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Rob, the architectural selling motion is something that resonates with partners who move behind Cisco because it elevates the conversation to one of business process: you're not just speaking to IT managers, you're getting into the C-suite, you're talking business transformation. How do you push that more through partners? How do you want them to take that to market?
The sustainable differentiation our partners bring is to have that conversation: here's how it all works together. "I have a practice that technically helps you do that, I believe the conversation is in the future, and I also have a service offering that will help you accelerate the results of that architecture." That's what we're working on with partners: deploying the systems and architecture that personify the Cisco differentiation and we will continue the road we set, which, by the way, which other company that we're having discussion on has a service model that's based on building practices that are scaled through our partners rather than competing with our partners?
That's the foundation for profitability for the future. We build practices to accelerate the adoption of converged data center, private cloud, collaboration, virtualization, expert solutions that our customers can see and demand. [Partners] need to help build those practices they take into their services and into their businesses. That's the Cisco model. We're not out there at the end of the day competing with them and creating a hard deck of customers: "You can go out and work with these players and we're going to take these ones direct." That's not the Cisco model.
Rob, with your solution provider background and the fact that you were the guy signing the checks, and fielding the angry phone calls…
…They were always happy phone calls [laughs]…
CRN: [laughs]…Right, right. You have a better understanding than most of what separates the good VARs from the great VARs and what they need to do to stand out among their peers. They must come to you with that question all the time, so what do you tell them? What's their edge?
That's a complex question because it has multiple facets. And a great VAR, a great partner of Cisco, always has great leadership. I meet some of the smartest businessmen and businesswomen I've met in my life who run Cisco partner businesses. They're innovative, customer-centric, great people-leaders, they build great teams, they create immense loyalty. Like any business, it's great leadership. Underneath that, they apply that formula of solid business management and leadership to execute in a focused way. There's so much out there today, but having an execution model is common to the partners thriving out there. They've gone deep in an area, or decided they'd go horizontal or be vertical experts, but they're focused.
I look at a combination of great management, solid business skills, forward thinking, and then a focus. We give our partners options to go deep, with master certifications, or go broad, with Gold and Silver and Premier certifications, across the board. Our partners have options to execute the business model they choose and in the future, that's going to be the model that wins. Those we hear complaining typically lack some of those success factors.
Rob, how often are you meeting with partners these days?
I meet with a partner a day, and if I'm on the road, I'm always doing a partner round table, listening to the unique issues in Brazil, or Europe maybe, always having a partner dinner, or a partner lunch. I'm in the EBC [Cisco's Executive Briefing Center] if I'm here in San Jose, and that keeps me energized because we all know that customer engagements is the fun part of what we do every day. I like to have [partner meetings] every day. Big partners, small partners, partners coming in here to plan their next business cycle.
Will the roles of Keith and Edison change at all in the new year?
No. They're building incremental focus on supporting our partner-led initiative around the world, and they'll be working very closely with our marketing organization. My belief is, having heard this from partners, we need to be more systemic in joint marketing activities. Keith and his team and Edison will be pulling more resources to support our field efforts around a partner-led go to market model. There's an entire go-to-market engine called partner-led and Keith's team, Edison's team and the people that support them inside the organization will be emphasizing how we create scale in that area.