Even though Cisco is already a market leader in a number of different networking product segments, Chambers told the audience at Cisco's annual analyst conference here that to fully take advantage of the predicted market growth, his company needs to get better at helping customers install networking gear and at helping them change their business processes to take advantage of the technology.
Cisco, Chambers said, has to move from being a product and technology "evangelist" to a partner who can tell a customer "how do we help you implement that?" To do so, Chambers said Cisco in the near future would start publicizing long-term product strategy roadmaps, a move he admitted may give competitors an edge by revealing parts of Cisco's product directions.
But gaining greater customer confidence, Chambers said, would trump any advantage competitors might gain. Already, Chambers said that some of Cisco's largest enterprise customers (a list that includes companies like Ford Motor Co. and Boeing) are asking for implementation assistance, claiming that technology integration was hampering business processes.
"They're telling us, 'Cisco, you're slowing us down.' " Chambers said. By learning more about the business processes of specific vertical markets and assisting enterprises in developing networks that fit those businesses, Chambers said, Cisco will be able to continue its profit growth curve even in the face of increased price competition from new low-cost product providers, especially those from Asia.