Partners: 5 Wishes for Cisco's New Channel Chief

Solution providers working with Cisco Systems found themselves last week without a North American channel chief as the networking vendor promoted Chuck Robbins to a new position.

Robbins, Cisco's group vice president of U.S. and Canada channels, has taken on a new role as senior vice president of Cisco's U.S. commercial business after having led the vendor's U.S. channel for the past five-and-a-half years.

As Cisco pushes ahead with its search for a new North American channel chief, solution providers offered up a few thoughts on the attributes they'd like that executive to possess.

1. Ability to Build Relationships with Partners

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"Chuck was always a guy that could build good personal relationships, and that's important," said Jere Brown, CEO of Dimension Data Americas, a New York solution provider. Solution providers said they hope the new North American channel chief will be able to do the same.

2. Willingness to Speak Up

Solution providers lauded Robbins as someone who was willing to stand up and advocate for the channel, even if it meant going back to Cisco and telling them that they were in the wrong. "When he thought someone in the channel was right, he would take the ball and try to get the situation rectified. And if he thought the channel partner was wrong, he'd say so," said Joel Schleicher, CEO of Presidio Networked Solutions, a partner in Greenbelt, Md. "On my wish list would be somebody that's will to stand up for what's right and tell you if he thinks you're wrong."

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3. Creative Thinking

Partners credit Robbins with helping bring creative channel programs to market over the past few years, including the vendor's highly popular Value Incentive Program for back-end rebates, its Opportunity Incentive Program for deal registration and newer initiatives such as its efforts to help partners address the IT talent shortage. They hope his successor will bring fresh perspective to continue Cisco's channel innovation.

4. Ideas for Adding Automation

Solution providers said they want to see Cisco continue to add more automation operational efficiency and Web-based tools to its channel programs, so they hope the new North American channel chief brings ideas for how to build out those improvements. "We're still doing a lot of things manually," Brown said.

5. Strong Cisco Pedigree

While some Cisco partners said they didn't care whether the vendor picked an insider or an outsider for the job, others said that a Cisco veteran is the only way to go. "My preference is for someone from inside Cisco. Naming someone from outside of Cisco would be a concern because of all the tribal knowledge. Keep putting more gas on a positive fire," said Mike Fong, chairman and CEO of Calence, Tempe, Ariz.