Partners: Cisco Exec Shakeup Is A Sign Of CEO Robbins' Focus On Software Transformation

The impending exit of two top Cisco executives, including the company's global sales leader, is yet another sign of CEO Chuck Robbins' no-holds-barred push to remake the networking behemoth into a recurring-revenue software powerhouse, said solution providers.

"Cisco is making this huge transition to do more software and subscriptions, so there's going to be tremendous amount of change, and it is difficult for some people to make that change," said one top executive from a Cisco solution provider, who asked not to be identified. "The cloud strategy overall has been coming together since Chuck took over [two-and-a-half years ago]

The cloud and software strategy is much stronger now, and I think -- we hope -- all of this will pay off."

[Related: Partners: Cisco's Software Strategy Is Resonating With Customers, Driving Business]

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Cisco's top sales leader Chris Dedicoat (pictured), executive vice president of worldwide sales, a 22-year Cisco veteran, will be leaving the networking market leader at the end of its fiscal year on July 28, 2018, said Cisco Thursday. San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco has yet to name Dedicoat's replacement.

Robbins handpicked Dedicoat as his successor for the top global sales job in July, 2015. He was Robbins' first major appointment as CEO.

Rebecca Jacoby, a 22-year Cisco veteran who is currently senior vice president of operations, plans to retire from Cisco on Jan. 27, 2018. Jacoby will be replaced by Cisco's current senior vice president of Asia Pacific and Japan, Irving Tan, who is taking on a new role as senior vice president of operations and digital, according to the company.

Both Dedicoat and Jacoby will transition to advisory roles after their exits next year, Cisco said.

A senior executive at a large West Coast solution provider that works with Cisco said the arrangement "is just a graceful way for [Dedicoat] to transition out."

A top executive at one East Coast solution provider that works with Cisco said Dedicoat vacating his position clears the way for Robbins to install a sales leader more attuned to driving recurring revenue in an increasingly cloud-based market. To that end, the executive said he expects movement in Cisco's executive ranks over the next six months. "There's movement in the mill," he said.

The executive described Dedicoat as "a stubborn-type guy," and said his replacement ought to carry a modern, cloud-based sales skill set.

"At that level, it's about empowering salespeople, so it should be someone strong in cloud sales, like an EVP running worldwide sales for Salesforce or something, somebody born in the cloud, and it may be somebody very young," the executive said. "If [Robbins] was really bold, he'd get somebody who's 28, 29, 30 years old who's really got cloud in his veins."

The fact that Dedicoat will remain in his position until the end of the fiscal year indicates that the search for his replacement will be exhaustive, he said.

Skip Tappen, CEO of NWN, one of Cisco's top partners and No. 79 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said he sees the changes as evidence of Cisco "continuing to transition to the recurring revenue software model."

"From a partner perspective, they continue to be one of the best partners out there," he said. "We see a lot of growth and upside in the future working with Cisco on Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation."

Another top channel executive from a Cisco Gold partner, who did not want to be identified, said Cisco remains "the best channel company" in the business, but is having difficulty transitioning from a transactional networking hardware vendor into a recurring revenue-driven software company.

"I don't think Cisco has found the right recipe yet," the executive said. "When companies reach the point that Cisco has in its lifecycle they try to remake themselves, and it is hard."

As for Dedicoat's planned departure in 2018, the channel executive said, "Every sales guy I have ever known that got moved was moved for exactly the same reason: the company didn't like the way sales were going."

For Cisco's Tan, who will be replacing Jacoby, his new role and responsibly will be leading Cisco's digital transformation across the company in partnership with sales, engineering and other functions, according to Cisco.

"Both Chris and Rebecca have had an immeasurable impact on Cisco's success over the past 20-plus years. I want to thank them and say how much I appreciate their leadership and friendship," said Robbins, in a statement. "Irving brings deep customer expertise and operational leadership, and I am thrilled he will be leading the new operations and digital function and joining my executive leadership team."

Steven Burke contributed to the story.