized techniques, processes, and practices are drawn on in case of dealing with change incidences, make possible resourceful and timely handling of every change made, and sustain an appropriate balance between the requirement for change and the prospective adverse impact of change occurrences. Change Management is typically comprised of the raising and documentation of changes, evaluating the effects, price, advantage, and risk of planned changes, creating business justification and procuring authorization, coping with and synchronizing change implementation, tracking and documenting deployment courses, evaluating and finishing change applications. (Voola 2009)

The tough competition throughout the markets requires that the firms can develop and come up with complex products which ensure superior performance and enhanced quality in return for a lower cost than before in order to remain competitive. The product lifecycles have lessened significantly in recent years. This fact underlines the capability of developing the products within a shorter time to optimize the market window. The earlier sequential method of carrying out product development (PD) and coming up with a great series of costly products is gradually turning into the production of variants with rapid implementation of varying customer requirements, necessitating that the production process is carried out rapidly. (Gilley 2009)

The idyllic model of designing and developing a product is to get it right on the first attempt, get rid of the requirement of making modifications. Nevertheless, changes as a result of erroneous decisions and variations of customer needs are inescapable. If an unsought design choice has been accepted, the product data needs to be altered in a controlled manner. The effect of the change needs to be evaluated and all modules linked with the outage have to be recognized and modified. The best-case scenario is when only a few documents need to be altered; while the worst scenario occurs when the ongoing production needs to be halted and previously delivered produces have to be recalled with a significant prestige loss for a firm. (Westphal 2009)

This article looks insightfully at Cisco IT’s implementation of Software Configuration Management (SCM) to facilitate the reduction of business threats that may arise from various application variations. The Cisco global network over the years has emerged as a pioneering enterprise environment that is considered as one of the leading and most multifaceted across the globe. Cisco consumers are beneficiaries of Cisco IT’s real-life understanding and expertise in the domain to facilitate comparable enterprise requirements. (Cisco Public Information 2007)

Organizational Background

Cisco is a globally acknowledged market leader operating in the fields of data-networking hardware and software, earning approximately $41.5 billion in the form of revenue in the financial year 2009. As a key market dominator, the firm is well-situated and is capable of taking advantage of the growing demands for complex technology all across an economically emergent world order. Cisco obtains almost half of its sale volumes from within the U.S. with the remaining being split amongst Europe and the rest of the economies of the developing world. However, contrasting with most of its market rivals, the firm lacks a substantial market share in the speedily growing economy of China. In this context, the firm has publicized its intent on capitalizing on market opportunities in China by doubling the spending on its Chinese operation, increasing it by $16 billion by the year 2012. (Cisco Public Information 2007)

Cisco stands to gains from the greater than before usage of new next-generation network processes that consume various kinds of signals, such as video (e.g., conferencing, Internet), audio and data. The utilization of such high-bandwidth requiring applications is fostering the demand for an industry-wide network upgrading. Cisco supplies IP-based routers, switches in the market and caters to the needs of the consumers in related technologies that are capable of supporting larger bandwidth requirements and controlling a variety of applications. The changes initiated during 2003-2008 paid off. The firm’s revenues inflow increased by 13.4% from $34.9 billion in the financial year 2007 to $39.5 billion in 2008. (Gilley 2009) This increase has been credited to the growth in the gross product sale volumes of advanced technologies. The advanced technologies division incorporates the freshly procured WebEx technology. (Nilsson 2008)

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Its prime customer base is comprised of enterprise companies, small business outfits, and service providers for data, video and communications. Consequently, its business development is highly dependent on the health of the economy in general. At the moment the firm offers limited products and services for the end consumers. Cisco’s offerings are intended for the following four key consumer groupings: Enterprise Customers, Service Providers, Commercial Customers and Consumer/SOHO.

Enterprise Customers: Large enterprises from the most significant sources of revenue generation for Cisco, accounting for an approximated 45%-50% of the firm’s entire revenue stream. The corporation classifies any client that employs more than 1,000 workers as an enterprise client during 2003-2008. This client category is primarily comprised of retail business outfits, financial companies, energy corporations and governmental agencies. (Westphal 2009)

Service Providers: Service providers are clients that cater for data, audio or video communications. These customers include leading firms like SBC, AT&T and Verizon. A key driver of these types of sales by Cisco has been the extensive diffusion of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology in the market, which is the routing of voice communications through the Internet. Sales made to service providers contribute to approximately 25% of revenues earned by the company due to the changes implemented during 2003-2008. (Gilley 2009)

Commercial Customers: These are Medium/Small-sized organizations that employ fewer than 1,000 workers. This component of Cisco’s sale volume provides great potential for the growth of the firm. At present, sale made to commercial represents an approximated 25% of Cisco’s revenue inflow. (Voola 2009)

Consumer/SOHO (3-4%): Cisco offers wireless LAN solutions in the form of its LinkSys brand for private and small office/home office (SOHO) patrons. This kind of sale typically makes up for around 3%-4% of revenue for the company. (Westphal 2009)

The Need for Change

Director of IT for Cisco Systems, Terry Clark refers to the concept of change management in the context of the company’s operations as the conscious efforts made to manage the archetypal IT challenges- elements for variance versus instruments for steadiness. According to her, it is the responsibility of the CIOs to implement continuing change to sustain and drive the business in the direction of profitability. At the same time, it is also expected that they would make certain that speedily-changing components should remain stable.

