Cisco’s former number two becomes Avaya’s number one

After joining Silver Lake, a private equity firm based in Menlo Park, Calif., Charles Giancarlo, the former number two executive and chief development officer for Cisco Systems, has just taken on the number one spot for Avaya as the company’s new CEO and president.

Giancarlo has temporarily moved into this role to fill in for Lou D’Ambrosio, Avaya’s former president and CEO, who the company says, has stepped down due to medical reasons. In the meantime, the company is currently working with Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm to find a permanent replacement for D’Ambrosio, who will still maintain an advisory role to the company, Avaya said.

Although Giancarlo could not be immediately reached for comment, a source close to Avaya Canada said he does not intend to stay in this position for long and said his transition into this role will not have a direct impact on Avaya’s Canadian operations. Once a replacement is found, Giancarlo intends to continue in his role as a managing partner with Silver Lake, the source said.

Upon resigning from Cisco last December to “pursue new professional opportunities,” Giancarlo then went on to join Silver Lake as managing director, which had taken Avaya private last year.

Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates, a Toronto-based analyst firm, said Giancarlo’s move away from Cisco last year has allowed him to take on a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity with Avaya.

“He was one of the well-known and well-liked guys at Cisco and for him to move, it’s got to be seen as a short-term set back for Cisco,” Arnold said. “The conclusion I would draw for him to leave Cisco is that within the company, he didn’t really have anywhere to go career-wise. He’s the number two guy next to John Chambers (Cisco’s chairman and CEO), and it’s a pretty sure bet that John was not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Arnold is certain that Giancarlo’s previous experience and insight into Cisco’s business and strategic roadmap will be an asset to Avaya, who he says has always been a competitor to Cisco. His extensive knowledge with the Cisco brand and its products will help give Avaya more ammunition to compete and to further upgrade its solutions, Arnold adds. Because of Avaya’s history in the telecom and voice space, Arnold said the company also has the ability to out-engineer Cisco, which would therefore make it a more competitive player in the market place.

“When you’re the number two company and you’re fighting for your life, it’s never a bad thing to get the number two guy from the number one company,” Arnold said. “It’s really a case of them having Charles on their team and not Cisco’s because he brings so much knowledge to Avaya.”

In other news, Avaya today announced Jeremy Butt as the company’s new vice-president of worldwide channels. Prior to joining Avaya, Butt also held the same position of vice-president of worldwide channels for the enterprise mobility business at Motorola. Like Giancarlo, Butt also held an executive role at Cisco.

“I’m sure there’s some kind of grand plan Avaya’s getting ready to ramp up,” Arnold said. “The channel is just as important as the technologies, so for them to make a move like this to boost their channel is big,” he adds.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
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