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Cisco's ongoing corporate restructuring has meant executive departures galore and plenty of changes in the networking titan's corporate ranks. But perhaps no single move is more relevant to Cisco's Americas solution provider community than the ascent of Chuck Robbins, the well-known former U.S. and Canada channel chief and now Cisco's senior vice president, The Americas.
As part of its restructuring, Cisco pared its nine global sales theaters down to three, placing a single decision-maker in charge of each. Robbins' new role means he's in charge of all Americas sales -- which represent about half of Cisco's $43 billion dollar annual revenue pie -- and manager for all Cisco sales theaters within the Americas. Jim Sherriff, senior vice president of Cisco's Americas Partner Organization now reports directly to Robbins, who has ultimate oversight on sales and resource allocation to Americas-based channel partners.
To hear Robbins tell it, Cisco's plan for making itself easier to do business with and driving more overall business through the channel isn't complex or overthought, it's all about consistency. He's a firm believer that Cisco has a better story than anyone when it comes to data center architecture, business conversations and solving paradigm shifts like cloud and mobility, and it's his intent to ride Cisco's sales teams and solution provider partners to execute behind those Cisco strengths.
Robbins joined CRN Senior Editor Chad Berndtson for an exclusive conversation on how he's looking to motivate partners. Excerpts follow:
Now that you own the Americas number outright, what are you telling partners? What do you want them to take away from your strategy for growing Cisco's Americas business?
I think we're all fortunate in that our opportunities are probably greater than they've ever been with our customers. We're in a great position relative to market transitions around cloud, around mobility and around what's happening in the data center, and the entire move to collaboration. I think we have a great opportunity with our customers right now, so that's the first thing.
The second thing I think it's really important to understand is that in these uncertain times, from a customer perspective, we have the benefit of having solutions that apply to our customers whether they're in cost-containment, op-ex reduction mode and need to streamline their operation, or whether they're working on productivity and growth.
The truth of the matter is that many of our customers are trying to do both right now. What I believe is that these market opportunities that we have with our customers represent such a great opportunity for our partners because our customers want to participate in all of them. For the first time in a long time, I get the sense our customers just can't get their hands around them fast enough, which creates huge opportunities for partners to help them and build around services, which creates higher profitability for our partners.
From a strategy perspective in the Americas, with my team, we're talking about the opportunity to execute more consistently, with our partners, against the opportunity in our customer base. If you're looking at cloud, looking at mobility, looking at security, looking at customers moving to virtual desktops, looking at all the activity in the data center and the energy around collaboration, I don't believe we need an incredibly complex strategy. I think right now we need to execute with partners against the opportunity. That's the message for our team.
In the last few months we've heard a lot about Cisco slimming down, getting simpler to work with, gutting some of the processes and the red tape for things like deal registration and the incentive programs for partners. What's happened between then and now to make everything simpler? Especially in the Americas, how is Cisco a simpler organization?
From the channel perspective and the partner community, in our last couple of fiscal years, we've had four different theaters -- which are operating units in our sales [organization] -- operating within the U.S. alone. That created complexity. For our partners, whether they were working in the commercial space in the U.S., the service provider space, enterprise or public sector, you had four to five different teams you had to engage with and you might have gotten different messages around priorities from those different organizations. In coming together, the partners will see a single strategy, with Jim Sherriff, leading our partner organization that can now be integrated as one team. That's the first thing I think will prove simplification to our partners.
The second is we are pushing decision making and accountability mostly through the customers and partners. The partners should see faster approval on deal structure, faster resolution on registration, and that allows us to move more rapidly relative to investments both with our people supporting the partner community as well as around partner programs. We come together as one team. It allows Jim and our partner organization to sit at a table and discuss priorities and program initiatives, and we have one table where that decision gets made as opposed to [Jim] having to work with the public sector team, the enterprise team, the commercial team and the service provider team, if that makes sense.
Next: Robbins' Reporting Structure, Cisco's Partner-Led Strategy