EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The purpose of the report was to discuss the business strategy of Cisco Systems Inc (Cisco), a company widely considered innovative. The report was to discuss the justification of Cisco’s status of innovative, how the business environment impacted on Cisco and it’s opportunities for innovation, their sources of competitive advantage, strategic options available to Cisco, and evaluate the risks of implementing the strategic change to achieve this option
This was done by evaluating Cisco’s current strategies, its business environment and markets, applying strategy frameworks in the context of its industry and innovation, and by analysing the risks that could be associated with implementing this change. Cisco innovate in three ways; they build innovation using research and development budgets; they buy innovation, by making strategic acquisitions; and they partner, developing strategic partnerships and ecosystems to aid innovation. Cisco’s external environment was assessed using PESTEL analysis and applying Porter’s Five Forces framework.
It was established that the main key drivers for change were technological and worldwide competition laws. VRIN Frameworks were applied to assess Cisco’s sources of competitive advantage, as well as some of the threats they face in these areas. It would appear that the biggest threat to Cisco in this area is Non-substitutability; Cisco’s competitors are eroding their market share by offering similar products. Two strategic options were discussed; selling their enterprise products directly to the end users and entering the consumer market.
It was decided that the more radical of the two was entering the consumer market; and the risks associated with implementing the change, along with advice on how Cisco could manage the strategic change, were discussed. TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. 0 INTRODUCTION5 2. 0 IS CISCO INNOVATIVE? 6 3. 0 CISCO AND THEIR BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT8 3. 1 THE MACRO ENVIRONMENT8 3. 2 KEY DRIVERS FOR CHANGE8 3. 3 APPLYING PORTER’S FIVE FORCES FRAMEWORK9 3. 3. 1 The Threat of Entry10 3. 3. 2 Threat of Substitutes11 3. 3. 3 Power of Buyers11 3. 3. 4 Power of Suppliers12 3. 3. 5 Competitive Rivals12 4. 0 COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE13 4. 1 Value14 4. 2 Rarity15 . 3 Inimitability15 4. 4 Non-Substitutability16 4. 5 Cisco’s Organisational Knowledge16 5. 0 STRATEGIC OPTIONS17 6. 0 IMPLEMENTING STRATEGIC CHANGE19 6. 1 Risk20 6. 2 Managing Strategic Change21 7. 0 CONCLUSION22 8. 0 REFERENCES24 9. 0 BIBLIOGRAPHY26 1. 0 INTRODUCTION Cisco Systems Inc (Cisco) was established in 1984 by a husband and wife team who wanted to solve the technical issue of emailing each other, but on different networks, and developed the first multi-protocol router, a device which allowed the different networks to ‘talk’ to each other by translating the different protocol languages (Cisco Systems Inc, 2012).
This report will examine Cisco as an innovative company, the external factors affecting their ability to innovate, their sources of competitive advantage within the industry and consider some of Cisco’s strategic options, the risks associated with the changes in strategy and how this can be managed. The information has been compiled from information published by Cisco on their website, Exploring Strategy, Ninth Edition (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011), Academic Journals and published articles. 2. 0 IS CISCO INNOVATIVE?
To establish if Cisco is innovative, first we have to define what innovation is. Innovation can be defined as, “…the conversion of a new knowledge into a new product, process or service and the putting of this new product, process or service into actual use. ” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011, pg 296). Therefore until the product, process or service is brought to the market; it cannot be considered an innovation. In regards to innovation, Cisco has an extensive innovation strategy. They do this using their “three pillars of innovation: build, buy and partner” (Cisco, 2012.
Acquisitions, pg 1. ), The ‘Build’ aspect relates to internal innovation, whereby they develop products and services with Research and Development (R&D). They have 7 major laboratories in locations around the world, and employ around 20,000 engineers (Cisco, 2012). The diversity of basing these facilities all over the world will only help to aid innovation, as the people can use their own cultures and experiences to develop new product and services, thereby helping to develop worldwide solutions to global industry problems. Yearly Cisco invests over $5 Billion on R&D (Cisco, 2012).
