Christoph Nienhaus, Theater IT Leader Germany & Central Europe at Cisco was one of our keynote speakers at our 7 IT Forum 2016 in Igls in Tyrol. This year’s 7 IT Forum was, with more than 200 participants, the most successful event in the history of our company. We asked Mr. Nienhaus for an interview. We were interested in finding out how the head of IT for one of the biggest IT companies in the world sees the ever-increasing speed of IT and how he reacts to it.

How is it to work as head of IT for an IT company?

Christoph Nienhaus: (laughing) Terribly nice! Yes, it is a challenge every day of course, to look after the IT in an IT company. The speed cannot be fast enough, the challenges are so diverse and each one of the so-called experts thinks that the software, the program, the solution that was just found somewhere for him and his team, can now be applied to the whole of Cisco.

This is the balancing act that you have to work with every day: To be as innovative as possible, but also to consider that we have to take care of 140,000 employees at almost 600 locations across the globe. As with our customers, here, we have to follow certain procedures that we are not allowed to neglect.

The top priority for me, is always to safeguard production so that everyone is able to work as productively as possible with the least interruption to their everyday lives. This of course is the extreme opposite to what is required, namely constant changes and continuous adjustments. That’s when I say “terribly nice”, an awful lot of challenges, but also from the requirements point of view, one of the best work places in the world. Definitely!


The speed of the changes is increasing constantly these days. Has the speed already arrived in the IT departments according to your judgement?

Christoph Nienhaus: What I can see at our customers is that the speed of the businesses increased without increasing the speed of the IT concurrently. This will lead to a car driving with 2 different speeds on 2 axles, which will eventually break down. The wheels have to operate in a synchronized way and the IT has to have the same speed as the business. These systems have to be interconnected very well.

Staying with the car as an example, it is posing a problem that the business actually defines the direction and it is occupying the driver and the front passenger seats at the same time. The IT really is located in the back seats and in between there is not so much communication really. This communication between the directions where we want the business to develop and the capabilities must be supported and provided by the IT – this is the key so that the speed can be increased.

When we are breaking this down to Cisco level then I think that we are already travelling at the same speed and concurrent to the business. We started more than 8 years ago to strip down the business in order to realize the requirements and to understand which capabilities need to be provided. We are currently noticing this transformation process at most of the customers. IT personnel get the feeling of being left behind.

Here it can only help that IT is not losing touch with its normal activities, we have to understand where the business is evolving to, only then will we be able to understand where we have to show our performance and where we create value. I think that once this understanding has been developed, you can increase the speed slowly and it is considerably greater fun when everyone is travelling in the same car with good music, at a great speed and when everyone exactly knows where the journey is going to lead them to. This image of a car in mind, describes it quite well.


What do you see as the biggest challenges for 2017? A further increase in speed or do you see other topics on the horizon?

Christoph Nienhaus: The speed will be increased anyway. If we like it or not, globalization is in full swing. Other countries caught up massively, we see shifts in the market, when we still said before that Europe is the think tank number 1, we are now being takeover from countries left and right.

What sounds very promising to me is what I learnt in the last 3 congresses, amongst them the 7 IT Forum, that the higher the speed and the more the digitalization penetrates, human factor and interaction become more important and is actually present at all levels. I am taking this outlook along into 2017 and I will try to integrate it also into our own business and to focus truly on colleagues and employees in order to really keep up the speed, but also at the same time increasing the fun factor. And I think that this is now the mantra for 2017: fun, humanity and to collectively approach many things with outside the box thinking and to achieve these things.


These are good resolutions for 2017, thank you very much for the interview!

Christoph Nienhaus: Many thanks also from my side. Very seldomly, am I able to amass so much inspiration and ideas from a congress, like from the 7 IT Forum. For this again many, many thanks.