Q&A: Cisco's Goodwin Says He's Leaving Partners In Good Hands12:40 PM EST Tue. Jun. 19, 2012
Keith Goodwin is an increasingly rare breed in the IT channel: a long-serving worldwide channel chief with not only the respect and financial backing of a tier-one vendor's top executives but also the support -- and trust -- of an exhaustively varied and always-cynical partner base like Cisco's.
So it can't have been easy to keep the ship steady in the seven years Goodwin spent as senior vice president, Cisco Worldwide Partner Organization (WWPO). But Cisco partners told CRN this week that Goodwin's biggest achievement was instilling channel in Cisco's corporate DNA and ensuring partners have a role in any Cisco strategic discussion.
CRN was first to report Monday that Goodwin will retire from Cisco at the end of July, and his successor is Bruce Klein, currently Cisco's senior vice president, U.S. public sector.
Senior Editor Chad Berndtson caught up with Goodwin to chat about his decision, Klein's approach, and why Cisco partners are in good hands.
CRN: So why now, Keith? Why is now the right time to retire?
Goodwin: Well, this is one a lot of thought goes into. I have been thinking about it a lot over the past few years, and it is absolutely about timing. So why now? After seven years leading the Worldwide Partner Organization, a few things come to mind. First of all, I really believe that we have the strongest partner leadership team in the industry with Edison [Peres] and Wendy [Bahr] and Andrew [Sage] and Jim Sherriff and our leaders in Europe and Asia. I just feel that the team is so solid and I have such huge respect for them that part of it is turning it over to that team, while at the same time having a new leader, like Bruce, coming into it and having someone like him available, is fantastic.
Bruce has such a stellar leadership reputation across Cisco. I've actually known Bruce for a lot of years, and his whole approach to the business in terms of his collaborative style and relationship-building, he brings a lot. So the first point is around timing, and with the leadership team, the time was right.
The second point, from a partner perspective, I really feel in the seven years that we have built a strong foundation with our partners, and that our partner metrics -- how we measure the success of our relationship with our partners -- is across the board at an all-time high. We're just coming off our highest-rated Partner Summit ever, so it's always good to go out on top from that perspective.
Finally, for me personally, this is all about the next chapter. I really am retiring. This is my time to travel less, maybe except for some fun travel, and some time to do some more cycling, and some time to spend time with my family and my five grandkids. I even thought about taking a golf lesson, which is something I've never done, and partners who know me know that I would be well served by a golf lesson in my retirement.
CRN: Are you leaving the industry completely? This is a full retirement?
Goodwin:Yes, I am retiring, from Cisco and the industry. Other than the caveat, of course, that I do want to stay connected. I've been involved in the industry for 38 years, and I may join a board or two, and I do some teaching around channels and business and may do some more of that. But I will do all of that in the context of retirement mode with my priorities being the other things I mentioned.
NEXT: Cisco Chief's Successes And Regrets
CRN: A lot's happened in the Cisco channel since 2005. I imagine it'll take some time to digest, but if you were to highlight successes, what sticks out among ways the WWPO has improved since you took it over?
Goodwin: So a couple of things come to mind, in fairly broad categories. I think about it from two perspectives: the Cisco perspective and the partner perspective. From the Cisco perspective, one thing I am certainly proud of is that we really have built a channel -- a Cisco channel for our partners to be a significant and sustainable competitive differentiator. I really do believe that. Partners are viewed more strategically in Cisco than they have ever been in the past. And every discussion we have out here, every strategy discussion, as we talk about how we're going to evolve as a company going forward, our partners are always part of that conversation, and rightfully so.
There are a lot of competitors out there trying to emulate or copy our programs. The one thing that is really difficult to emulate or copy -- and this what I'm proud of from a personal perspective -- is that I think we as a partner team have really created an environment for our partners: an environment of commitment, of openness and trust in terms of our relationship. Beyond that is a real passion to win together in the marketplace by having that focus around delivering value to our customers. I get so excited when I attend various partner events, not just about what we discussed, but the spirit of openness and trust and commitment to working together to win. It feels really good.
The final thing, and I did touch on this, is the leadership team. I think it's the best leadership team in the industry. Each one of those leaders individually is an exceptional business person but also a good friend as well. Those are the high-level things. Maybe just a few other things to note, we are talking about the organization as the Cisco channel, and that is what I inherited seven years ago.
But the organization has clearly evolved over the last seven years, and especially in the last two to three. We clearly continue to have a very strong focus on the channel, our partners who resell -- and Edison as our channel chief has done a phenomenal, phenomenal job in the last few years. But it's become much broader. We're focused on a broader set of ecosystem partners and solution partners who don't resell. That's allowed an expansion of the Cisco sales model and an expansion of our charter. People outside the channel may not know this, but we now have worldwide inside sales as part of our organization as well as our worldwide technical solutions network and a few others. The charter of the organization has grown dramatically.
