Cisco Names New Worldwide Distribution Chief

Cisco has named Scott Brown its new vice president of worldwide distribution, the latest in a series of changes to its channel executive team that began nearly three months ago. Brown, a 15-year Cisco veteran and most recently vice president for worldwide sales enablement, succeeds Dave O'Callaghan in the role of managing Cisco's $11 billion worldwide distribution business.

Scott Brown

Brown's appointment, which Cisco plans to make official Friday, completes a number of changes to Cisco's channel executive team that began in early July.

Among those changes were an expanded role for Edison Peres, senior vice president, worldwide channel organization; the move of Wendy Bahr, former senior vice president, U.S. and Canada channels, to a new role as senior vice president, global and transformational partnerships running Cisco's most strategic worldwide accounts; and the appointment of former Cisco China CEO and Chairman Jim Sherriff to Bahr's spot.

They also included moving O'Callaghan, who had been distribution chief since 2006, to the role of vice president, worldwide commercial sales, in charge of growing Cisco's SMB and commercial business. That switch paved the way for a new face of Cisco's distribution channels business, which is Brown.

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"There's great work being done in our distribution channel, and one of the great things about it is that you're not starting out with a problem, you're starting out with an upside opportunity," said Peres in an interview with CRN this week. "Most of our distributors will tell you that we've come a long way and have a great foundation in place. With Scott coming in, it's less about fixing problems and more about finding opportunities."

The search for O'Callaghan's replacement favored internal candidates, Peres said, because it would mean a faster learning curve. Brown passed the interview process "with flying colors."

"What we were looking for is someone with strong sales management experience and who understood the sales process and how to bring together the culture of how we work in the field with our distribution partners," Peres said. "One of the things that very important to us is to continue to find ways to increase our ease of doing business with our distributors and VARs by working with our distributors to leverage the value they bring to the table."

Next: Meet Scott Brown

Brown, who is based in Raleigh, N.C., was most recently vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Sales Enablement organization, where he was in charge of programs for helping new sales hires during their first six months on the job, and also sales skills development for Cisco's field and channel partner sales teams. He's been at Cisco since 1996, became operations director for Cisco's Worldwide Sales Organization in 1998, and took over the Enablement role in 2004.

Brown will spend his first 90 days as distribution chief meeting with Cisco's distribution partners and visiting their facilities, he said, hoping to get "the external view" of what's working and what isn't for Cisco's key distributors.

"They're moving into areas where they'll be providing solutions and integrating services with products to make it easier for customers to consume those solutions," Brown said of distributors. "There's a terrific opportunity for them to take a multi-vendor solution and bring it to the market in a way that makes sense."

Cisco's major distributors include Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Westcon Group's Comstor unit, ScanSource, D&H Distributing and Avnet. Worldwide, Cisco distributors account for 28 percent, or $11 billion, of its overall business.

Brown and Peres are in attendance this week at the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) Vendor Summit in Newport Beach, Calif., and Brown told CRN that the technology refresh cycle, the economic rebound, an emphasis on how technology spurs customer productivity, the proliferation of devices on the network and cloud-based services are all top of mind for distribution executives as growth areas.

At the outset of his new job, Brown said, he's satisfied with the mix of distributors Cisco has at present. The ability of distributors to drive incremental revenue from partners going forward -- as well as how they can fulfill products and provide services in hot markets like health care and smart grid -- will be increasingly important, and Cisco has no plans to de-emphasize its distribution relationships even as delivery models for certain technologies change, he said.

"I don't see any change relative to that," Brown said. "They are bringing reach and scale and the ability to get to the 'S' in SMB and get to the midmarket with the full solutions that they need. I can't imagine us not continuing to lean heavily on that."

Next: Addressing Cloud Services And Supply Chain Constraints

While cloud computing and as-a-service delivery models would seem to circumvent some of the traditional roles of a distributor, the idea that those models limit their usefulness to Cisco is not true, Brown said.

Distributors source products to help build infrastructure needed to support cloud computing, he said. They also craft managed services programs -- using vendor technologies, resold by solution providers, for example -- for small- and medium-sized business customers that want to adopt cloud computing but don't themselves have the scale or the need for major infrastructure investments.

It's in SMB especially -- an area where Cisco itself has devoted substantial time and resources over the past two years -- where distributors are crucial to Cisco's growth, Brown added.

"If you think about routes to market and the kind of companies that have the reach required to get to the S in SMB, it's the distributors," Brown said. "They have the capability from a sales coverage standpoint and from an expense standpoint. What Cisco's done over the last couple of years is create a whole portfolio of new products very much focused on that 'S' in SMB. We're making sure that coverage continues through marketing programs and the coverage of our distributors."

Another priority, Brown said, will be to continue to strengthen ties between Cisco and its distributors in the wake of supply chain constraints that affected several important Cisco product families in the past year.

A number of distribution executives told CRN earlier this year that communication from Cisco to the channel on the scope of the supply chain issues was lacking, but that the frustration had also spurred Cisco into better planning and inventory management relationships with the distributors to prevent supply chain issues from happening in the future.

"Our relationship is actually as close and as intimate as it's ever been," Brown said. "I was quite struck by how the distributors view Cisco as a trusted partner, and that through those challenges that we shared because of what was happening in the industry with the supply chain, we got closer in terms of our planning and inventory management and we're working together to communicate better on what's happening in each side of the respective value chain."