With regards to their ‘Buy’ aspect of their innovation strategy, Cisco is constantly looking to acquire technologies to improve their current product range. Cisco has acquired over 160 companies up to the end of 2012, and will continue to actively seek out acquisition opportunities to increase their product range (Cisco, 2012). It may be argued that innovation by acquisition is not innovation; however the innovation comes with the integration of these technologies into their existing product ranges and taking new products to market.
Cisco also purchase technologies that have yet to be brought to the market, so are more inventions than innovations, and take calculated risks in doing so. Cisco’s approach to innovation is an open one, and they have many strategic partnerships. Cisco is aware that to maximise the potential of their products, they must rely on the products of other vendors. Cisco have created an Ecosystem, to help develop their Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), a system that Cisco see as the future of the IT network; the collaboration of the network, all managed simultaneously on one platform (Cisco, 2012).
By opening up their innovation to these ecosystem partners, it will engage the partners on a positive way and ensure that the partner’s complimentary products and services will be fully compatible with the UCS. The ecosystem approach will help speed up innovation, as more people working together to create innovative products or services are more likely to get superior products to market faster (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). Cisco has, since inception, been a first-mover in its markets. Cisco’s vision, “Changing the way we work, live, play and learn” (Cisco, 2012.
Corporate Overview Pg 11), shows that they want to lead the market in developing networking technologies. This gives them considerable advantages, allowing them to become market leaders in these areas, and charge a premium for these products. 3. 0 CISCO AND THEIR BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT When we discuss the business environment, we are in fact looking at the environment where the business operates. In this section the external environment will be analysed using PESTEL framework, focusing on some of the key drivers for change, use Porters Five Forces to analyse the Industry and will look at the opportunities and threats Cisco face. 3. THE MACRO ENVIRONMENT The Macro Environment of a business is concerned with the external factors which affect almost all organisations (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). Appendix A shows a PESTEL analysis for Cisco, outlining some of the issues which they face. For the purpose of the report, however, only the important key drivers for change will be discussed. 3. 2 KEY DRIVERS FOR CHANGE Looking at the PESTEL Analysis, there are some that are more relevant to the industry Cisco operate – Technological. Virtualisation technology became one of the most important key drivers for change in the IT industry of recent times.
This meant companies like Cisco had to begin to develop systems that would take advantage of this. This has led to huge developments in ‘Cloud’ technologies, where the resources are provided, at a service fee, over the internet. They provide several variations of the ‘x-as-a-service’ model. This is beneficial to cash-conscious companies, who are looking to reduce the expensive CAPEX costs IT infrastructure incurs, passing this responsibility onto the service provider. The rate at which this technology has been released and adopted has fuelled Cisco’s innovation, as they have to innovate to continue to remain competitive.
Another key driver for change is the Competition Laws Cisco are faced with, namely the US Antitrust policy, whereby all acquisitions have to be approved by the Department of Justice and the Federal Change Commission, who look at how acquisitions will affect the competition balance. They do not, however look at the innovative developments these acquisitions will create, nor if the benefit of such innovation outweighs the competition problems (Mandel and Carew, 2011). Appendix B shows some of the scenario outcomes of the effects of acquisition laws on the development of technologies in the Cloud market.
Scenario building can be useful, however you cannot have just one universal scenario for the company as a whole, there can be an endless chain of scenarios created for every situation that can be thought up. That is why, when looking at scenarios, it is important to identify the key drivers for change. 3. 3 APPLYING PORTER’S FIVE FORCES FRAMEWORK Porter’s Five Forces Framework can help Cisco establish if an industry is an attractive option, identifying five areas in competitive forces; the threat of entry, the threat of substitutes, the power of buyers, the power of suppliers and competitive rivalry (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011).
For the purpose of the report, we will focus this next section on Cisco’s Switching market. 3. 3. 1 The Threat of Entry Cisco must be aware of potential competitors into their markets, and creating sufficient barriers to entry can help. These barriers need to be overcome by new entrants to the market if they wish to compete (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). Cisco, as first-movers, has created several barriers to entry; Cisco has greater experience over its rivals and uses its first-mover advantages to secure market share before anyone else tries to compete.
