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Cisco and NTT: collaborating at creating the future of work

Romain Siebenaler (Country Manager, Cisco Systems Luxembourg) and Olivier Posty (Country Manager, NTT Ltd. Luxembourg) tell us more about the collaboration between their two companies, which dates back to the early 90s in Luxembourg. The two experts also discuss the main focuses of Cisco and NTT, from infrastructures to security, and share their vision of the work(place) of the future.

A long-lasting partnership resulting in a win-win collaboration

“NTT Ltd. – formerly known as Dimension Data in Luxembourg – has been engaged with Cisco for a long time: we are one of the company’s historical partners and Cisco contributes year after year to our growth and development. At NTT, we are working with Cisco to provide our clients with the best technologies available in the market,” first explains Oliver Posty. The collaboration started with high end network switching, went to security and now focuses on the digital workplace and the future of work more generally. “All these aspects intermingle and combine network and security,” adds the CEO of NTT Ltd. Luxembourg.

“Our business model relies on partnerships. Sales, implementation, and support of the Cisco solutions are done through our partners. NTT Ltd. Luxembourg is one of our main partners and we have been working together for 28 years now,” highlights Romain Siebenaler. This long-lasting business relationship does not only concern Luxembourg: it is global as, in common, NTT and Cisco are active in 57 countries. Proof of the success of this partnership, NTT often has early access to the new technologies developed by Cisco: together, the two companies have spent 5.6 billion dollars in R&D. “For instance, we embraced at a very early stage, Cisco’s DevNet trainings and certifications to provide more automation in our clients’ systems; we always strive to ensure our clients are making the most of the technologies provided by Cisco. Both companies are aligned and complement each other perfectly. More than a local partnership, we are talking about a regional and even global collaboration, bringing a significant added value to the market,” highlights Olivier Posty. Cisco and NTT therefore try to anticipate future trends and respond to a constantly evolving environment.

 

From leveraging data to building smart networks

Cisco is deeply linked to Luxembourg. Proof of its profound roots and attachment to the country, Cisco, which launched its CDA program – Country Digital Acceleration – is working closely with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The program aims at accelerating the pace of digital transformation in countries: it consists in a long-term partnership with government leaders, industry and academia. “Luxembourg was actually the 17th country to join the initiative: back in 2018, Chuck Robbins signed his first contract as our new Group CEO with Mr. Bettel at the World Economic Forum, creating a special bond between the two leaders,” adds the Country Manager of Cisco Luxembourg.

In fact, education, through the Networking Academy – a CSR project which consists in providing universities and teachers with content discussing the latest technologies – and its Learning as a Science program to allow people to learn better and faster, is one of Cisco’s main pillars. “Cisco has trained over 10 million students in 20 years. Last year, 500 of them came from Luxembourg, and classes are updated every 18 months. It deals with enterprise management, security and many other IT topics,” explains Romain Siebenaler. In the current digital environment, Cisco also focuses on data and on helping countries to make the most out of these pieces of information. In Luxembourg, as the country is historically known for its financial ecosystem, data and trust are key elements. As highlighted by the Country Manager of Cisco Luxembourg, “the government is aware of the fact that data are essential and bring significant value to the services provided, whether it is by public institutions or private entities. Moreover, it is investing in AI, which will add even more value when it comes to analyzing data”. An additional pillar and the key to provide sustainable systems is obviously security. “Security is inevitably linked to trust. We are working with governments and are supporting them with innovative security solutions and with the implementation of specific policies, aiming notably at securing critical infrastructures,” explains Romain Siebenaler. Finally, Cisco emphasizes on the Internet of Things, with the main mission to help countries be more attractive. To do so, governments must take advantage of the data they collect through sensors. “5G will play a key part in helping cities become more intelligent and building smarter networks, highways, energy grids, etc.,” underlines the expert.

Nowadays, companies are focusing on applications when adding more digital within their walls. “These applications must be secure and available in a network, and data is needed to federate such apps. What those aspects have in common is that they are all based on software. We call it SDN – Software Defined Networking,” says the Country Manager of Cisco Luxembourg. At the very basis is obviously the infrastructure. The upper level must be automatized because networks now need to be intelligent, because IT managers have less budget, more devices to connect and also more digital tools to deal with. “In such a context, automation is key for companies to provide efficient and robust services. Also, they need to rethink their security policies and push new rules through AI as IT managers cannot do it manually anymore and should rather focus on business-related topics. AI helps in spotting specific behaviors, detecting fraud, etc. Everything has now to do with development, applications, and the environment: thanks to our DNA – Digital Network Architecture – we advise companies and help them create such automation while focusing on business rather than the underlying infrastructure. Technology can sometimes be complex, and companies should be able to entirely rely on partners on such topics,” adds Romain Siebenaler.

