One question for Cisco channel chief Wendy Bahr

It’s the eve of the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego, Calif., and Wendy Bahr is only hours away from being not just the first women to host this event but also the first executive to do it twice in one year.

The Cisco worldwide channel chief spoke with CDN prior to the first of two Partner Summits on a range of issues including diversity in the channel and what to look for at the upcoming Cisco Partner Summit.

Bahr, who took over from Bruce Klein back in August of 2015, admitted she spends a lot of time thinking about what the Cisco Partner Organization could become as well as the fate of all 60,000 plus channel partners she is responsible for.

Bahr arrives at the 2016 Cisco Partner Summit – Part One – at a unique time in the IT sector as business and the channel work to transition to a digital future that includes cloud, mobile, big data, social business and the Internet of Everything.

This question and answer feature will be presented in two parts. Part one only has a single answer from Bahr but it describes Cisco’s three strategic principals for the Partner Organization in great detail. Part two of this Q&A will go the next day.

The following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: Have you thought about what kind of channel organization you want Cisco to be?

Wendy Bahr: Absolutely and spend most of my waking hours on the evolution of the partner organization. Partners are a huge competitive asset of the company. Our new CEO Chuck Robbins and I spent seven years running the partner organization in Canada and the U.S. Its exciting to have Chuck at the helm at the same time as the digitalization opportunity is in front of us. Cisco and partners are helping customers become digital along with cities and countries. We have to evolve the partner organization to keep pace with this opportunity. Frankly the new consumption models put tremendous pressure on how we needed to stay aligned with these new opportunities and the team gave it an equally tremendous amount of thought to it and we developed three imperatives or principals for the organization.

They are:

  1. Our core has to evolve to meet the opportunity in digitalization in an ever changing world; simplicity is more important;
  2. Increasing the strong alignment and take it to the next level with partners; and
  3. As we change and evolve the innovation and technology we sell we have to exchange value with partners in a new and different way.

Bahr went on to explain each new imperative.

1. The integration of products, services and software will go into a holistic program strategy. For a long time at Cisco product sales and go-to-market were two separate motions. Cisco does not want that anymore. Instead we plan to integrate products and sales team with services into one stream together with partners. We are beginning that journey to make it easier and simpler program construct that reduces audit and certifications in current programs making it less of a burden on those who have proven their value.

2. Alignment in Asia, Taipei, Tokyo and Bangalore and then the Americas. I spent the first two weeks (as channel chief) in Europe and what I saw resonated with me. I talked to Chris Dedicoat (Executive Vice President, Worldwide Sales for Cisco) to develop a strategy on better alignment with Cisco and partners on key initiatives specifically with key ecosystem partners so that we can drive the right outcomes and decisions. One of those key decisions was to move Partner Summit to the early summer. It made sense to me to have the indirect sales team get the same information so we can be aligned at the end of the fiscal year in the calendar. This allows them to set their strategy and compensation models in place that are coupled with Cisco. Also there is regional priorities for alignment with the economy and industries. I don’t want to paint this with one global brush.

3. How do we evolve the value exchange with partners? We’ve spent decades exchanging in a resale model but now seeing a ton of profitable opportunity in resources on software. With the expansions of our software capabilities we want to exchange value with the partner. We are seeing a huge increase in terms of working with other ecosystem partners on horizontal and vertical solutions. We want to enhance that for the customer. And, we’ll look to new incentives and see some partners not enter this and stick to resale or be a consultant. For those who do provide value added services maybe its not a VIP cheque the get but instead a proof of concept solution or a Cisco engineer; maybe its more marketing capabilities. I’m not suggesting we don’t do VIP. This is a big shift and we need to test this messaging and our commitment with the advisory council to get feedback. But I would like to move quickly. The partners are going to need time to adapt. It’s a balance. We are doing this in a calculated and careful manner.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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