Cisco do not manufacture the components of their products, they rely on over 600 companies for this (Cisco, 2012). They could try to secure exclusivity with these suppliers, thereby reducing the new entrant’s ability to buy the same components, making it harder for them to replicate Cisco’s products. In response to competition threats, Cisco could, in theory, enter into price wars with new entrants to the market, they could increase their marketing spend, and out-market the new entrants, as they have the financial means to do so.
Overall, the threat of new entrants means Cisco have to remain innovative, to product new products, protected by patents, and creating new industry standards, to maintain their share of the market. 3. 3. 2 Threat of Substitutes With the emergence of cloud technologies, Cisco was in danger of falling behind and their products substituted with Cloud technologies. However Cisco has developed products to compete in this area, for example their Switching-as-a-Service, giving their customers the option to have their network switching hosted in the cloud.
To avoid being substituted, Cisco had to adapt to the emergence of Cloud technologies to remain relevant. Emerging technologies such as this ensure Cisco retains their innovative edge. 3. 3. 3 Power of Buyers Cisco only sells their enterprise products through a network of distributers. This increases the distributers buying power as Cisco are reliant on them. However due to the complexity of the products, there doesn’t appear to be a threat from the buyers in terms of competition, as they are unlikely to find backward vertical integration attractive.
Cisco have to remain innovative to maintain the relationships with their buyers, if Cisco are seen to fall behind technology’s advance, then they will become obsolete to the buyers, and they will look to buy other products that are innovative. 3. 3. 4 Power of Suppliers As previously discussed, Cisco relies on over 600 suppliers to provide the components of their products. This gives the suppliers power, as delays in Cisco receiving their products will disrupt their supply chain. 3. 3. 5 Competitive Rivals In the switching market, Cisco currently hold around 69% of the market share Cisco, 2012), and while this is a comfortable position to be in, Cisco must not become complacent. HP is growing in market share year-on-year (Gabra, 2012), offering Cisco real competition in affordable managed switching products. HP also has a strong brand and a large presence in both the business and consumer markets. This makes HP an attractive alternative to the end user, which is a threat to Cisco’s core switching business. Cisco has to continue to develop their products, make them better than the rivals, to ensure they can maintain the market share.
Customers need to see that they are getting value for money, so Cisco must do this with that in mind, they have to make the products affordable AND innovative. Cisco is strong in many areas discussed, they are innovative in nature, it is part of their history that they began and continue to innovate. As innovation is part of Cisco’s DNA, this is unlikely to change. They are developing some of the traditionally physical technologies (switching for example) for the cloud market, creating cloud platforms which they can still provide their core products from.
Cisco has patent protection on their products, which puts them in a strong position to their competitors. To keep this patent protection relevant they need to continue to invent new designs to bring to market. They do have some weakness; the entry of HP to their core switching market is worth noting. Cisco have still got a good market share, however HP are slowly eroding this, with gains in market share each year. Cisco will have to tackle this to ensure this erosion does not progress too far. To do this they must continue to produce superior products to HPs, and thereby drives their innovation. 4. COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE As previously discussed, Cisco currently have over 69% of the market share in their switching market. How does Cisco maintain their competitive advantage? The resource-based view is that, “…competitive advantage and superior performance of an organisation is explained by the distinctiveness of its capabilities. ” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011 pg 83) This is to say that it is the capabilities of the companies which give it the competitive advantage; the development of new innovative technologies alone will not give a company this competitive advantage (Eng & Luff 2011).
Looking at some of Cisco’s resources and competences (Appendix C) we can see that these are wide-ranging, from the obvious of buildings, Computer Equipment and Employees, to the less obvious; strong balance sheet, worldwide R&D and Ecosystems. From here we can establish which of these are threshold resources and capabilities, those which are required to compete in a market (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011) and the distinctive resources and capabilities, those required to give a company it’s competitive advantage (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011).
