Cisco Systems’ Wendy Bahr: Digital Transformation Arrives
Sometimes when you travel a few thousand miles into unknown territories, you wind up blazing new paths forward. Just ask Wendy Bahr, senior VP of Cisco Systems Inc.‘s (CSCO) Global Partner Organization.
Bahr has spent 16 years at the networking giant. She’s held U.S., Americas and global channel positions. But one chapter in her Cisco career was anything but typical.
Indeed, Bahr was senior VP of Cisco’s global and transformational partner organization from 2010 to 2012. Take a closer look, and you’ll discover that Bahr essentially explored how cloud, mobile, big data, recurring revenues, digital, social and other technology shifts would potentially redefine partner models.
“That global role allowed me to speak with partners worldwide; partners who were looking pretty far into the future,” recalled Bahr during a ChannelE2E interview ahead of next week’s Cisco Partner Summit 2016. “They were trying to understand how the landscape would change as these new technologies transformed the market. It was a great rotation.”
Then, she added: “It was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. There was no roadmap. There were no guardrails. There were no guidelines.”
That two-year journey allowed Bahr to really explore how Cisco and partners could jointly grow together amid multiple market shifts. The work triggered some pilot programs. Some took flight. Others failed. But the journey allowed Bahr to spot the coming need for corporate IT to transform into a service provider. And she knew corporate IT and line of business (LoB) managers would require partners to succeed in that transformation.
Cisco Partner Summit San Francisco: Setting the Stage
Fast forward to present day. Bahr is now Cisco’s global channel chief. Cisco Partner Summit 2016 kicks off November 1 in San Francisco. The theme: Full Speed Ahead. Cisco leveraged the same theme for the company’s fiscal 2017 sales kickoff gathering in August 2016. That’s by design. The summit’s partner messaging, after all, was timed to align with Cisco’s internal sales messaging.
But that’s not all. During our interview, Bahr drilled down into numerous topics. Software. Security. Recurring revenues. Digital Network Architecture. And more. Here’s a sampling of the conversation.
ChannelE2E: One of your stated goals for the summit is to achieve alignment between Cisco’s sales motions and those of your partners. Are you on track to achieve that alignment?
Bahr: Absolutely. In fact what you’ll hear from [CEO] Chuck [Robbins and other leaders]: It’s very much the messaging we gave to our sales teams during our sales kickoff. It’s a time when Cisco and our partners are focused on the same priorities using the same taxonomy. It’s a time when the partners are accessing the same tools that we’re using to enable our sellers. This is all happening simultaneously. We’re not making our moves first and then going out to our partners with these capabilities. We’re actually learning together.
ChannelE2E: Are new types of partners attending the summit, or are your existing partners evolving their models?
Bahr: It’s a bit of both. We are seeing partners on the transformation journey. They are evolving from a close-to-the-box, hardware-only integrator to acquiring mobile application capabilities, developing consulting arms and more. They’re playing a big role in helping customers understand a hybrid IT environment. They’re developing best-in-class private clouds. They’re working with us on CliQr and our Enterprise Cloud Suite. And even our products for public cloud — whether it’s a Cisco Powered partner cloud or Azure or AWS or a cloud services broker like Ingram Micro.
We’re also seeing some emerging partner types. I’ll talk a bit about the success we’ve had with moving from traditional resale to the multi-partner ecosystem. We started that journey about three years ago. Our most profitable partners are engaging in a multi-partner solution that drives an outcome for the customer — particularly a customer that may sit outside of Corporate IT… A line of business customer.
We’ll unveil some new routes to market as well because you can’t stop with multi-partner engagements. There are two or three additional routes to market that we need to prepare for. And we’ll prepare our existing partner types and new partner types. I’ll talk more about that at the conference.
Bahr: It plays well for our existing partners and new partner types. We have over 2,700 partners who have sold Cisco One. We have over 14,000 Cisco One customers. And our Digital Network Architecture, which we announced only eight months ago, is all about monetizing the Cisco One software suite for partners. The customers are seeing the software presented in a way that’s easier to consume. It gives them greater flexibility and value. Partners are seeing Cisco One’s value and relevance because they can turn on the technology with rich feature sets and make it come to life. It creates the outcomes customers are counting on. We’ve seen a big uptake.
Then of course we have our other software — for example, OpenDNS in security. You’ll hear a lot about security at the summit. Everyone from our managed services providers to our traditional customers and partners are looking at security as a foundation for the conversation. Despite whatever architecture you’re discussing to produce a customer outcome, security is by far the most profitable and most relevant part of the discussion with partners.
ChannelE2E: Umbrella, as a brand, seems to be taking more and more of the security spotlight. Is Umbrella the security brand going forward?
Bahr: I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder at the conference but I will tell you that Umbrella as a brand is absolutely a focus going forward.
Bahr: There are several. We will continue the security, security, security mantra. Very closely following that is the success we’re seeing with partners who are working with ISVs. Applications are so critically important to customer outcomes. Remember we’ve been on a journey with the ISVs for three years now. But this year we’re going to really highlight those partners who have been successful in this endeavor. We’ll highlight small partners, larger partners — sometimes I get feedback that our ‘go to’ partners are quite large. So we’re making an effort to highlight those smaller partners that have really changed the course of their businesses.
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