The authors of the New York Times report complain that too much information was locked in "too few brains." That's not the case at Cisco, where sharing information about customers provides a competitive edge, says Boston Consulting Group VP Yves Morieux. His research suggests that Cisco's thousands of internal discussion lists, which employees typically spend half their interactive time using, encourage experts to emerge naturally.
And they're crucial to creating a comprehensive picture of the customer. Each Cisco employee in touch with a customer — product manager, R&D manager, account manager — shares experiences and insights on the discussion lists, Morieux says. Cisco customers know 20 people, on average, at the company. "Common wisdom would say that's bad," says Morieux. "The customer wants one face, one contact. That's totally wrong. . . . Because all these people connect with each other in a very effective way, they're able to collectively reconstruct the real customer."
A version of this article appeared in the February 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.