These have been illustrated in Appendix D. For the purpose of this report we will focus on the distinctive resources and capabilities, as those are the ones which will secure Cisco’s Competitive Advantage, and apply VRIN Framework to assess Cisco’s basis of these advantages; Value, Rarity, Inimitability and Non-substitutability. 4. 1 Value “Strategic capabilities are of value when they provide potential competitive advantage in a market at a cost that allows an organisation to realise acceptable levels of return…” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011 pg 90).
Cisco does this by taking advantage of opportunities and limits the threats that they are presented with (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). Acquisitions allow them to adopt new technology that their rivals cannot. If, for example, they were only to licence technology from these companies, their competitors could also. By buying these companies this allows them exclusive access to the technologies. Cisco’s R&D spending and the acquisition of technologies allow Cisco to produce products, which they protect with patents, that their competitors do not have, putting them ahead of the competition.
Cisco spends billions of dollars each year on R&D, however still produce good profits which is acceptable to their shareholders. This shows that the shareholders understand that to achieve and maintain the market share, then spending on this level is acceptable. 4. 2 Rarity “Rare capabilities…are those possessed uniquely by one organisation or by a few others. ” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). Cisco currently has over 8000 patents protecting their products, and files around 700 more per year.
This gives them long lasting protection from competitors. Cisco employ over 20,000 engineers (Cisco, 2012) and the skills and knowledge of these people is a valuable commodity. Cisco must ensure they try to maintain a high level of staff retention to avoid engineers going to work for competitors. Cisco has a strong brand in the business market, with around 69% of the market share in the switching market alone (Cisco, 2012).
Cisco have to ensure that they keep creating new rare capabilities to maintain this competitive advantage and adequately protecting innovations, for example, in the USA design patens last 14 years (United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2003) and 20 years in the UK (Intellectual Property Office, 2011). 4. 3 Inimitability “Inimitable capabilities – those that competitors find difficult to imitate or obtain” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011 pg 91). Cisco work with their customers to ensure that their needs are met, in turn this leads to co-specialisation (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011).
If Cisco is successful with this, then the customer is more likely to come back to them with future problems for Cisco to solve, and are unlikely to move to a competitor. Cisco’s innovative culture was imbedded into the company right from inception. Cisco has a competitive advantage here as innovation is something they just ‘do’ and have always done. Breeding this into an established company may prove difficult due to a lack of experience, resources and change resistance.
Cisco also adapt well to changes in market conditions, and as technology moves forward, so do Cisco; by producing products and services to meet emerging technology. 4. 4 Non-Substitutability Cisco is at risk of substitution by competitors. Patent protection lessens the risk as by the time the patents expire; technology will have advanced so much that the patented technology is already old. This also does not stop companies from copying ideas; you only need to look at the press coverage of Smartphone producers taking each other to court, accusing the other of patent infringement.
Cisco has to ensure that the products and services they offer remain ahead of the competition, to get a foothold on the market, to avoid substitution. 4. 5 Cisco’s Organisational Knowledge “Organisational knowledge is the collective intelligence, specific to an organisation, accumulated through both formal systems and the shared experience of people in that organisation. ” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011 pg 94) The items discussed in the VRIN framework above can be consolidated into the organisational knowledge of Cisco, and this too creates competitive advantage.
The explicit knowledge gained by using codified information within the company’s structure and the tacit knowledge gained by experience and expertise combines is difficult to imitate, thereby creating a source of competitive advantage over rivals (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). 5. 0 STRATEGIC OPTIONS When assessing Cisco for potential strategic options, the following had to be considered; what markets do Cisco currently operate in, what products and services do they provide and is there any scope within the value chain for vertical integration?
Two of the options which came to light were selling their enterprise products directly to the end user and entering the consumer market. Using the “Ansoff product/market growth matrix” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011 pg 232) selling products to the end user would be market penetration, which would involve Cisco increasing their market share with their current product range through vertical integration of the Sales and Marketing part of the value chain.
