Cisco Channel Chief Tuszik Talks Partner Summit, Application LifeCycle Management: ‘I've been preparing my entire life for this job’


Cisco Systems Global Channel Chief Oliver Tuszik says he's bringing an elevated level of focus to the networking giant's go-to-market strategy, and he's preparing to unleash his vision for Cisco's partner of the future during the company's massive Partner Summit event.

Much of that vision centers around enabling partners to drive lifecycle management business as a means of breaking out of a model dominated by traditional hardware sales and into a strategy that encourages, longer more profitable relationships with forward-looking customers.

Cisco Partner Summit is taking place in Las Vegas Nov. 12-15.

Tuszik – formerly the general manager of Cisco's fast-growing Germany business – was named global channel chief in late September. Tuszik joined Cisco in 2013 after nearly 10 years as CEO of Computacenter Germany for U.K.-based Computacenter, one of Cisco's largest channel partners.

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"I like to be very clear and focused on all the activities that we do, and that goes with better alignment," Tuszik said. Tuszik said he intends to move fast to push Cisco and its partners into software, subscription and recurring revenue-focused lifecycle management approach to selling, but understands that will require a certain amount of balance.

"We have to do it without forgetting where we make our money right now," he said. "If we destroy the current profit base of our partners, they will never, ever join us in leading to the new future because there's nobody to pay for it."

What follows is an edited excerpt of Tuszik's conversation with CRN.

How are you feeling about taking on the global channel chief role?
It feels like I've been preparing my entire life for this job. It's perfect timing. The market is getting more and more complex. IT is everywhere, and I think the only companies that will survive have huge, strong, established partner networks. The only other option is to do it the Amazon or Google way, only sell a cloud-based solution, which wins via scale, but not by value. We're focusing on delivering much higher value to customers and this will only work at scale if you're open and able to partner.

What are some of the things that made you and the Germany market successful that you'll bring into the global role?
The Germany partner share of revenue is about 95 percent. I'm a 100 percent believer in going to market via partner. I am very open. I will always be very direct and open about what's wrong or right. That makes us faster. Not telling the truth about where we need to improve or what we're doing wrong will make us slow, and there's no future for companies or partners that are slow in this environment.

How do you intend to help partners build the kind of speed they need?
The market is becoming so complex, so wide that you need to have special skills as you go more and more into the core business of the customer, and that's more we can deliver by partner. Our go-to-market can only work with partners. We need to build better support for them. We need to come up with solutions and use cases that fit to the segment. In the end, the clear partner commitment is one of the main where I believe I can deliver benefit. It's not a big change in what we're doing, it's just making it clearer to everyone.

What's one of the most important attributes that you bring to the global channel chief job?
Focus. Everybody loves focus up to the point where they recognize focus is mainly about not doing stuff. Adding things and making more is very easy, but it doesn't necessarily deliver a benefit. I like to be very clear and focused on all the activities that we do, and that goes with better alignment. I've been a partner, and a big chunk of my success was based on the success I had with Cisco. What happens is the data center team from Cisco contacts your ACI expert and they say we're doing a great initiative on ACI. Then, you hear about a new collaboration solution that they want to push through the entire salesforce. Awesome. Then, you hear about a new intent-based networking Catalyst 9000 campaign. They're all great, but you feel like you're trying to pull a wagon and there are ten people pulling in different directions. My job will be aligning all the great stuff and bring it to the partners in way that they feel the total power because it's laser focused on one market segment, or one initiative at one time. We need to ensure we make it easier for our partner to work with us and utilize the full power of Cisco.

What changes do you anticipate making to the VIP program?
Cisco is clearly seen as a leader to come up with a vision and a strategy for where we are going. The partners know that following Cisco has a very high chance to be successful in the future. But here's the 'but:' Cisco focuses very much on what we're going to do in the future, but when you look at the partner, the partners are managing their daily business. They need to deliver a number. The changes we're doing in the future should be very, very predictable and reliable. If we want to take the partners on our journey, we have to make sure that we're transparent to them about what we're doing. My feeling is that 80 percent of all the focus they're having is on leads and what they're doing for the next quarter, the next two quarters.

