Partners: Robbins' 'Bold' Executive Moves Will Make Cisco More Agile

Solution providers said Monday's disclosure that incoming CEO Chuck Robbins is moving quickly to roll out a "flatter leadership team," beginning with the departure of two top Cisco executives next month, could result in a less "bloated" and more "agile" company.

Robbins said in a blog post Monday that Rob Lloyd, president of development and sales, and Gary Moore, president and COO, are leaving the company on July 25 -- the day before Robbins takes the helm as CEO, replacing John Chambers.

"For Chuck to put his authority down straight out of the gate, I see it as a strength and a bold move," said Chris Bottger, senior vice president of collaboration services at IVCi, a Hauppauge, N.Y.-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner.

[Related: No More Presidents For Cisco: Lloyd, Moore To Depart]

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"Yes, they're both heavy hitters, [but] you need this type of leadership if Cisco wants to move at the rapid pace they want to move in," Bottger said. "Chambers did say he believed Chuck could execute quicker and faster than what he could do."

Tim Hebert, CEO of Atrion Networking, a Warwick, R.I.-based Cisco Gold partner, said he was somewhat concerned about losing Lloyd and Moore, but the timing for Cisco is right.

"Cisco's gotten bloated at the top a little, a little too thick, and it's made it more bureaucratic instead of more agile," Hebert said. "I know [Chambers] struggled with trying to make the organization more agile, and he did a lot of things creatively to make that happen, but sometimes you have to thin the ranks a bit to be more agile."

The departures stem from Robbins' vision of a flatter leadership team.

"Going forward, we will move to a flatter leadership team designed for the speed, innovation and execution that is required of us over the next decade," Robbins said in a blog post disclosing the departures.

Partners said San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco needs a "flatter" leadership team to be a more dynamic organization that can stay ahead of emerging trends and market transitions.

As Cisco transforms and brands itself as a software leader, agility becomes essential, said Michael Girouard, executive vice president of sales at TekLinks, a Birmingham, Ala.- based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner.

"Cisco knows that the future of their business adjacencies is in the software space, and with the whole agile methodology of software development, that's all about speed," said Girouard.

Robbins will reveal his leadership team and Cisco's new organizational structure within the next two weeks. Although he will not be filing in the two positions, Girouard predicts Cisco will move more software executives into leading roles.

"It wouldn't shock me in the least for them to start putting some high-level software executives in place because the hardware business has always been plodding and moderately slow, where the software business -- even more so today than ever before -- is lightning quick," said Girouard.

On May 4, Cisco revealed that its board had unanimously selected Robbins to succeed Chambers as CEO following a 16-month selection process. Chambers declined to comment during a media conference call last month when asked about other internal candidates for the post, specifically Lloyd and Senior Vice President of Cisco Services Edzard Overbeek.

Partners said they saw Lloyd as the front-runner to succeed Chambers, with 21 years of experience at the networking giant, as well as a strong standing within the channel community. Now some solution providers are worried about where he'll take his wealth of Cisco knowledge.

"Anytime you lose someone of [Lloyd's] quality, it's hard to replace that no matter what role they do," said Hebert. "Rob will be extremely successful somewhere else; he definitely was a mover and shaker with Cisco for many, many years."

CRN reached out to Cisco to find out if noncompete agreements are in place for Lloyd and Moore, and will update if we hear back. [Update: Cisco filed an 8-K with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that outlines its separation agreements with Lloyd and Moore, including a non-compete provision that includes 29 vendors the executives agree not to work with for one year.]

In a separate blog post Monday, Lloyd said he is leaving Cisco to "begin the next chapter in my career." Partners said they'll be keeping an eye on Lloyd to see where he lands. If he winds up at a Cisco rival, he could make for a formidable foe, solution providers said.

"Rob's going to go do something. It depends where he lands; he could land at a complementary-type company or a competitor," said Girouard. "Rob Lloyd leaving Cisco bothers me, but the degree in which it bothers me will be answered by who he is replaced with."