In the past, the company’s management knowingly put up with the risk intrinsic to a speedy rate of change. In cases where tolerating risk was not an option—for instance, for the duration of month-end and quarter-end closes, or on occasions when the firm positioned key application upgrades, stringent restrictions on change were enforced. However, over the years, with the business maturing, the requirement for a more balanced method of dealing with such risks increased. The firm started to look for a mediatory solution involving elements for change, like developers, and drivers of stability, like operations personnel. As the industry has grown through the years it has been realized that IT firms perform better when they acknowledge this contest between change and stability and understand that it can never be resolved completely. This if the inclination is observed in favour of one of the components, the most optimal solution is that of balancing. (Gilley 2009)

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Evolution of Application Change Management at Cisco Systems

Three key phases of application change management have been identified throughout the course of Cisco’s history. These phases have been informal, production promotion, and software configuration management (SCM).

Prior to 2003, during the informal phase, the form did not enforce any official controls on change procedures. In 2008, the person developing a piece of code could also be entrusted with the responsibility of consigning it into production. Generators of risk comprised of a deficiency of acknowledged code reviews, incoherent developer standards, and a lack of appreciation of the dependences of fresh codes and original codes on the server. The firm directed its focus on distinct pieces of code in place of the entire product. The requirement for change management amplified following Cisco’s initiative to use more compound and integrated applications, wherein an issue developing within one application could result in difficulties within others. (Westphal 2009)

The second phase – Production Promotion, kicked off in 2006 and was in action through the operations of the firm till the year 2008. Cisco implemented basic application change management in the year 2003, wherein the first Oracle-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation was deployed into action. During that period, the firm embarked on a policy of enforcing the separation of responsibilities. This policy entailed that the individual who was responsible for developing the code was not to be put in charge of consigning it into the production phase. (Voola 2009)

As an alternative, a developer wanting to modify a piece of code was required to place a request by means of a Web-based application that functioned as change monitoring as well as a development tool. This instrument facilitated ensuring the conformity of file-naming conventions and recognized other faults, transferring the code to the developer again for any required rectifications. An automated workflow directed the request in the course of the necessary approval procedures, prior to the Cisco IT SCM team consigning the modification into production through a decided deployment window. This ensured that developers were free of the liability of placing the code in the production phase.

Even in cases where they desired to deploy it themselves, they were not allowed to, for the reason that the Cisco SCM line-up purged their capability of circumnavigating the system. According to the company management separation of responsibilities is a way to defend the workforce, out workers, and the overall business against the prospect of malicious or inadvertent harm as a consequence of an accident or ineptitude.

The third and current phase- Software Configuration Management, kicked off in the year 2006. For a number of firms, a plain separation of responsibilities is good enough to facilitate security initiatives and decrease risk probabilities. As the firm planned to implement the Oracle 11i environment, the production promotion approach was extensively considered to be insufficient as a consequence of the general complications associated with the Oracle 11i environment and the insistent release program. By the year 2003, a number of issues had influenced management’s idea that it was desirable to induce greater thoroughness in the process of application change management. Examples of such issues included deployment of the Oracle 11i environment, The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, changeover to a process-focused enterprise. (Voola 2009)

It was widely acknowledged that the deployment of the Oracle 11i environment would bring in an unparalleled degree of change for the company. The firm employed around 400 to 500 developers responsible for code development. Thus basic production promotion was incapable of offering the type of monitoring and management support that Cisco IT desired.

Prior to the deployment of Oracle 11i for the Cisco consumer care business flow, the Cisco SCM team carried out an extensive analysis that pored over the business risk related to the failure scenario and found that that the company needed to position a better and more rigorous application change management procedure in order to make the Oracle 11i deployment program a success. The authorization of implementing an industry-standard SCM was issued by the Oracle 11i program manager in the Cisco release management office.