And you need them to take more of a long-term approach?
We need to ensure that they have predictable assumptions on how they can handle that. In parallel, we need to tell them not only what we're doing next week, but what are plans are for the next 12-24 months. We're going to tell them how we're going to change and transform Cisco together. We're going to tell them we're taking care of your daily business on one side to get predictable information on VIP, on support. Then, a good partner is following what the Cisco sales force is focused on. It creates a link between sales teams, which is key. We're going to tell them that we're planning to move to a new market that is coming up in the world, a new market space thinking about the entire lifecycle of a product. It's about capturing the opportunity after we've sold it.

How do you describe the 'lifecycle' approach to selling the Cisco portfolio?
We are going to shift our focus to capture the huge opportunity to help the customer to not only buy it, not only install it, but to use it, to expand it and get the value out of it. The idea must be to ensure that the customer at the end of the lifecycle of a solution or product would not even think about doing something different than renewing it and buying even more. He understood the value. He sees that DNA Center, as an example, completely transforms the transparency and security and the way he's managing his entire infrastructure. With the new Webex Teams solution, he was able to come up to a different level so that they're not only addressing the IT department, but the users. Leading through the entire lifecycle will increase the addressable market dramatically. When they recognize it's working, they will buy more. If they want to utilize more and more of this kind of product and solutions and software, they need to have project support to implement and design the new setup, which is a full partner play. We don't have teams to do this at the customer. They'll be able to sell more services, maybe even managed services. They'll also grow their install base, which is a bigger advantage when it comes to renewal.

How important is it to balance those lifecycle-focused efforts with the traditional products and strategies Cisco and its partners are still making money with today? We have to do it without forgetting where we make our money right now. If we destroy the current profit base of our partners, they will never, ever join us in leading to the new future because there's nobody to pay for it.

SD-WAN is a huge priority for Cisco. What's your strategy for channel partners there?
Let's call it 'new solutions.' New solutions are creating a very business-related value pretty fast, whether it's SD-WAN, or DNA Center. We will need to help our partners accelerate because these are things that require an investment. There will be solutions that are very easy to sell, but it's a different kind of solution. You'll hear me talk about how we help partners and enable them on these. On one hand we'll help them with tools and training with use cases with support and all of that. We will find a way to double down on the incentives behind all of this so partners understand not only that this is good for their future, but also that it's paying off soon.

How will you address that during Cisco Partner Summit?
We're saying very clearly that this will be the future. It will be Chuck's message, it will be Gerri's [Gerri Elliott, global sales chief] message, it will be David's [David Goeckeler, executive vice president and general manager of networking and security] message, it will be Maria's [Maria Martinez, executive vice president of customer experience] message. I would say it will happen when we give you the roadmap and you can be part of it. For everybody that is a partner, this is the No. 1 need: Tell me where you're going. Tell me your rough timing and I can start working on my internal transformation. This is where we're trying to help them. If you are a partner who says I will survive longer than one or two years, I would say I'm happy to have you as part of the business, but I believe you will have tough competition at your customer and will not be from Cisco, it will be the partners that are moving faster than you. There will be a time when delivering great products themselves will not deliver the premium or the profit you need to run your business. If you only add small lifecycle services, you're in the game and you have a completely different profit portfolio. You will be able to differentiate. If you're not adding value on top of the products and services, it's going to be a tough market.

What are your impressions of the North American market?
In certain areas, the North American market is more mature and faster compared to markets in the rest of the world. Especially for partners that are U.S.-based but do business globally, they have a huge opportunity if they take their experiences and give them a local adaptation that you need in this new world. You need to have a global solution that gives you scale and power, but you also need to address the local market needs. There are different needs in APJC, or EMEA or LATAM or wherever in the world. I would love to learn from their experience to scale Cisco faster. To be very honest, we have some partners, including distribution that are on this lifecycle journey ahead of us. They're doing it already. There might be some that are behind us, and some that are on the same track as Cisco. We can learn from them. It's a learning loop with partners, and I think North American partners have a very strong role.

What are the most important things you want North American partners to know about you?

I'm committed. I've moved my entire family to the U.S. I understand the European market pretty well, and I've been working in the U.S. market for a long time, but never a full assignment. I'm taking my daughter out of school. I'm selling my German cars and getting to the U.S.