The reasons behind Cisco taking this approach would be the potential of increased profit margins. By selling through distribution channels and partners, Cisco will come up against bias towards their competitors. As end users often rely on their IT reseller for advice on what they require, if the IT reseller has a preference for a competitor, then Cisco will lose the opportunity, regardless if their product is superior. They will increase their contact with their end users, and this will increase customer visibility and co-specialisation.
Marketing direct to the end user will provide a greater visibility of the Cisco brand and could help build their brand awareness. This would also give them an advantage over competitors who do not sell online, and allow them more direct competition with those that do. They would still be able to work with their partners, as the partners would be the ones implementing the equipment, and will maintain their current partner program revenue.
There are a few issues that Cisco needs to be aware of if they implement this option; this will be costly. They will have to increase their sales and marketing presence, and they will also have to increase their distribution facilities, as well as create a direct sales channel, especially an online sales platform. They also run the risk of alienating their partners, as they will be in direct competition with them, which could result in partners looking to other options.
This however could be combated by working with the partners, using partner deal registration procedures, to ensure that Cisco and their partners do not end up going after the same deals. They could also provide a referral system for new customers to the partners, if they buy direct from Cisco, then Cisco will refer them to a partner to handle the installation and management of the system. It may be that for this to work Cisco would have to withdraw their business from the distributers, essentially cutting out some of the middle men.
With regards to entering the consumer market, Cisco could go into the market selling new products and services (conglomerate diversification) however in this their current portfolio could be included, as they would be new products into the market (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). Consumers are looking for ways to combine their work and home technologies, making accessing all of the information they require easier. Therefore entering the consumer market with a mix of both current and new products may be prudent.
This would allow them to build a market share on the products they know well. With new products, Cisco’s innovation policy of “Build, buy and partner” could apply here; they could build new products, for example set-top TV boxes and smart TVs which include their collaboration products (Cisco Jabber and TelePresence); buy innovation, for example if they were to buy a telecoms provider such as TalkTalk, they could introduce IP Telephony at home as a standard offering; or they could partner with the producers of these products to integrate Cisco technologies into these products.
This would allow Cisco to generate Economies of Scope, as they would be able to use their existing resources in the new market. This may also produce a synergistic effect (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011) as the increased brand awareness in the consumer market may bring more sales into the business market and vice-versa. 6. 0 IMPLEMENTING STRATEGIC CHANGE In the previous section two possible strategic options were considered; selling their enterprise products direct to the end user and entering the onsumer market. Here the focus will be on the more radical option of entering the consumer market and will look at the risks associated with implementing this change and how this change can be managed. When evaluating strategies, it is important to look at three key areas; Suitability, Acceptability and Feasibility, otherwise known as SAFe. For the purpose of the report we will focus on risk, a key point in assessing the Acceptability of the strategy (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). . 1 Risk “Risk concerns the extent to which the outcomes of a strategy can be predicted” (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011 pg 371). This can be assessed using different financial and statistical tools to establish the effects of the strategy on the Cisco’s risk level. Sensitivity testing can be used to challenge the different assumptions about a strategy and what the effects the ‘what if’ scenarios will produce (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011).
If Cisco enters the consumer market with assumptions of how much revenue this will generate, and there is an economic downturn, resulting in reduced revenue, what will the effects if this reduced revenue be? Financial Ratios would allow Cisco to look at the financial impact of the strategic option (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). For example, entering into the consumer market would be of high financial risk due to sunk costs in setting up the new business stream and increased R&D costs, which would have a negative impact on the financial position of Cisco.
Break even analysis is another financial tool that can be used to assess risk. This analysis shows the point where revenue will match fixed and variable costs, allowing Cisco to know the level of revenue required to break even (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011) and assess if it is even viable. 6. 2 Managing Strategic Change Due to the rate that the technology markets change, Cisco should adopt a revolutionary change strategy (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011) to ensure they take advantage of the opportunities available to them.
They must ensure that there is a clear and concise strategic direction communicated throughout the company and to its stakeholders. To do this Cisco may be required to make changes to management, taking in new people to reinforce the changes (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011), preferably people with a proven track record in the consumer market. Management must also be ready to provide a business case for change (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011) to outline why the proposed strategy is a good one, and may include some of the risk assessments mentioned above.