These technologies and programs are developed by Cisco’s experts in the US and are therefore available for all the regions where the company – and its partners – is active. “It represents a key business accelerator for us,” explains Oliver Posty, “as well as for our end-customers who benefit from innovative tools and can therefore pursue the latest technological trends to modernize their operations and services. Through Cisco, we are able to introduce innovative digital solutions in the market, integrate and install them, as well as supporting our clients with the implementation of these new technologies”.

 

The future of work: the advent of a hybrid model

Cisco recently published the results of its latest survey on the impact of homeworking and on the transformation of the current work environment, entitled “Workforce of the Future”, with more than 10,000 participants from 12 countries. In Luxembourg, 32% of respondents expressed their desire to work from home most of the time and are willing to go to the office once a week for important meetings. 29% are advocating flexible hours and the right to choose when they arrive at the office, focusing on meetings rather than on a strict 9-to-5 schedule. “According to the survey, employees are feeling better when working from home and can easily manage their work-life balance. It also allows them to drastically reduce their travel time and therefore protect the environment. They can spend more time on leisure activities such as sports and fitness, which will eventually lead to an enhanced productivity. We also notice that managers are increasingly trusting their employees and supporting them efficiently in their daily professional activities,” comments the Country Manager of Cisco Luxembourg. Companies are naturally benefiting from homeworking in terms of engagement and productivity and will also be able to save costs in the future if they plan to reduce office space. “In this future hybrid model, Cisco still recommends collaborators to maintain close contact with their peers and meet in person from time to time. Staying at home for two or three days, and then meeting at the office to exchange with colleagues and participate in key meetings. From our perspective, such a model will be advocated and implemented in a near future. In Luxembourg, the fiscal regulation with neighboring countries still needs to be addressed though,” highlights Romain Siebenaler.

The expert also shared the example of Cisco, during the early days of the Covid-19 crisis: “75,000 employees were immediately able to work from home with no impact on the business. At Cisco, we foresee the future of work as a hybrid mode. Judging the performance of an employee from 9-to-5 does not make sense anymore. There are new ways to assess performance and productivity”. According to him and after discussing with several experts from Luxembourg, the current crisis clearly accelerated the transition to a hybrid model and participated in the advent of homeworking: “in a normal environment, it would have taken years for most companies to allow homeworking. It would have been through a long and fastidious PoC. The situation required companies to move rapidly to ensure the continuity of their business and of the overall economy in Luxembourg. The government has also realized that such models will keep on existing in the future. We knew it before Covid-19 but the statement is now clearer than ever: digital must be considered at every step and level of the organization”. Olivier Posty can only agree: “the crisis actually acted as an accelerator and enabled even more digitalization, with the implementation of new innovative technologies. We all noticed that tech could answer to new needs and immediate constraints, and that it allowed businesses to survive – and even to thrive for several companies – and the economy to keep on flourishing. Ten years ago, it would have been slightly more complex to deal with such a paradigm change. Along with companies, we have now entered a phase of adjustments and need to develop the perfect processes and behaviors. And in the following months, 5G will allow us to go even further and assist our clients even more”.

 

“Indeed, the world of work is facing a watershed,” added NTT Luxembourg’s Managing Director, “with the hasty emergence of distributed workforces in every industry and region, we’re compelled to reimagine the modern workplace – where it is, what it looks like and, most importantly, who it’s for. To organize a safe return to the office, to attract and retain talent and ensure long-term success, we need to rethink workplace strategies from several angles – employee productivity and wellbeing, intelligent workplace technologies and digitization, physical spaces that support activity-based working – all with a view to shaping superior employee experiences that ultimately contribute to productivity and profitability”.

 

NTT and Cisco are committed to delivering quality outcomes leveraging on a smart infrastructure and on an intelligent security approach. They will therefore allow the creation of the workplace of the future, where a hybrid model – combining homeworking, flexible hours, and on-site presence – is acclaimed by a vast majority. “To do so, a robust infrastructure and a strong security are essential. They will provide companies and their employees with an innovative work environment adapted to today’s digital world,” concluded the two experts.

 

Alexandre Keilmann

Photo: NTT Ltd. Luxembourg