Cisco & The Stalagmite Business - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
11:56 AM

Cisco & The Stalagmite Business

Cisco last week announced results that affirmed expert expectations for declining tech spending well into 2009. Maybe it's time to reconsider the stalagmite business.

Cisco last week announced results that affirmed expert expectations for declining tech spending well into 2009. Maybe it's time to reconsider the stalagmite business.Stalagmites, you say? Cisco makes routers, switches, and lots of other products that are core to network infrastructure. Its clients are informed, educated IT professionals who exclusively understand the mechanics of their complicated systems. Said mandarins are responsible for spending what the U.S. Commerce Department calculates is more than a quarter of all corporate budgets.

Only no they don't, and no, they're not. At least not anymore.

Today's dire economic climate is not only tightening budgets, but it's putting every expenditure on the table (or chopping block). Marketing, human resources, facilities, and every other corporate department is, and will be, forced to explain, defend, or otherwise legitimize spending plans. IT is no exception.

Well, yes it is, because the other departments speak in English.

The rest of the organization (or enterprise, loosely translated) talks about circumstances, necessities, and benefits in the same language that senior executives use in their personal lives. Definitions are the same. Few to no acronyms are required. Rules of physics and common sense apply, even if they do sometimes imperfectly. Most importantly, the other departments often link their expenditures to front-line, customer-facing financial returns (the brand people being the stark exception, but that's for another post).

This makes sense because, well, it makes sense ... especially to the senior executives who are passing judgment on doling out limited budget dollars. The new reality is that IT execs aren't controlling budgets like they once did. General managers want to understand even the most incomprehensibly complex line items on every budget. Including yours.

For all they know, Cisco is in the stalagmite business. And I'm not sure it, or any tech infrastructure "brand," is prepared to argue for the utility of a thrice-knobbed net switch condenser versus, say, a roll of toilet paper.

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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