Chambers Promises Changes For Cisco After Disappointing Investors, Confusing Employees

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Kent MacDonald, vice president, business development at Long View Systems, a Calgary-based solution provider, said partners should see the memo as a call to action.

"It says he's not only listened to partners and the market, but he's heard," MacDonald said. "What we've been asking is where does Cisco want us to focus, and let's make sure we maintain the leadership of those crown jewels. We're seeing gaps close by some competitors, so we'd like to see Cisco widen that gap again and lead in those market verticals. It's good to see this doubling down on our bets and see the emphasis [from Chambers] on the channel."

MacDonald said the memo is a clear message that change is coming, and to be ready for it, and for partners, to champion it.

"It's good protocol to get people excited about it: 'OK, let's hear the game plan'," he said. "How do we need to change our selling? How can we be mutually successful and how can we complement the Cisco sales team?"

Several Cisco solution providers reached by CRN late Tuesday said neither the tone nor the message of Chambers' memo was surprising.

"I don't agree that he has failed his investors, because his is a market in transition," said Gary Berzack, CTO and COO of eTribeca, a New York-based solution provider. "There is no way you can project a company that goes from a $20, $30, 40 billion company to a $60 to $80 billion company without cracking some eggs. Cisco has to go crack some eggs. You can only sell so many routers and so many switches."

The core switching and routing markets that have long been Cisco's bread-and-butter -- and still, according to its most recent quarterly earnings report, account for 46 percent of revenue -- are mature, Berzack noted.

"When you come out with a product that in 2001 was $10,000 and in 2011, should be selling for $2,500, and you can't add new features that people need, you need to find new markets to be a new player," Berzack said. "Mr. Chambers is the smartest, longest surviving CEO of a public growth company, and he understands what this is all about."

Berzack added that Chambers' public remarks to partners at Cisco's recent Partner Summit might have benefited from the franker tone of what was found in his memo.

Several other partners who attended the Cisco Summit agreed.

"I'd love to have had John make this message at Partner Summit," added MacDonald. "That's kind of the message I was hoping for, because it tells me, OK, Cisco does get it, and they are going to take the leadership role and widen that gap. I think we can all agree that there is narrowing [of that market leadership] going on."

"You hear it in interviews and all the speeches, and you get to a point where you just wonder what he's really getting at sometimes," said a senior executive from a national Cisco partner, who asked to remain anonymous. "You know he knows what the problems are, so why can't we talk about them plainly? That's why what he's said in the note here is a big deal. Cisco is being challenged right now and it's ridiculous to believe otherwise."

Next: What's Coming From Cisco?

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