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Desayunos ESADE con Santiago Solanas, VP Southern Europe EMEAR at Cisco


April 24 OF 2018 from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM

Dealing with digital transformation

Santiago Solanas, South Europe vice president at Cisco and keynote speaker at ESADE Alumni Desayunos, addressed digital transformation, corporate change in recent years and how companies are adapting to tomorrow’s digital world.

The recent ESADE Alumni Desayunos talk held on April 24th featured Santiago Solanas, vice president at Cisco for South Europe and EMEAR (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Israel, Malta, Portugal and Spain) together with Pedro Navarro (MBA 67), executive vice president of the ESADE Foundation board of trustees, who suggested subjects for discussion and chaired the Q&A session after the talk.

As regards digital change, Solanas emphasised that people have been talking about what lay ahead for years and the future is already here. “The future has arrived very quickly, gathering pace considerably in recent years, and we are all overwhelmed,” he said. He mentioned the Maslow pyramid, the psychological theory of human, to which digitisation has added a new, two-tier base: wi-fi and battery. Solano said that this change was justified by surveys in which tenants say they would rather have wi-fi than washing machines, and would even rather have wi-fi than hot water.

Data overload
Santiago Solanas backed up his suggestion that companies and people are overwhelmed by digitisation with figures such as: more than 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet in 2020; the equivalent of all the films ever made will be uploaded every minute in 2021; and internet traffic will treble in the next five years. “We know this because two thirds of this traffic will go through Cisco systems, so we have these figures under control.”

This giddy rate of change is the result of factors such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the internet of things, security and augmented virtual reality, all of which are applications of the technologies that have enabled this digital boom. Companies are digitally overwhelmed by all this information and are wondering what they should do.

The digital vortex
Cisco joined forces with a business school to create the Global Centre for the Digital Transformation of Business with a view to settling this uncertainty by examining these phenomena. They began by interviewing 5000 executives in 14 industries, conducting in-depth interviews of 25 founders of successful start-ups and the 100 most disruptive companies in the world. “And the concept that arose was the digital vortex. What’s happening is like a hurricane: the vortex is a phenomenon that pulls all the surrounding matter into the centre. The more there is in the centre, the more it accelerates and the more chaos there is.”

Solanas feels that the digital revolution can be summed up by its impact on three areas of the company: customers, employees, and in-house and external processes. “When I look at my company, I have to see whether I am creating a new customer experience and how I use digital tools to do so; whether I am using this transformation to improve my teams’ experience; and what I am doing to enhance my in-house processes and discover new market in-roads,” said Solanas. His last main point was that because it is impossible to deal with everything at once, the problem must be broken down and projects then implemented in each area, depending on what matters most to each company, what its competitive edge is, or where it can cut costs. Certain transformation projects can then be chosen.

Interesting discussion
The Q&A session after Solanas’ talk dealt with issues such as security and backdoors, the mistakes that companies make during their digitisation processes, the obstacles that SMEs face when trying to go digital, the digital gap that affects part of the population, and the shift from traditional business models to digital business models.


Santiago Solanas, VP Southern Europe EMEAR at Cisco. Keynote speaker at a forthcoming Desayunos ESADE talk.





Pedro Navarro (MBA 67), executive vice president of the Board of Trustees of the ESADE Foundation
Santiago Solanas, VP Southern Europe EMEAR at Cisco



Santiago Solanas

Santiago Solanas is Vice President of South Theatre EMEAR (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Israel, Malta, Portugal and Spain). He joined Cisco in April 2017. 

As vice president, Santiago is responsible for sales and operations. He is focused on helping customers and partners achieve digital success by means of highly secure, software-defined, automated and intelligent infrastructure platforms. He is passionate about Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration programmes in Israel, Italy and Portugal - long-term partnerships with governments, industry and academia which aim to accelerate existing national digitisation agendas.

Solanas has 25 years’ IT and software industry experience in sales and marketing executive leadership roles at IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Sage. Prior to joining Cisco, Solanas was Chief Marketing Officer at Sage Group and a member of its executive committee.

As a mentor, Solanas has a reputation for championing start-ups and women in business, speaking regularly at international start-up and small business forums.  He has spent 4 years as the CEO of two technology start-ups backed by Telefónica and Santander, and today is an angel investor.

Solanas holds a Master of Science degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.

Santiago has six children and lives in Madrid with his wife.

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