From the November 2010 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

Gold AHA Winner in Technology Excellence


Soon after starting at Cisco Systems 11 years ago as a portfolio manager, Roger Biscay noticed that treasury faced too many "fire drills" when specific information had to be gathered quickly from across the company's global operations. It didn't take long to realize that "it would be more effective to have an individually customized, internal site to provide updated information on a collaborative basis for key users, so we could focus on our jobs rather than spending valuable time pulling data together," says Biscay, now Cisco's treasurer and vice president.

In the next 10 years, Cisco's treasury built an internal Web site, as well as online tools for aggregating and reporting data and facilitating staff collaboration. The applications didn't communicate well, however, and users often had to access multiple applications to complete tasks.

Enter Integrated Workforce Experience (IWE), which Cisco implemented about 18 months ago to replace those tools for senior executives. The treasury beta-tested IWE in late 2009, and it is now being rolled out across the company. One of Cisco's banks is now beta-testing IWE as a future commercial product, to be called Quad.

IWE represents an evolution of Cisco's intranet, creating a platform to connect individual employees and online communities and enable them to collaborate, complete transactions and learn from one another.

"Treasury was an early adopter," says Biscay. "If we're comfortable using it to help us manage Cisco's more than $80 billion balance sheet and $40 billion investment portfolio, then other parts of the company can also feel comfortable."

IWE also integrates third-party apps, such as Clearwater Analytics' software (see the AHA Solution of the Year) to aggregate and reconcile treasury's investments. Staff across the company who create data of one type or another upload it directly into IWE, making it available to users in real time. Previously, that task was passed off to a separate IT group, often located in another time zone, resulting in delays.

Insurance management, a Cisco treasury unit, must collect a wide variety of data about Cisco's 24 million square feet of property holdings, including the number of people in each building, whether the building is owned or leased, and whether it's a manufacturing or storage facility. The data are likely to be located outside the treasury department and maintained by various Cisco groups that are both functionally and geographically dispersed. Human resources, for example, has the up-to-date employee head count.

"Before, it took weeks to aggregate this information, and we've cut that time by 60% or 70%," Biscay says. "Whether it's spending on insurance premiums or derivatives [to mitigate risk], we need to understand where we can get the biggest bang for the buck."

Cisco's sensitive data and applications are distributed to "private communities" within the company on a need-to-know basis, while more generic information is available to all staff. Each employee can customize his or her IWE Web site to most effectively view and interact with relevant information and other employees. Cisco treasury also replaced IWE's predecessor, the eCollaborate application developed in 2004 to help employees share calendars and contact lists.

As treasurer, Biscay's customized site provides information--soon over PDAs--across critical areas including investments and insurance, and since he sits on several internal company boards, there's governance-related data. Plus there are collaborative wikis and private communities within the treasury department, including one to discuss data metrics and reporting issues.

The financial crisis has driven home the need for accessible and timely information, especially for corporate treasurers. If such an event should occur during, say, a meeting with CFO Frank Calderoni, Biscay has the relevant and updated information at his fingertips.

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