And then last, it relates a little bit as to how we've built this environment of commitment and trust with our partners -- how during tough times, back in 2008 when the world was kind of crumbling from a macroeconomic standpoint, we really rallied together. Cisco doubled down, and we increased our investment in partners during that time. Partners doubled down on Cisco as well, and I don't know if you remember, we had a theme, 'Navigate To Accelerate.' Experiencing that kind of crisis together makes you strong. The fact that we stayed committed and trustful of each other felt good.
CRN: I'm sure there are things you might have approached differently with the benefit of hindsight. Anything in particular you wish you'd done more of or done differently?
Goodwin: From an overall perspective, there's nothing that jumps to mind that I would have done differently at a high level, or regrets, from that perspective. The only thing I can think of is maybe I would have done things faster. As we've addressed some opportunities and some challenges, addressing those challenges faster and doing it in a simpler way is important as well. I don't necessarily regret, but I do feel there were opportunities where maybe we could have acted a little more quickly.
But I do feel really good about where we've come over the last seven years. No big regrets; we've accomplished a lot with our partners.
NEXT: Goodwin's Successor Heading The WWPO
CRN: Did you have a hand in the selection of Bruce to succeed you?
Goodwin: So as Rob [Lloyd] said, it was clearly his decision, he made the call. But I give Rob a lot of credit, he was very thoughtful about it. We had lots of conversations together and I provided input throughout the process, and he sought input across the business. Rob took his time and at the end it was his decision, and we're all excited about Bruce taking on the leadership role.
CRN: It seems like public-sector-facing partners know Bruce and his organization, and obviously he'll get to know a whole heck lot more of the partners. But why in your estimation is Bruce the best choice to take over leadership of the WWPO?
Goodwin: A couple thoughts there. I've known Bruce for a lot of years in the industry. We were kidding each other a few weeks ago -- we worked together at HP, and I was young, and he was very young, just kind of getting started in the business. What I remember about Bruce is that he was calling on one of HP's big global accounts at the time, and I was working with him on that as one of the global account leaders, and he was the kind of guy where you make a mental note. I thought in the back of my head, 'He has huge potential in his career.' We worked a little together after that and then we kind of went different ways, and then we both ended up here at Cisco.
It's been great to see how Bruce has grown and developed and taken advantage of what I knew were some natural skills and capabilities way back when. He has just such a strong reputation for leadership within Cisco and leadership obviously within his own organization. Cross-functionally, the respect he has within the entire executive team and his approach to relationships -- not only short-term relationships but long-term relationships -- are really compelling.
The one factor I would focus in on with Bruce above all is that he plays well to where we're headed with our partners. We believe, and our partners tell us, that there's an opportunity for us to work even more closely in the field and be even more integrated in everything we do. Partner-led is a great example of that. We've said the words that we want to really think of our partners as an extension of Cisco, but we haven't put a lot of wood behind that arrow. That's what we intend to do going forward to deepen the relationships with our partners.
So what Bruce brings is that field experience in Cisco. He's currently running one of our largest field sales organizations and he knows how to drive engagement between the Cisco sales force, the partners and the customers, and he has a huge passion around that, and a track record of doing that in unique and compelling ways. I think that's the big differentiating factor of Bruce in terms of this decision. That's a unique element Bruce brings.
CRN: Bruce's purview, at least recently, seems to have been focused on the U.S., but I understand he does have quite a bit of international experience. Any concern about him transitioning to a global role?
Goodwin:The short answer is no. Bruce clearly does have international experience. He runs the public sector worldwide board, and has traveled extensively outside of the U.S., so he definitely has experience working outside the U.S. and successfully within Cisco. Bruce has a huge respect for different styles and cultures, and I think international is a natural [fit] for Bruce, just in the way he approaches things and approaches people. He'll have a strong ability to engage in different ways and different parts of world according to the cultures and needs of those countries. It's part of his approach to doing business.
NEXT: Goodwin's Message To Cisco Partners
CRN: Keith, on previous occasions when CRN interviewed Tom Mitchell and Paul Mountford when they departed the role, we asked each if they had a parting message for Cisco partners. So I'll pose that same question to you.
Goodwin: I think two messages. First and foremost, a big thank you to all the partners out there -- a sincere thank you to our partners for all the partnerships we did build over the last several years, both from a business perspective and, for me personally, the personal relationships that have developed with many of the partners around the world. One thing that has caused me to love this job over the last seven years has been not only our partners being great business people, they're great people, and I've enjoyed getting to know them and allowing me to build a personal relationship.
Secondly, I'll go back to our Partner Summit theme from 2009: 'Together We Lead.' I truly believe the opportunity for Cisco together with our partners really is to lead the next phase of IT. There's tremendous change going on in the industry -- huge markets in transition -- and with some of the megatrends around cloud, mobility and video, we just have a compelling opportunity to lead that change with our partners. I know that Bruce and the partner leadership team is passionate about taking our relationship to that next level to lead that next wave of IT. That's the part I'm going to miss.