Cisco's Goodwin: New Executive Lineup Built To Last

With the recent appointment of Scott Brown as its new vice president of worldwide distribution, Cisco has completed a makeover of its channel executive team that began about three months ago. The changes better position Cisco's partner organization for the next five years, according to the company.

The revised executive lineup -- which includes Brown, Edison Peres, senior vice president, worldwide channel organization, Wendy Bahr, senior vice president, global and transformational partnerships, Jim Sherriff, senior vice president, U.S. and Canada channels, and Dave O'Callaghan, vice president, worldwide commercial sales, among others -- is part of an overall growth strategy for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization (WWPO).

It's also one that, according to Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of the WWPO, will help the Cisco channel better embrace video, collaboration, cloud computing and data center virtualization. At no other time in his 30 years in the business, Goodwin said, has he seen so much change happening at once.

"The exciting thing for all of this is that we believe the network is at the center of all of this," Goodwin told CRN in a recent interview. "This is really an architectural approach, and there are three technology architectures we're focused on: data center virtualization, borderless networks and then a set of market adjacencies, as well."

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Those transitions require Cisco's channel and partnering organizations to be more nimble, Goodwin said. Cisco created the WWPO in February by merging the previously separate channel organization and strategic alliance organization into one unit. The changes to its executive ranks reflect the WWPO's priorities, he said.

NEXT: Goodwin Details The Executive Moves

Goodwin said he views the changes -- which he called putting "wood behind the arrow" -- as being organized around four pillars. The first is the continued growth of Cisco resale partners, which account for more than 80 percent of Cisco's revenue. That piece will come under Peres, who has taken over for Goodwin as the day-to-day executive face of Cisco's channel.

"He owns the relationship and owns the strategy," said Goodwin.

Bahr, the former U.S. and Canada channel chief, has been tasked with building new and "transformational" partnerships worldwide, and according to Goodwin, that can mean anything from new ways of going to market with existing partners to net-new partnerships in select geographies. The VCE coalition -- Cisco's strategic alliance with EMC and VMware -- falls into this domain, as would a new partnership with, say, market-specific technology specialists focused on smart grid and smart connected communities.

"Wendy's role is really about building transformational partners and partnerships, and there can be a difference between the two," he said, describing how Bahr will be responsible for driving new relationships as well as leveraging existing ones.

Of VCE, he said, "We'll be looking to build more of these kinds of coalitions, not necessarily focused on the data center but other areas where we can bring together large partners and create a set of value exchanges."

NEXT: Cloud And Services Selling

Cloud computing, according to Cisco, will significantly impact small and midsize businesses looking to acquire more IT as-a-service, Goodwin said.

"We're going to need to create constellations of partners that allow us to accelerate Cisco-based cloud services into that space," Goodwin said.

The third pillar will be a continued push by Cisco into the small-business and midmarket segments, which it refers to as "commercial," and will now be led by former Cisco distribution chief O'Callaghan.

Goodwin said Cisco isn't adding new small-business partners for the sake of adding them, but since the 2004 introduction of Cisco's SMB-focused partner specialization, Select, more than 9,000 Select partners have been created. It will become an area of increasing focus for Cisco, which has seen SMB gains following years of ongoing investment in the segment, and is expected to be at the heart of its forthcoming, cloud-centric commercial segment strategy.

O'Callaghan will be driving the strategy not only in channels, but also across Cisco on a worldwide basis.

"He happens to sit in the the Worldwide Partner Organization, but he's responsible for driving the commercial sales strategy across the other theaters," Goodwin said.

NEXT: Sherriff's Role

The fourth pillar is scaling the ways in which Cisco supports its partners, and that will be led by Sherriff, along with his role running U.S. and Canada partners.

"How do we become simpler, faster and more global from a systems and process perspective to scale to meet the needs of our partners going out over this three- to five-year [span]?" Goodwin asked. "Whereas Wendy, Edison and Dave have their full-time day jobs aligned to strategic pillars, I have asked Jim to co-lead with me this last pillar. He has a lot of operational experience, a lot of global experience, and as a kind of night job he'll be leading the charge there."

As for Goodwin, he'll be leading the overall WWPO and assures CRN he isn't going anywhere. But with his day-to-day channel and other duties reassigned, he will also spend more time in his role as co-chair of Cisco's Commercial Business Council and Small Business Council.

Some of Cisco's closest solution provider partners said the many changes in the executive ranks, as well as Cisco's strategy behind them, are positives.

"I think there's a business intensity that I certainly got from them," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of network services at Long View Systems, a Calgary-based solution provider. "The landscape is not going to get any less competitive, it's going to get more challenging, and I think this is Cisco wanting to make sure they do their part to keep partner loyalty."

NEXT: Partners See 'Game Faces' From Cisco Channel

MacDonald said he's been spending time with Cisco channel leaders past and present in the past few weeks and that the message of architectural selling vs. procurement was resonating, as was the strategy Cisco was imparting around technology verticals and strategic partnerships such as Acadia, its joint venture with EMC.

He's also been impressed by Sherriff.

"He's a straight talker, and he listens and responds," he said. "They've kind of changed gears, and Wendy was doing a phenomenal job, but Jim's intensity is very evident, and he's focused on ramping up the cadence of getting to market."

What needs to be resolved, MacDonald said, is how channel logistics such as deal registration and field alignment will support architecture selling. When selling a data center solution that involves pieces from Cisco, EMC and VMware, for example, partners shouldn't have to perform so many field engagements and registrations for products and services, MacDonald said.

"There needs to be a mechanism to make it easier for partners to sell architecture," he said. "One of the things I've been an advocate for is to make a more consolidated field engagement/registration process."

NEXT: Whither HP?

Cisco may have toned down its public anti-Hewlett-Packard rhetoric in the past year, but don't expect the competition to fade, even with HP having plenty of its own internal distractions.

"Cisco sees them as a strong competitor, and because they do have that end-to-end technology solution, they're recognized day in and day out as their largest overall competitor," MacDonald said. "HP is threatening on the network side. Cisco is having good success, but they're still not yet a significant player in the server market. It's two competitive technology landscapes."

Another top Cisco partner told CRN that Cisco needs to guard against distractions -- acquisitions, its consumer push, its competition with HP and others -- and dig deep with the channel.

"Based on my conversations and what I can observe, I think they see that the partners are worried they might get distracted," said the solution provider, who requested anonymity. "But these are people who know the channel and are good to to the channel, especially Edison. They've got their game faces on, and there isn't a weak link in the bunch."