Don't Mess With Success

Cisco last week surprised many of its partners by moving Senior Vice President of Worldwide Channels Paul Mountford to a fresh post as head of a newly created sales theater and naming six-year veteran Keith Goodwin as his successor. The regime change is scheduled for Aug. 1.

Goodwin, a relative unknown to Cisco's U.S. partner base, currently is senior vice president in charge of the Americas International sales region.

Partners said Goodwin's best chance of success—as well as their own—lies in him continuing to build on the strong foundation for profitable partnership laid by his predecessor.

"Keeping his partners profitable has got to remain at the top of his list," said Dana Zahka, president and CEO of Select, a Cisco partner in Westwood, Mass.

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Mountford said partners will not likely see major changes to the philosophy he established during his three-and-a-half-year tenure as head of channel efforts at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

"It's all about evolution, allowing people to work with us and shape where we're going," he said.

The management shift also will not likely delay Cisco's efforts to redefine partner categories. He said initial details of the changes should be rolled out to partners by year's end and should take effect 12 months later.

Solution providers said Goodwin has a lot to live up to, painting Mountford as a strong channel advocate who established open lines of communication and built an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect between the vendor and its partners.

"He took a lot of time to go out and find out what was on partners' minds, and then he put together concrete plans that deal with those main issues," said Pat Scheckel, Cisco practice director at Berbee Information Networks, a solution provider in Madison, Wis.

In particular, solution providers lauded Mountford for spearheading launches of rebate, deal registration and incentive programs that have helped rebuild eroding margins and protect partners that expend time and money developing new business.

Dramatic changes from the status quo could prove detrimental to partners, said Gia McNutt, CEO of Special Order Systems, a solution provider in Rocklin, Calif.

"If things changed significantly, we would have to re-evaluate our partnership," McNutt said, noting that the far-reaching support within Cisco for its current strategy indicates that it will not likely see much alteration. Goodwin said in a statement that he views the channel community as critical to Cisco's success.

"I am committed to executing on the deliverables from this year's Partner Summit, accelerating growth and making it easier to do business with Cisco," he said.