September 2011

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Rick HuijbregtsEMAIL INTERVIEW - Rick Huijbregts & Ken Sinclair

Rick Huijbregts,  Vice President, Smart + Connected Communities Cisco Canada

As Vice President, Smart + Connected Communities, Rick Huijbregts leads the development of Cisco Canada’s Smart + Connected Communities practice including Smart + Connected Real Estate. Huijbregts is responsible for accelerating the growth of this industry in Canada.  In his previous role at Cisco, Huijbregts served as Vice President of Vertical Sales where he led a national team focused on developing sales practices and building solutions for industry-specific markets. Prior to this he was responsible for business development of Cisco’s real estate sector in the United States, Canada, and Emerging Markets regions. He started at Cisco in 2005 as a member of Cisco’s corporate real estate team.

"Cisco Remains Committed"

Cisco remains committed to the IP enablement of the building systems world in an effort to create more productive, efficient, and future-ready infrastructure (built environment) for the 21st Century and for the generations to come.

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It was with interest that I read Rick Huijbregts's Blog on "Agents of Change".

In his blog he refers to a meeting of the minds between senior executives from the construction and real estate industry and John Chambers, Cisco's Chairman and CEO. Why this was particularly intriguing to me, is the fact that the press around us seems to claim Cisco's departure from building energy management and its Connected Real Estate program. Naturally also, I was curious as to why a global leading IT company feels it is necessary to spend time with the Canadian construction and real estate leaders. I thus reached out to Rick Huijbregts to ask him what was going on:

Sinclair:  Rick, to address the elephant in the room; why did John Chambers meet senior executives from the construction and real estate industry in a time where Cisco plans to divest from its Connected Real Estate investment?

Huijbregts:  Thanks for the question, Ken. Cisco is not divesting from Smart + Connected Real Estate or its overarching Smart + Connected Communities program. All we are currently revisiting is our going-forward investment in the Mediator -- a gateway that brings less friendly IP building systems onto an IP infrastructure. Whatever the outcome ends up being, Cisco remains committed to the IP enablement of the building systems world in an effort to create more productive, efficient, and future-ready infrastructure (built environment) for the 21st Century and for the generations to come. With this, we understand the need for building strong relationships with organizations in the construction, real estate, and building automation industry. It's only when we come together in this journey of innovation and transformation that we will make a true impact on the industry.

Sinclair:  Can you share what was being discussed in this meeting between your CEO and the executives of the construction and real estate industry?

Huijbregts:  The conversation was an open CEO-dialogue on issues that concern the modern CEO of the construction and real estate industry today. There was a consensus that the construction industry is one of the last industries left that still has not seen a positive increase in productivity yet also has not been able to truly benefit from the ICT sector in an effort to advance itself. That said; the world is changing rapidly, and the CEO’s in the room know it. As some stated it clearly: they have no appetite “being left behind” and appreciate the need to step into gear if they want to lead the industry to a new level. We didn’t talk about IP Networks and “fourth Utilities”, or IP convergence, and the rise of the so-exciting applications in the Cloud. Instead, we talked about the innovation and transformation from within the industry itself. Before we can truly grasp the impact of IP enablement, we need to look first at how we work, why we do it that way, and where we need to be, and who we could be learning from. If the change doesn’t come from within and it is not made part of the industry’s DNA; and the industry hopes to get there by just installing IP networks alone; one likely ends up missing the boat. The IP movement has an impact on how we design, how we collaborate, how we procure, how we hire and empower new workforce, and-so-forth.

Sinclair:  Why is reaching out into this industry so important to Cisco; don’t you have bigger fish to fry?

Huijbregts:  Historically, Cisco has been interested, active, and leading in those markets where transitions are paramount and opportunities for transformation are abundant. For all the reasons I mentioned in my blog (globalization, economy, population, environment, etc), there is growing pressure on the construction and real estate to get it right and built smarter infrastructure for a changing world. We are reaching across the aisle and want to participate in this journey. We strongly believe that the essence of any industry transformation is “Collaboration”. It’s all about how we work together, how we communicate, how we augment one another’s value, and how we accelerate overall value creation — especially in a world as complex, resource constrained, and fragmented as the construction and real estate industry. We believe we have learned a lot from industries such as healthcare, financial services, transportation and are convinced that ICT will have a similar impact on the construction and real estate industry as it had on those industries. It is only if we [ICT and construction and real estate] come together and collaborate when we will see true innovation that will drive industry transformation. Surely, we are a product sales company at heart, but it is more important to us that we stay relevant to our customers and their customers; and that we always partner in search for incremental opportunities. And it is the 2nd largest industry in the world, with lots of untapped opportunities.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sinclair:  How do you see the opportunities in North America as opposed to the rest of the world play out?

Huijbregts:  More than half of Cisco’s business is in North America. Naturally, going forward we see tremendous opportunity in the emerging countries and are counting on a very large portion of our growth to come from there. This includes the pursuit of opportunities in Smart + Connected Communities (incl. Smart + Connected Real Estate). That said, the maturity of the North American real estate market, and the different conditions it is in, provides lots of opportunity for the industry and for Cisco. Ultimately, most real estate already exists and brownfield will drive a lot of our market. Some of our first S+CRE partnerships have been established from within North America (including AECOM, EllisDon, Holmes, JCI, just to name a few). I believe we also have taken a little of a leadership position in Canada with some of the innovative and forward-thinking eco-partners and development projects (e.g. I believe we are pushing through the famous chasm and will see the “hockey-stick effect” kick in over the next 2 to 3 years as the leaders are accelerating and the followings will pay attention and replicate the successes. It’ll never be the quickest industry to spring into action, but once it’s moving it will go fast (lessons learned from LEED).

Sinclair:  What is your greatest desire and would be the industry’s greatest accomplishment for the next 12 months?

Huijbregts:  There are many things, but for starters I hope (and see the first signs) that the industry is willing to let go its past and old work habbits. Where typically one would “cut and paste” from building specifications that have been proven (yet are old), I am hopeful that the industry will collaborate towards a new “standard” from which to do this cutting and pasting. There are great social media tools (that unfortunately, aren’t really used yet in the construction and real estate industry) that could facilitate such joined and un-proprietary development. Imagine a Wikipedia for the next generation building specification; where everyone can contribute and share their experiences. Getting the industry to think, develop, and use next generation standards (with next generation tools) will be a goal to aspire to. But I’d be happy if that happens even in the year after.



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