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The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated digital transformations in organizations globally as they are quickly adapting to serving customers in new ways, said Jacqui Guichelaar, CIO and senior vice president at Cisco, during a session at Wednesday’s Lesbians Who Tech Summit.

“Cloud, utility pricing, zero trust—those are all buzzwords,” said Guichelaar, who was the speaker in a session on how COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation. “I like to think about things in a simple way. I’m data driven,” and transformation means changing to serve new customers who want to buy in different ways.

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Cisco is also transforming internally, she said, and IT believes in using “commodity software” when it’s not necessary to build their own. This can save the company “hundreds of millions of dollars and free up people to work on things that matter: The customer and employee experience,” she said.

For example, when people visit the Cisco website, it will recognize if they are an existing customer, what industry they are in, and what country they are from. This way, Cisco can point them to relevant products, Guichelaar said.

If they want to purchase WebEx, people can buy it with a credit card on the spot, download it, and instantly begin to use it, she said. “That’s a new digital experience. More companies are moving to that self-service digital experience where people can get to what they want with as few clicks as possible.”

Guichelaar also noted that Cisco’s IT moved from 20,000 remote workers to 140,000 in 10 days, but they were able to because a business continuity plan was in place. “We focused on connectivity obviously,” and Cisco’s internal VPN, tunneling software, and intranet. IT also added functionality to WebEx and said everyone collaborated to get these initiatives in place. Collaboration is key, she said. “All the CIOs I speak to say the same thing: In times of crisis people come together to get it done.”

The pandemic has highlighted the need for much faster processes, but Guichelaar said this was a mandate before. “When we set out on our transformation journey at Cisco a year or so ago, we talked about how to plan for failure. And what if business models change?”

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IT has to build technology that allows you to move to different revenue lines, she said. “I have to accelerate transformation to build a future state architecture … so no matter what Cisco wants to invest in I’m enabling them to do it as quickly as possible and customers can use [products] as fast as possible.”

It is critical that IT organizations become smarter and faster, Guichelaar said. “So spend less time on things you don’t need to,” she advised, “and free up investments and resources on what customers want to build in the future–which may have changed from yesterday.”

More choice at the grocery store

Summit attendees also heard from Stephanie Landry, vice president of Amazon Grocery, who spoke on how to adapt during rapid change. Landry said the company went from having grocery pickup in 60 Whole Food stores to 500.

Like Guichelaar, Landry said there have been significant changes in consumer buying behavior and over the long term, “we’re moving to make access to groceries and convenience to…as many people as possible.”

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Amazon Grocery has also accelerated its food assistance through the SNAP program, she said, starting a pilot with a few states at the beginning of the year, and now in 37 states.

Also, “online is going to get much better and let you do things you couldn’t do before” such as search for keto food items or certain products to purchase if a person has food allergies, she said. “We’ll be able to…complement all the great things about shopping in a store.”

The Lesbians Who Tech Summit runs through Friday.