Partners And Priorities: Cisco's Channel Chief Talks Exclusively To CRN

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CRN: When the succession was announced over the summer, what I heard from a lot of partners was excitement because they knew you already -- especially the ones that have big public sector practices. One piece of criticism I did hear is that on paper, your previous roles have focused very much on the U.S., and now this is a global channel role. How do you respond to that?

Klein: Obviously, they want to make sure I'm not just U.S.-focused and that I understand global issues. So I think that the good news is that when I was doing global public sector work, a lot of it was focused on meeting with government executives outside the U.S. and helping the local Cisco teams.

Sixty percent of our public sector business comes from the U.S., so we had a lot of best practices to share when dealing with governments. I was able to get a good understanding of the geopolitical issues going on, not just here but also in EMEA or APJC. I think when I was meeting with partners at the various CPEEs and they saw I was able to have conversations around that with them, I think they felt comfortable that I wasn't just representing the U.S. and that I do understand what they're dealing with.

So it's more about meeting me and talking through their issues. I think they felt more comfortable getting to meet me versus what they read or saw in the bio.

CRN: You mentioned Cisco's ecosystem partnerships with SAP, Citrix, VCE and others. Given some of the big moves in the market, there's a lot greater potential for competition with companies Cisco also partners with, but John Chambers, Rob Lloyd and others have been clear with the Cisco sales team about how to compartmentalize when you partner and when you compete. But at the channel partner level, does this create a conflict at all?

Klein:There hasn't really been. The partners understand the dynamics going on in the marketplace and that everything's not black and white. Microsoft, we're going to compete hard in collaboration, but we're partnering with them closely in data center.

From a partner perspective, what they really want is transparency. They want to know what we are actually doing with those partners. So if we talk about partnering with Microsoft in the data center, what does that mean? What are we coming out with and what can they build their solutions around?

It's co-opetition. We're able to manage EMC partnering now as tightly as we did before. We have a diversity of relationships with partners and I don't see it [channel] partners bringing it up as an issue. We'll continue to manage our technology relationships to make sure they know what we're doing. We'll also continue to build Smart Solutions with more of a vertical wrapper that our partners can sell from.

CRN: You also mentioned distribution and Cisco's strength there. But with Cisco shifting its attention toward services and software and other high-touch priorities, are you still committed to saying that Cisco distributors will play a bigger role?

Klein:Yes. I mentioned that there's big opportunity for us in the midmarket space and how we're getting very focused on capturing more market share there with that selling motion. Distribution is going to be a huge player in that space. They're moving from the model of pick-pack-and-ship to doing integration work. So there's a great opportunity as we're working on bigger programs, for them to do that, and also work with distributed organizations such as a Lowe's or a Home Depot to perform integration work.

NEXT: Cisco's Midmarket, Public Sector Priorities

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