Some of Cisco's best-known solution provider partners see Rob Lloyd, Cisco's president, development and sales, as the most likely and best-qualified candidate to take over for Cisco CEO John Chambers as the networking titan mounts what will be a closely-watched succession.
Most partners declined to go on record out of concern for relationships with Cisco's other major CEO candidates. But in private conversations with CRN during UBM Channel's Best of Breed conference in Tampa, Fla. this week, several top executives from Cisco Gold partners were unanimous that Lloyd, Cisco's hard-charging head of global sales, would be the right choice to succeed Chambers.
A solution provider who attended this month's Cisco Partner Executive Exchange (CPEE) in Scottsdale, Ariz. said Cisco executives didn't talk much about succession in public, but that in "cocktail conversation," Cisco insiders told him Lloyd appears to have the inside track.
"Seems like he's going to be the guy, and that's a good thing," said the solution provider, who added that partners were buzzing about Chambers' recently stepped-up talk about succession throughout CPEE. "He's not as powerful on the engineering side of the house, but if you have the sales guys pulling for you -- and he's had global sales at Cisco for years now -- that's pretty good pull. Don't forget that Chambers had Lloyd's job before he took over as CEO. Don't think that won't count."
[Related: Has Chambers Tipped Hand On CEO Succession?]
Other partners pointed at Lloyd's channel bona fides -- he ran a Canadian VAR long before his Cisco career kicked off -- and partner relationships as making him particularly appealing as a future Cisco boss from a channel perspective.
"He had his own channel business, sold it, and then became an executive at a national channel company. That's a rise many of us can relate to, because a lot of us have had opportunities over the years to go work for the manufacturers," said a second solution provider and BoB attendee. "He knows certain elements of our business -- really granular stuff about relationships and how it's all supposed to work -- probably better than anyone else in contention. He's good at articulating that stuff, too."
Chambers told CRN in a recent interview that he would likely step down within two to four years, with the expectation that he would remain board chairman.
Chambers didn't identity any one internal candidate as an obvious successor, but said he would be bringing top managers like Lloyd out of silos and provide them more and varied responsibility.
"That's the way executives used to be brought up," Chambers told CRN. "We'll see where they have strengths and maybe a little bit where they struggle."
Two such moves happened earlier this month. Lloyd was promoted from executive vice president to president, sales and development, with Cisco's engineering organization now under him. Gary Moore, Cisco's chief operating officer and the architect of its massive global restructuring, also had president added to his title. And in another succession, Chuck Robbins, most recently senior vice president of The Americas, has followed Lloyd as Cisco's senior vice president of global sales.
Another top solution provider CEO and major Cisco partner agreed that Lloyd would be the most likely choice, but that if succession were put to a popular vote among Cisco partners, Robbins might come out on top.
"Chuck is loved in the channel," said the solution provider. "You talk about fast-rising careers there, for one, but a lot of partners remember what he did when he ran U.S. and Canada channel sales and how much of an advocate he was."
Robbins' comparative lack of global experience would probably hold him back, the solution provider said.
"He's taken on the worldwide sales force now but that's his first major global management spot at Cisco," the partner said. "That's a different animal, managing the geographies. If the [Chambers succession] happens sooner rather than later, he'd probably have his international experience questioned. He might get his shot further down the line."
Cisco intends succession to be a "non-event," Chambers said, adding that the CEO role itself isn't as important as deciding who will be the three to five major executives running Cisco in its next phase.
"What can our partners count on? Cisco leadership." Chambers said. "Consistency, industry leadership, innovation, and if we do our job, you haven't' seen anything yet."'
Michael Gleason, managing director of Global Enterprise Technologies, a Cherry Valley, Ill.-based Cisco Gold partner, said partners would appreciate a smooth transition and Cisco hasn't given any indication it wouldn't be.
"It looks like it's going to be a two or three person race," Gleason told CRN earlier this month. "Chambers has done an excellent job over the last 5 to 10 years in branching out and allowing people below him to grow in different areas. I don't see any hiccups once he steps back at all -- seems like it will go off without a hitch."
PUBLISHED OCT. 18, 2012