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Cisco Channel Might Focus on Strategy Changes as ‘Legend’ Bahr Departs

Strategy

By Jeffrey Schwartz

It appears Cisco worldwide channel chief Wendy Bahr decided to leave on a high note, announcing her departure just days after the company reported positive quarterly and year-end financial results.

The 18-year veteran of Cisco’s channel organization says she will leave the company once officials name a replacement. Cisco said it aims to do so before its annual Global Partner Summit in November. A company spokeswoman said Bahr decided to leave on her own.

“We respect Wendy’s decision to leave Cisco and want to thank her for 18 years of leadership at Cisco, most recently leading our Global Partner Organization,” according to a company statement. “Our partner community is one of our strongest assets and we are committed to their success and helping them evolve with Cisco’s transformation.”

Cisco's Wendy Bahr

Cisco’s Wendy Bahr

Bahr was among the IT’s most respected channel executives, and given Cisco’s strong performance this year and her long tenure, many are inclined to believe she decided now is a good time to move on to something new.

“Wendy is a legend that defined a lot of channel programs,” said Tom Clancy Jr., CEO of Valiant Technology, a New York-based MSP and Cisco partner. “The other players in the market followed in Cisco’s wake, for great margins and great events and attendance at industry events.”

One partner, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he works closely with Cisco, said the time is right for a change in channel leadership.

“Wendy was legendary, but Cisco isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago,” the partner said. “Changing of strategy and massive changes in all the organizations is good. Old dogs, new tricks.”

Surinder Brar, who spent 15 years as a Cisco channel executive until 2015 and is now an independent consultant who advises technology companies on their partnering strategies, agreed.

Here’s our list of channel people on the move in July.

“I think Cisco’s business model is going through a major transformation and leadership changes are inevitable under these circumstances,” Brar said. “The company’s reseller partners will continue to become less relevant as the market further transitions to cloud offers.”

Does that portend that Cisco will try to take more of its business direct? Clancy said he’s already encountered at least some attempts of that.

“Aggressive smart internal sales people [have called] on our customers,” he noted.

“Cisco still needs partners, but instead of the resale role, they need to play consulting and developer roles,” Brar said, adding that this a trend he often discusses. In a blog last December, Brar emphasized these changes.

“The legacy reseller partner model has folded and [been] replaced by software development and professional services to support cloud offerings,” Brar wrote. “Successful channel partners now focus in these areas along with typically offering full life-cycle managed services.”

Growth, but Major Changes

On the surface, Cisco’s business has shown more growth than expected over the past year. In last week’s quarterly earnings report, the company pulled in $81 million more in revenue than expected. Revenue of $12.8 billion in the fourth quarter of its 2018 fiscal year rose 6 percent, with all key segments performing well. Infrastructure revenue topped $7.4 billion, posting a 7 percent year-over-year jump; the security business was up 12 percent, topping $627 million; and Cisco’s applications business rose 10 percent. The company also expects revenue for the next quarter to rise between 5 and 7 percent.

Yet to Brar’s point, Cisco’s business model is undergoing …

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