December 2007

A New Blueprint for Cisco

Cordell Ratzlaff wants to expand the tech giant’s reach by designing products customers can love

Cordell Ratzlaff knows firsthand how top-notch product design comes to be. After all, he once worked for Apple (AAPL) and Steve Jobs, heading up the group that created the look and feel of the Macintosh operating system. But when Ratzlaff arrived at Cisco Systems (CSCO) a year ago, he found that instead of a design czar, the company had product-requirement specs. These dreary documents, crafted by engineers and marketers, tend to get crammed with countless features, with little attention paid to how the product will get used. Only at the last minute are industrial designers brought in to make an item user-friendly. Complains Ratzlaff: “It’s a 200-page document that nobody reads, but everyone spends four months arguing about. It’s like hiring the architect while the cement truck is idling outside.”

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