Executive Insight: Q and A with SVP Wendy Bahr
Today on the Partner Blog we’re kicking off a new Executive Insight series, where we’ll be visiting with Cisco executives to gain insight into key focus areas, themes, and topics that pertain to our partner ecosystem.
And what better way to start than by having Wendy Bahr, SVP, Global Partner Organization, join us for a discussion?
Wendy became head of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization in July. She’s been extremely busy in her first few months, travelling across the globe to spend time with partners, hear their stories, and see first-hand how Cisco partners are driving innovation with customers. We got a chance to catch up with Wendy this week to chat about her new role, what she’s been hearing from partners, and what she’s most excited about as she prepares to host her first Partner Summit on February 29.
Darek Rensing: Wendy, thanks so much for your time. I know you’ve been quite busy since day one in your new role. Most of that time has been dedicated to partners, as you’ve travelled all around meeting with them and listening to what’s top of mind for them. What are your personal takeaways from these experiences, and what are the top asks of Cisco coming from partners?
Wendy Bahr: Well, to answer the first part of your question: we have, without a doubt, the best partner ecosystem in the world. I spent nine years in the channel before coming into this role, and this has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the challenges that our partners face. It has also given me the opportunity to meet face to face with hundreds of partners – most recently during my listening tour in Asia Pacific, U.S. and EMEAR. I am – as always – impressed with the versatility, the innovation, and breadth of expertise that exists within our partner ecosystem.
Many of the conversations I’ve had with our partners over the past few months have been about the challenges around the breadth of Cisco’s portfolio, our sometimes complex processes, and the transformation of our business to a more software-centric, ‘as a service’ model. It’s clear that we need greater simplicity across our entire portfolio and better alignment between our partners and our field sales organization.
DR: Cisco has had quite a few announcements in the last few months – from acquisitions to major strategic partnerships announced with Apple and Ericsson. What do these moves mean for partners, both in the near future and over the long term?
WB: Cisco and our partners know first-hand that finding the right partner (or partners) is critical to deliver business outcomes to our customers. Our partners also know that Cisco is always looking ahead and moving fast as a company in order to capture market transitions and stay out in front of the competition. This is nothing new – we’ve been doing this for years.
What is new, and what these partnerships mean, is that we’re investing in Cisco’s market leadership for the next decade and beyond. A changing market means new opportunity, and we want to continue to foster growth, profitability, and customer success across our partner ecosystem. That means being bold and innovative and taking risks, but also positioning ourselves – and ultimately our partners – to be able to act quickly and adapt when new opportunities arise.
DR: There has also been a decent amount of change within Cisco and also within the Global Partner Organization. What’s your message to partners about why these moves had been made?
WB: As you’ve heard Chuck and members of our new leadership team discuss, every country, city and business is becoming digital. Cisco continues to evolve our business in the digital era to bring even greater value to our customers. As we do this, we must ensure that our partners are making this transformation along with us, capturing market trends and delivering what our customers need most, all while driving growth and profit.
Chuck’s vision for Cisco, our partners and customers in this digital era, along with what I’ve heard from partners globally, created a perfect opportunity to look at what we are doing in GPO and ensure we are focusing on the right priorities.
Based on all of the conversations that I’ve had with partners over the past several months – as well as my previous experience working with our channel partners – I’ve created a set of guiding principles designed to help provide the best resources, programs and experience for partners. These are centered around simplicity, alignment, and evolving our value exchange.
DR: Can you tell us more about these principles? Specifically, what do they mean for partners?
WB: Simplicity is about taking complexity out of the system; simplifying how we do business so we can spend more time helping our partners address market changes and capture new opportunities.
When I talk about alignment what I mean is increasing alignment between partners and the Cisco field to help them move faster, drive greater agility, and increase growth. I’ve heard from our partners that one of their main objectives is to be in sync with our sales teams. We need to facilitate this alignment, as well as provide growth opportunities specific to our partners’ respective regions. We also need to expand our connected partner ecosystem so that partners are prepared to capture unprecedented opportunities that will arise as we capture new market transitions.
Finally, the foundation of any good partnership is a mutual exchange of value where both sides feel rewarded. As our technology landscape continues to change, we need to revisit our incentives and how we reward partners. What has worked previously is not necessarily what will work today or in the future. Our value exchange needs to keep pace with the market dynamics and needs to accommodate different partner types and roles. It also needs to reflect, as I mentioned earlier, the transformation of our business to a more software-centric, ‘as a service’ model.
DR: It’s hard to believe, but Cisco Partner Summit 2016 is right around the corner. As the new host of this event, what are you most looking forward to? We’ve also heard that you have some exciting news to share about future Partner Summits.
WB: I’m incredibly excited to host Partner Summit this year. It’s one of my favorite events since it not only gives us a chance to connect with our global partner community, but it gives our partners a chance to connect with each other. One thing I’ve been talking with partners about recently is the importance of expanding the partner ecosystem. And what I mean by this is our partners are seeing opportunities to land bigger, stickier deals with new buyers — line of business buyers, for example – when they combine their offerings with other partners, such as ISVs or SIs. This and our three principles around simplicity, alignment and value exchange will be big themes of mine at Partner Summit.
And while we’re on the topic of alignment, I often get asked by partners why Cisco doesn’t have its internal global sales meeting, which is held every September, more closely coupled with Partner Summit. As I mentioned earlier, our partners are looking for opportunities to have our combined field teams more aligned on strategies and priorities for the coming fiscal year.
So, after a lot of careful consideration, we’ve made the decision to move the timing of Partner Summit to the fall timeframe, right on the heels of Cisco’s global sales event. Rest assured, we’re moving full steam ahead for the event this spring in San Diego. But after this, we’ll shift to a fall cycle. And while we traditionally have announced the next year’s location during Partner Summit, I’m happy to share that we’ll be headed to San Francisco for our inaugural fall Partner Summit on November 1-3, 2016.
Do you have a comment or question for Wendy? Please let us know in the comments below.