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The Sarbanes-Oxley Act also played a major role in the adoption of software configuration management at Cisco IT. The firm’s decision-making authorities were now held liable for economic information presented to the external community. This provides the impetus for the facilitation of outage avoidance that has a major impact on the timely release of correct information. (Nilsson 2008)

Cisco IT’s changeover to a process-focused enterprise is escalating the scope and complexness of software deployments. According to internal reports of Cisco, “overlapping I.T. projects help the generation of high volumes of change and cross-functional dependencies and reducing operating expenses due to system failures even as complexity increases remains a company priority”. (Cisco Public Information 2007)

To live up to such challenges, Cisco required a new-fangled and innovative model for managing software ventures that would assist the firm in their endeavour to enhance quality, lessen risk probabilities by developing processes that are reusable and knowable, and cut down on development expenses. An imperative element of this approach was SCM.

Present State of Software Configuration Management at Cisco

The SCM team at Cisco IT which is a developer-facing assemblage in the Cisco infrastructure organization provides the primary impetus to the paradigm of change. Within the previous model, developers were made accountable for code version tracking, code implementations, application patch procedure, quality evaluations, security management, and dependency monitoring over and above design and development functionalities. (Gilley 2009)

However, in the novel change model, developers are required to concentrate completely on their core competencies, whereas the IT SCM group is entrusted with the responsibility of providing a centralized, integrated and automated mechanism to control and envisage change procedures. The most observable variation for Cisco IT after it implemented SCM is the capability to appraise new code at an early stage in the process of software introduction. As per Clark, “Cisco IT became involved in change just before an application was moved into production, to help ensure the code was documented and stable in a test environment and now, new code is under SCM control as soon as it leaves development.” (Cisco Public Information 2007)

Goal of SCM practices

The most important responsibility of the IT SCM group is the process management of application code migration. The IT SCM panel within Cisco makes use of an application-change monitoring and development instrument for application control, in addition to an archiving software version manager. By making all code compulsorily stored up within a sole archiving version manager, troubleshooting is made simpler and the quality of the release is enhanced.

The SCM team also facilitates quality enhancement by drawing on repeatable procedures for change management and forecasting its impacts. In the past, engineers and developers used to deploy changes in an unplanned manner, frequently resulting in collateral harm for the reason that the cross-team dependencies weren’t exactly clear to each developer and thus the effects of implementing changes could not always be clearly comprehended until the time when the changes were consigned into the production phase.

However, through the implementation of the new model, the firm is capable of imposing consistent governance constraints all through the deployment course. Role definition is plainly understandable as a result of automated audit trails that recognize the required approvals during every phase. The SCM group also automatically scrutinizes code for naming conventions and sends it back to the developing team if discrepancies are identified. Intervention at an early stage leads to enhanced reusability, more rapid deployments, and fewer chances for errors. (Westphal 2009)

Outcome of Changes

After the second quarter of 2006, Cisco implemented its novel SCM procedure on the Cisco Customer Care business flow which is a component of the issue-to-resolution business flow. Cisco Customer Care is a customer relationship management (CRM) function driven by the Oracle 11i environment.

Cisco accomplished its three primary objectives in relation to change management: quality enhancement, increased risk mitigation by means of making sure that procedures are reusable and knowable, and cutting back on development outlays. According to the company management, “Overall, SCM has resulted in a stable, flexible, more productive environment for our customers, partners, and IT team”. (Cisco Public Information 2007)

Enhanced Quality and Increased Risk Mitigation

By implementing the SCM process within the Oracle 11i environment at an earlier stage in the software introduction progression, Cisco IT has improved the quality of the releases by means of advanced identification of dependences and divergences from standard procedures, like file-naming standards and installation conventions.

As evaluation in comparison to Cisco’s utilization of informal application change management, deployment-based failures have decreased by a staggering 90 percent. The new model has helped reduce outages from 10-15 per quarter to only one on average. The procedures have now become more reusable, consistent, and scalable, as they are automated, and also supply a comprehensive audit trail for a better-heeled reporting system within the firm. (Gilley 2009)

With regards to the effects of the change implementation, Clark presents a perfectly suiting analogy stating that, “Before, we were the doorman, letting all code enter in an orderly fashion. Now we’re the sheriff, thoroughly checking code months before it comes to the door by communicating file-naming standards and forcing code to be installed in standard directories. As a result, we’ve reduced the risk of developing and deploying solutions that don’t work well together.” (Cisco Public Information 2007)

Enhanced Developer Efficiency

As a result of the implementation of the change developers are being able to produce better results as the Cisco IT SCM group has shouldered the responsibilities of context operations that do not fall under the domain of the developers’ core expertise, like code-version tracking, deployments, application patch procedure, quality evaluations, security management, and dependence monitoring.

