Cisco’s Ragusa-McBain: 5 Ways To Drive Success In The ‘New Normal’

‘[The pandemic] gave everybody an opportunity to pause—a forced opportunity to pause and really rethink, reimagine your people, your processes. And the way you go to market,’ says Michelle Ragusa-McBain, Cisco’s Provider Elevate leader of the Global Partner Organization.


Cisco’s Michelle Ragusa-McBain (photo by Shane Snider)

Michelle Ragusa-McBain likens the Cisco partner ecosystem to a flock of geese flying in formation—each member has a role to play and watches out for the other. In a world transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ragusa-McBain said it is important for everyone to understand their roles.

Ragusa-McBain, Cisco’s Provider Elevate leader of the Global Partner Organization, spoke Monday at The Channel Company’s XChange 2022 event in Denver. The Channel Company is the parent company of CRN.

She contrasted some data points from major research firms with how MSPs and the larger tech community are responding. The pandemic has spawned a cumbersome supply chain snarl yet has boosted technology demand and altered the way companies think about remote work. The changes have presented challenges and opportunities.

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“Today, I want to talk about five tips to help you generate and drive success in this new normal,” Ragusa-McBain said. Her talk centered around five main points backed by data gathered from Cisco and other companies.

And solution providers and MSPs were there for the message. Mike Shook, president of 5S Technologies in Apex, N.C., said Cisco’s partnership is extremely important to his business and he was glad to hear the message. “I thought it was wonderful,” Shook said. “The fact that Cisco is really empowering their managed services portfolio providers to be profitable and providing them with a wonderful product set to go to market is just so important to us.”

CRN highlights the top five messages from Ragusa-McBain’s discussion.

‘Blue Ocean Opportunities:’ The SMB Market Expansion

Ragusa-McBain touted the opportunities for partners going after SMBs.

“The SMB space has more rich opportunities than ever before,” she said. “Every company today is a tech company—manufacturing, health care, finance restructuring—we’ve seen tremendous growth and acceleration in this wonderful space. And we’ve seen no sign of it slowing down. It makes up 65 percent of all employment and there’s a $610 billion market there,” she added.

“And when you look at the opportunities, we see that these people in the SMB space have this unique opportunity … in becoming more of a tech company. But we don’t have the right people or technology to help them do that. They depend on you managed service providers, the trusted advisers … to help them on that journey.”

Ragusa-McBain said Cisco saw 46 percent growth year over year in the SMB market and that growth is translating to gains for MSPs, which saw “double-digit” growth in the same market. “We’re driving a lot of revenue with the partners who are working with us,” she said.

The Perfect Storm: Supply Chain

Supply chain issues were top of mind for many partners at the event. And Ragusa-McBain addressed the issue with a message of hope for those facing months of backlogs spawned by the pandemic, inflationary pressures and geopolitical forces.

“So, yes, it is getting better,” she said. “The good news is we’re not supply-constrained as much as we were. It wasn’t just Cisco that had this impact. Unfortunately, some of our great demand was magnified by the fact that we have a supply chain problem. The good news is that, for you, this is showing some resolution.”

There likely will be some major supply chain relief by the fourth quarter and beyond, she said. “We knew that this was an issue, and we worked diligently to try to fix it,” she said. “I’m very happy to say that we’re working toward a resolution.”

Another bright side, she said, was the opportunity for both Cisco and its channel partners to focus on more subscription-based opportunities. “What COVID did do to us was very interesting. It gave everybody an opportunity to pause—a forced opportunity to pause and really rethink, reimagine your people, your processes. And the way you go to market. What are the technologies? How are you implementing them?”

The Future Of Work

Ragusa-McBain also talked about the future of work and future workers and consumers. She noted that researchers suggest that in the next five years 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials. “What does that mean for you? When they become decision-makers, the SaaS startups and all of the companies that are being built?” she asked. “Who influences them? And is your company present in that ecosystem?”

She pointed to some best practices with companies and social media practices that resonate with newer generations of tech users who “look for up to eight pieces of content before they even talk to a salesperson.”

She also pointed to the latest trends in car buying as an example. “Consumers have access to more information to make more informed decisions than ever before. Those are the shoppers you are dealing with now,” she said. “That genie is not going back in the bottle.”

Double Down On Security

Security is becoming a greater issue as attackers are becoming more sophisticated and attacks are becoming more profitable and damaging to businesses. “There is a cyberattack every 39 seconds,” Ragusa-McBain said, citing Cisco-backed research. “And there was a ransomware attack every 14 seconds. The average cost for damage from cybercrime is about $1 billion [per year]. Cybersecurity attacks will cost the world an annual excess of $10.5 trillion by 2025.”

She said Cisco is taking the threat seriously. “We said, ‘What can we do now?’ Let’s look at our partners today. And we learned 27 percent of partners did not align to any security framework. And 50 percent of our partners had cybersecurity insurance—the other 50 percent did not.”

She pointed to significant investments Cisco has made in the security space to help partners offset damages from security breaches. “So we really want to make sure that we‘re looking at verifying and making sure that we’re keeping our whole company safe and protected from the ground up,” she said.

The Power Of Community

Ragusa-McBain also extolled the power of community—the ecosystem of channel partners is important to Cisco and its future, she said. “Cisco has always been partner-first,” she said. “I am here to make sure that we enable your success and that we listen. …We want to make sure that we’re not doing things in a vacuum.”

Cisco’s main goal is to enable partner profitability. “We want to help you get more money. And we want to help enable your success,” she said.