Cisco goes back to basics

News Christine Horton
Jan 03, 2012

Cisco’s UK channel chief promises no distractions in 2012, plus more commitment


After a turbulent year, networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is promising its partners that 2012 will see the vendor scale back its strategy to focus on a few “core priorities... with no distractions”.

According to Richard Roberts, who has led Cisco’s partner organisation since August last year, partner frustration around the firm’s “clarity of focus”, has led the firm to “re-trench to five core priorities” with “no distractions”.

In April 2011, a leaked memo from Cisco chief John Chambers outlined major changes within the organisation to help restore its credibility following market losses. This included abandoning its Flip video business and 10 percent of its staff. Channel partners welcomed the move and urged the vendor not to overlook its core routing and switching technology.

Says Roberts (pictured): “It’s fair to say that over the last few years, the majority of our focus, partnering and innovation has been on collaboration and virtualisation. What you’ll see now from Cisco is a re-focusing on our core technologies and solutions.”

Roberts confirms of the company’s key areas of interest this year will be the technologies on which it built its business:  routing, switching, wireless and mobility. “Our foundation, the thing that got us where we are. The thing that people relate traditionally to our heartland,” he explains.

However, Roberts still cites collaboration as a key area for the company, also adding virtualisation was “a huge success story for Cisco”. He says the firm was “only at the start of the journey with partners.” He promises the channel will see continued emphasis on virtualisation in 2012.

The fourth area is video. “Video touches everything, from the end device to intelligent networks to the provisioning through... Video is rich suite of applications that we are in a key position to deliver for our customers,” says Roberts.

Finally, he adds that partners will have a key role to play around business architectures. “We will crisp up the delivery of our brand to the market and innovation around productivity and enablement.”

Roberts also says that Cisco is responding to partner concerns around doing business with the vendor by attempting to take cost and complexity out of its channel programmes and making engagement clearer. He explains: “We have to focus on the ease of doing business and taking cost out of the engagement. However good we are, we can be better.”

He continues: “A huge areas of focus this year is to not just drive the top line with our partners but to take the cost out of the bottom line. When they engage with us can we make it more streamlined, can we give them access to programmes that are simple to pick up but also provide them the level of differentiation that they need?”

Asked about the effect of last year’s shakeup, Roberts says: “Where are paring down resources in the back office we are increasing it in dollars flowing into partners.

“Partners are seeing Cisco’s commitment to [them]at a time when the market’s really tough; at a time when it would have been easy to look at alternative strategies...Cisco has never flinched.”

Roberts adds that Cisco is, in fact, increasing its commitment to the channel: “More and more of our customers that were traditionally aligned to a high-touch salesperson in Cisco are now aligned to our partner-led sales model. We have basically put our resources around and behind the partner, so [they] take the lead.”

For instance, Cisco had 300 named enterprise accounts in the UK which with high touch account managers. According to Roberts, 200 of those have now flowed in to Cisco’s partner-led business, with no high-touch account manager and with “resources that are aligned to partner, not customer and we support the partner to sell into those customers.”

He adds that Cisco had a large number of colleges and universities that it was struggling to reach within its own high touch accounts. It has now handed 800 of those accounts over to the channel where it is actively driving partner preference.

Roberts concludes: “We’ve got a lot to do; we’re not going to turn the tanker in the day. But we are seeing more positive movement.”

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