Additionally, the maintenance process of the application has become much easier and consumes less time with the Cisco IT SCM team implementing standards which increases the sustainability of the applications. As mentioned by the Cisco Customer Care group, as a result of the change implementation they were allowed to employ 10 percent lesser human resources than expected. (Nilsson 2008)

Superior IT Service to Internal Clients

As the software version manager and application control instruments provide a comprehensive audit trail, the Cisco SCM group is able to provide its IT consumers with a reporting service that documents unsuccessful deployments along with the specific reasons for failure. The reports supply quality metrics, like, “Of 1000 lines of code, 10 percent failed deployment because of quality issues.” (Cisco Public Information 2007) This helps to implicate that the developer is required to focus his attention on making sure that the code meets the quality standards ahead of the next phase. (Westphal 2009)

The firm also supplies customers with a velocity of change description, which points out the level of maturity of a product prior to its release from a test sequence founded on the number of modifications made on that particular day. As per company standards and guidelines, “If the report indicates that 500 of 1000 lines of code changed that day, leaving the test cycle would be ill-advised”. (Cisco Public Information 2007) As per director Clarke, “this information, which we now have for the first time, gives the release manager the information he or she needs to ask for more time for testing.” (Cisco Public Information 2007)

She states that the quality metrics provide support to the Cisco top-level objectives and helps them to emerge as a better process-focused corporation. As a result of the changes implemented the firm now has metrics to better comprehend the improvement, rather than depending solely on the project timeline and its readings. With the deployment of SCM, the firm is making an effort to establish a substantial procedure that facilitates quality enhancement and is a new and innovative way of operating. (Gilley 2009)

Improved Scalability

The complexness of the Cisco application atmosphere is constantly rising. The Cisco IT SCM procedures and tools installed back in the year 2003 have developed and grown to put up a gradually growing number of languages, developers, systems, and sites, and at present caters to 14 different organizations and a gradually more distributed development environment. (Nilsson 2008)

Employee Acceptance

According to the top-level management of Cisco the implementation of the Cisco IT SCM system is a grand success. The developing teams are aligning themselves well with a novel work procedure. A number of employees are already familiar with the process of coding, having it scrutinized through the process of testing, and subsequently correcting it if required. The new way of working furthers their enthusiasm to get it right in the first attempt.

Future Work

Implementing other Oracle 11i business flow: Cisco brought together the lessons gained from the experience of Cisco Customer Care business flow and is at present putting them into application in other Oracle 11i business flows, for example, Quote-to-Cash, Procure-to-Pay, Plan-to-Build, and Hire-to-Retire. The SCM system is slated to play a key role in the deployment processes. The Cisco work culture is still developing in terms of SCM not as opulence, but out of necessity. (Voola 2009)

Implementing SCM for Web applications: IT SCM is scaling the model it used for the deployment for the Oracle 11i environment to vital Web-based procedures made use for revenue generation, revenue acknowledgment, and consumer service, and incorporates Cisco Connection Online, Cisco Connection Internal, and Cisco Connection External. (Voola 2009)

Concurrent development: At present, Cisco IT implements and distributes a variety of code versions on all of its development servers. With a concurrent development paradigm, numerous developers would be able to work on separate revision modules of the same file at the same time. This would be made possible by a central archive software version manager. At the moment Cisco is working on the implementation of this process. After the code storage procedure is centralized, controlled, and well-tracked, developers across the entire enterprise would be capable of gaining access to the code with the help of a Web-based user interface. The concurrent development system is designed to prevail over a historical struggle at Cisco. Whenever a new release of code is arranged for 30 days subsequent to the prior release, the next developer is required to hold back so the code can be finished and unlocked for further work. Concurrent development facilitates a more relaxed development framework and enhanced code quality. As per Clarke, “Centralization will give us visibility into concurrent development and will allow us to track the changes between versions and merge them whenever we want”. (Cisco Public Information 2007)


Over the following few years, Cisco expects to amplify its business competencies and enhance its productivity. The Cisco IT has started working on processes that would allow them to realize such objectives with huge, overlapping deployment initiatives with a large number of interdependencies, developing scalable processes, like SCM, and making them as critical as a scalable network infrastructure. To endorse the company’s motivated programs, it is necessary that Cisco IT rapidly promotes its capacity to deal with and foresee change through multiple, large-scale, complex implementation initiatives. “The volume and velocity of change facing Cisco IT require nothing less,” says Clarke. (Cisco Public Information 2007)


Cisco Public Information. (2007) How Cisco IT Uses Software Configuration Management to Minimize Business Risk: Application change management process improves software quality and developer productivity, [Online], Web.

Gilley, A. (2009) Organizational change: Motivation, communication, and leadership effectiveness, Performance Improvement Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 75-94.

Nilsson, A. (2008) Breaking hierarchies. MI: Uppsala University, Department of Business Studies.

Voola, R. (2009) Emotional intelligence and competitive advantage: examining the relationship from a resource-based view, Strategic Change, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 83-93.

Westphal, JD. (2009) Who directs strategic change? Director experience, the selection of new CEOs, and change in corporate strategy, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 22, no. 12, pp. 1113-1137.

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