Cisco's Channel Sheriff Rides into Texas

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Cisco's new U.S. and Canada channel chief Jim Sherriff acknowledges that channel partners today are working in a hypercompetitive market that poses the challenge of evolving from one business model to another. He spoke with Channel Insider about the current environment and what he wants to deliver to channel partners.

It's tempting to say Jim Sherriff is the new sheriff in town for Cisco's North American channel theaters. He was named senior vice president of Cisco's U.S. and Canada partner organization this week. But really, Sherriff, a San Jose, Calif. native, will be working with partners rather than laying down the law in his new role. Sherriff, who was previously CEO of Cisco China, headed to Texas to settle into his new role.

"What I gained in China was a focus on small and commercial business," Sherriff tells Channel Insider. In China the business is all about the channel, he says. Add to that Sherriff's previous experience in professional consulting at Hewlett-Packard and his previous enterprise focus at Cisco and you have an American channel chief who knows the business—from the small channel partners to the large ones, and from the resellers to the integrators and service providers. Sprinkle on top of that two years as a CEO for Stonebridge Technologies, a solution provider organization, and you gain a well-rounded channel executive who knows what it's like to be on the other side.

Sherriff says today's market poses a number of challenges. Some of the issues he's watching include the following:

  • hypercompetition in virtualization and cloud computing;
  • business model evolutions driven by the move to the cloud;
  • how customers will consume IT in the future; and
  • how Cisco can create value for customers and revenue opportunities for partners.

The move to the cloud can be a difficult transition for solution providers because it represents a completely different business model, he says.

"What's difficult is when you start mixing business models. Cloud-based business can be an asset-heavy model, but recurring revenue is the best model anyone can have, once you get it going," he said. Those who transition to the cloud may not see positive cash flow from that part of the business for the first year. It is radically different in terms of cash-flow planning and financing for solution providers.

But for partners who are concerned about the changes going on around them, Sherriff points out that "this is an evolution that is going to take years and years to play out. It's not in the next 12 months. We are finding a way to help our partners make it through."

One important way to do that is to keep things simple.

"Execution is designed around having something that is easy to understand. It doesn't matter how brilliant your idea is if you have something that no one can understand," he says.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com