Cisco: Partners Need to ‘Lean In’ to New Business Models, Market Evolutions

By TC Doyle Comments
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T.C. DoyleCISCO PARTNER SUMMIT — Consistent. Predictable. Steady. In past years, these are but a few of the ways partners have described Cisco’s annual worldwide partner gatherings. But not this year.

The 2014 annual Partner Summit in Las Vegas (and the 2014 Virtual Partner Summit that runs in parallel with it) was a blur of new messaging and calls for change. Among other things, Cisco launched new partner programs, unveiled new technology and articulated a strategic, technology vision that could put the company at the center the most important trends in all of computing today. This includes cloud, mobility, security and more.

Cisco's Wendy BahrFor perspective, Channel Partners turned to Wendy Bahr, senior vice president of the Americas Partner Organization at Cisco. Why so much disruption all at once? She says there are three reasons, which amount to “a perfect storm for change."

“We have new technology, which is fantastic. We have new consumption models, which are very different than before. And we have new buyers, which is a result of the budget for technology moving out of IT," Bahr says. “This is the ‘why’ for so much change. If you can understand the ‘why,’ then you can come up with a prioritized attack plan. That’s what this week is all about."

In a far-reaching interview, Bahr discussed everything from emerging partner business models to ways to penetrate vertical markets. She also gave a nod to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg when she advised business partners to “lean in" when it comes to discussing cloud opportunities with their customers. Here’s a closer look at some of her thinking.

Channel Partners: This week was all about changes and market transitions. But I wonder if partners feel lost. What are you saying to partners to help them find their differentiation in the market?

Wendy Bahr: It really is all about prioritization. Where’s your unique value proposition? That’s what I ask partners. It could be geographic, it could be vertical, breadth, it could be a particular understanding of software applications, or a relationship with ISVs in the ecosystem. It could be not one but a several of these at once. We’ve been talking with partners, and helping them understand the strategy and road map to the Cisco Open Network environment, and what the power of a programmable network really means. I’m a very pragmatic salesperson. So my session with the partners went like this: "OK, there’s a lot of change, but how are we going to deal with this change?" The answer lies in understanding the future, being able to determine where the market is going, and understanding how you can play in the market.

CP: How about an example?

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