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Cisco Changes ‘Very Good’ for Channel

By Kelly Teal
August 11, 2011 - Article

Amid pressure from Wall Street, Cisco Systems Inc. has reworked its sales strategy to create greater emphasis on channel partners’ contributions. The decision was announced in late July as Cisco, in cost-cutting efforts, said it would slash more than 6,000 jobs, including some high-level positions. That was bad news for the people affected. For resellers and other partners, however, the switch to a “Partner-Led" approach looks positive. That’s because Cisco will rely more heavily on its partners, rather than on direct salespeople, to identify and close sales. Further, because of that more intense focus, Cisco is bulking up its partner support — and sources say they’re pleased.

First, Cisco has consolidated from seven to three geographic regions, and pruned the number of managers as a result. Instead of seven “global theaters," each with its own leader, Cisco has compressed the number to three. Andrew Sage has assumed the new role of vice president, Partner-Led. Sage has worked for Cisco for 12 years, most recently as head of the company’s small business sales unit. Steve Hilton, part of research firm Analysys Mason’s enterprise group, heralded the change. “I like the fact that Andrew Sage has a new and large role," said Hilton. “He’s always been operationally focused and in this new era of operational execution at Cisco, I think Andrew will be great."

When it comes to the individual geographic regions, here’s how the management roster reads:

  • Stanimira Koleva will run the newly created APJC (Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China) territory
  • Milo Schacher will lead EMEA
  • Jim Sherriff will head up the Americas region

Still, some familiar faces are sticking around. For example, Edison Peres will keep his job as vice president of worldwide channels, and Wendy Bahr remains senior vice president of global and transformational partnerships.

All of that means Cisco’s “unwavering commitment to partners" stays the same, Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of worldwide channels, wrote in a July 21 blog. (Cisco declined an interview request for this article.) Cisco will continue to offer programs such as marketing tool kit Partner Velocity and other resources. “In fact, we are doubling down on our partners by creating a partner-led model, streamlining our leadership team and investing in partner marketing," Goodwin wrote in his blog.

Observers said Cisco’s changes bode well for partners — even as they lament the loss of some long-time channel personnel. “Some great people are retiring or leaving Cisco and they will be missed," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of business development at Long View Systems, a Canada-based Cisco VAR. Harry Zarek, president of another Canada-headquartered Cisco VAR, Compugen Inc., agreed. “Some very good people are retiring and they will be missed, such as Karl Meulema and Dave O’Callaghan," he said.

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