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A number of Cisco's major distributors, which are able to see first-hand any improvements in Cisco processes, said the right moves have been made.
Several distributors cited presentations made at Partner Summit by Scott Brown, vice president of distribution, worldwide channels, who walked distributor attendees through operational changes and solicited feedback.
"Scott walked us through about two hours on how they were going to simplify the business, and we see that when Cisco gets focused, it brings results," said Bob Dutkowsky, CEO of Tech Data, Clearwater, Fla. "There's less bureaucracy now and more flexibility. A few years ago, that's not something I think they could have thought through as well. And if they're more responsive, it cascades down into our world of the channel, which makes them more competitive."
"Scott came in the last year and a half and has really done it," said Andy Banks, vice president, North America, for the Comstor business of Westcon Group, Tarrytown, N.Y. "He's a real execution guy, and overall they have become a much easier company to work with, particularly in the ordering process and things like CBN [Channels Booking Neutrality, a program addressing up-front discounts on project orders for Cisco distributors]."
"The quoting is much simpler, so is the order management, pricing and the back-end programs," added Ken Bast, vice president and general manager, advanced technology, at Ingram Micro, Santa Ana, Calif. "We're still seeing some tie-up on the supply chain. I just can't tell a lot of my customers six weeks for a server, and while some resellers are willing to put up with that, not everyone is. I think they're working on it."
Recent meetings with Cisco executives have been useful because Cisco is devoting resources to understanding and solving distributor problems, not just providing a sounding board, said Peter Gambino, Ingram Micro's vice president, Cisco business unit.
"They're flying people out to spend two days looking at tools, how many steps they take and how to fix them," Gambino said. "I've seen that in the last six months -- it's been a part of partner-led, at least in my mind. There's this attitude of 'let's get closer to what's really happening.' When someone asks, 'What could I be doing better?' and you say 'X,' they might not really know what that is. They have to sit down and you have to show it to them."
The distributors agreed that Cisco was delegating more responsibility to them when working through partner programs and order logistics. That focus bodes well for Cisco improvements to continue, they said.
"This market doesn't sit still," said Tech Data's Dutkowsky. "When you're small, you can move rapidly. When you're big, you start to get slow. The dip Cisco took is a wake-up call and they had go get nimble again -- they had 40 focus areas and it's now down to five. No one can be good at 40. They'd gotten big and distracted."
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