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As Cisco transitions leadership of its Worldwide Partner Organization (WWPO) from Keith Goodwin to Bruce Klein later this summer, Cisco solution providers crave continuity in not only Cisco's various channel programs but also the type of regular communication they were used to under Goodwin's reign.
Partners interviewed by CRN this week urged Klein to use the fresh energy he brings from outside the WWPO -- Klein is currently senior vice president, U.S. public sector theater -- to continue the good work happening inside it.
"Keith provided a tremendous amount of stability in a business world going through lots and lots of change," said Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ontario-based solution provider. "He's a tremendous listener and also has tremendous empathy for the channel. So it's a loss, because he provided a very steady hand. But Cisco is a great company with a lot great people and I'm sure it will continue in the tradition of Keith and the folks that came before him."
"I think he always approached things as a good listener -- and always with an open mind," said Jere Brown, CEO, Americas, of integrator giant Dimension Data. "A lot of the partner-led-type initiatives were driven under his leadership, and we appreciate what he's done and the team he's built to drive the partnering strategy."
Goodwin spent parts of Monday and Tuesday calling on top Cisco Gold partners, according to several solution providers he spoke with.
"He has a lot of appreciation for the channel and I have all the respect in the world for Keith, who you'll remember had big shoes to walk into after Paul [Mountford] moved into a different role," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of business development for Long View Systems, a top North America integrator based in Calgary, Alberta. "He was always listening and asking, 'OK, what is the problem?' and reacting to that, and he executed."
Waheed Choudhry, president and COO of Nexus Integration Services, a Valencia, Calif.-based solution provider, said the best thing Klein can do right away is assure partners he'll maintain the good things Goodwin brought to channel management. That his core team, including Edison Peres, senior vice president, worldwide channels, will remain in place is a plus.
"In any major transition there will be angst and hesitation, and questions about will there be major changes in the way that Cisco approaches the partner community," Choudhry said. "So I think first and foremost, [Klein] needs a strong message that Cisco remains committed to the partner programs and is committed to investing and evolving those programs to maintain the profitability. As quick as that message can be solidified, you'll get immediate results."
"We need him to execute on what we heard and maintain continuity in the partner programs," Long View's MacDonald said. "I think we all came away from Partner Summit excited -- it was the best Partner Summit in my memory."
Dimension Data's Brown said Goodwin's strength is the value he placed on receiving partner feedback and then governing how that feedback was shared and acted upon within Cisco. The regular Cisco Partner Executive Exchange (CPEE) meetings -- gatherings of top Cisco solution providers in an open networking forum with channel leaders and a range of other Cisco executives -- are one of several Cisco channel institutions that have proven valuable, Brown said.
"You can provide feedback but if you don't turn it into actionable items, it doesn't do much good," Brown said. "Keith built an organization that was willing to listen and also drive partnership with separate Cisco organizations important to partners, like Cisco services."
NEXT: Cisco's Klein No Stranger To Partners