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As Wendy Bahr settles back in as Cisco's Americas channel chief, she hopes to bring to Cisco's U.S., Canada and Latin America partners something she didn't necessarily have during her first tour in the role: a global perspective.
Running Cisco's global and transformational accounts, Bahr told CRN in a recent interview, allowed her to better understand things like the channel opportunity in emerging countries and how partners are better off packaging multi-vendor solutions in terms of a line-of-business conversation versus a siloed "networking" or "storage" sale. That's going to be crucial to helping partners get their arms around trends like software-defined networking, which Bahr said will affect all of Cisco's partners in some way.
"I think SDN and cloud fall into new models, and Cisco's always been good about moving toward new models," she said. "When we talk about SDN, obviously it's early days. But I think Cisco is in a tremendous position to take advantage of this."
Bahr was named senior vice president, Americas partner organization at the end of July, succeeding Jim Sherriff in the role as part of an ongoing series of executive changes specific to Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization (WWPO).
It's a return for Bahr, who managed U.S. and Canada channels for Cisco from 2008 to 2010 before being named to head Cisco's global and transformational accounts, a newly created WWPO role, in 2010. Unlike before, however, her purview now includes Latin America channels, too.
"At my core, I'm a salesperson, and I missed being out in the field," Bahr told CRN. "When Jim had the opportunity to go work for [Cisco President] Rob [Lloyd], I grabbed this one. The work I was doing had some amazing things going on at the headquarters level, but I thought there was even better possibilities for traction in the field. The stars were aligning again and there was a good opportunity to take what I learned and apply it to what the partners are doing."
Bahr said that based on her conversations, a number of major Cisco partners are planning to gain expertise in the SDN and software app development areas via acquisition. But they are also looking to Cisco to be a thought leader in SDN and create more opportunities for the ISV community, as well as enable partnerships for more traditional VARs and integrators.
The WWPO is presently at work on an inventory of Cisco partners that have software development expertise, Bahr told CRN, because Cisco wants to better understand how partners are equipped to have the network virtualization and software-centric data center conversations.
"As you would expect, for many of our traditional VARs, this is not an area of expertise for them," she said. "But many of them have expressed interest in the as-a-service solutions model, so the cloud is creating a big interest in investing in this area."
From a channel leadership perspective, Bahr expects to stay on message behind recent Cisco initiatives like the midmarket-centric Partner Plus program and the Cisco Services Partner Program, both announced during this year's Cisco Partner Summit back in April. She said she'll work to keep partner communications consistent as the WWPO makes several transitions, not least her own return and the succession of former WWPO boss Keith Goodwin by Bruce Klein, now senior vice president, WWPO.
There are also a few more executive team changes in the works. Geoff Fancher, a 17-year Cisco veteran and most recently Cisco's vice president, U.S. field partner organization, has left Cisco for a top executive role at distributor Westcon Group's Cisco-centric Comstor unit, Bahr confirmed. She expects to fill Fancher's post in the next few weeks.
In addition, Ellen Berlan, most recently Cisco's director, worldwide specialized routes to market, service provider, DMR and cloud strategy, is moving into a newer role running cloud efforts in Bahr's team.
NEXT: Bahr's Best Bets For Channel Partners