Some of the decisions made to facilitate the change may seem extreme; changes in management, portfolio changes, increased focus on the consumer market and increased R&D spend, however these can be seen as both symbolic and rational levers for change (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011). In managing resistance to change, Cisco should adopt a situational leadership style, where they can use different styles in change leadership to adapt to different situations (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011).
This will allow Cisco the flexibility to use different methods to increase stakeholder ‘buy-in’ to the strategy. Some stakeholders may resist the changes as they may feel they are unnecessary or the timing is wrong, and it is essential that this is controlled to avoid stakeholders just ‘doing what they are told’. Compliance, as opposed to co-operation (or ‘buy-in’) can be detrimental to the success of the strategy, as underneath the surface nothing will have changed. Using this methods to achieve co-operation from stakeholders will keep the strategy focused (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011).
However managers must also be sensitive to the strategy resistance, if there is a large amount of resistance they must assess to see if the resistance is warranted. Managers should be, wherever possible, honest in regards to the progress of the strategy (Johnson, Whittington and Scholes, 2011), from their business case for change, the progress of the change, through to the results achieved by the change. Failure to be honest in this will result in the stakeholders losing faith in the strategy. 7. 0 CONCLUSION
Cisco’s innovation is based around their ‘three pillars of innovation’; ‘Build’, where they spend around $5 Billion per year on R&D; ‘Buy’, they have acquired over 160 companies over the years and actively seek out new acquisition possibilities each year; and ‘Partner’, Cisco has developed strategic partnerships and ecosystems to aid innovation. The innovation culture has been part of Cisco’s strategy since the company was formed in 1984. The business environment Cisco operates in was discussed using PESTEL analysis and applying Porter’s Five Forces Framework.
With the PESTEL analysis it was established that most of their Key Drivers for Change came from the Technological area of PESTEL. It was also decided that the legal aspects relating to competition law was also a Key Driver for Change, as it impacts their Acquisition policies. Scenario building was deemed important, however Cisco must be aware that not one scenario was sufficient, they must develop scenarios for all of their Key Drivers for Change. Porter’s Five Forces was discussed to show some of the factors which determine if the industry is attractive, and the threats Cisco face within the industry.
It was determined that innovation alone does not bring competitive advantages. Cisco’s distinct resources and capabilities were assessed against the VRIN framework to identify the sources of their competitive advantage. The VRIN framework can also be consolidated to form Cisco’s organisational knowledge, which was also identified as another competitive advantage. Two strategic options for Cisco were discussed, selling of their enterprise products direct to the end user, and entering the consumer market. It was decided that the more radical of the two was the entry into the consumer market.
The risks associated with implementing this strategy were discussed as was managing the change. It was concluded that Cisco should adopt a revolutionary change strategy to facilitate the strategy implementation. 8. 0 REFERENCES CISCO SYSTEMS INC, (2012). 2012 Annual Report. [online]. San Jose: Cisco Systems Inc. Available from: http://www. cisco. com/assets/cdc_content_elements/docs/annualreports/ar2012. pdf [Accessed 19 November 2012] CISCO SYSTEMS INC, (2012). Corporate Overview. [online]. San Jose: Cisco Systems Inc. Available from: http://newsroom. cisco. om/documents/10157/0/Corporate+Overview+-+Q2FY12. pdf [Accessed 19 November 2012] CISCO SYSTEMS INC, (2012). Cisco Overview. [online]. San Jose: Cisco Systems Inc. Available from: http://newsroom. cisco. com/overview [Accessed 19 November 2012] CISCO SYSTEMS INC, (2012). Acquisitions. [online]. San Jose: Cisco Systems Inc. Available from: http://www. cisco. com/web/about/doing_business/corporate_development/acquisitions/about_cisco_acquisitions. html [Accessed 21 November 2012] CISCO SYSTEMS INC, (2012). Ecosystem Partners. [online]. San Jose: Cisco Systems Inc.
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