Maintaining Focus Is Fundamental

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

In this interview with Channel Insider, Cisco’s global channel chief Keith Goodwin reveals how video is driving virtualization adoption and that midmarket companies – not large enterprises – accelerated Cisco’s next-generation data center and networking vision.

LW: Some Cisco rivals say that they are better positioned in the market and with products because they are more focused on their core competencies. They point out that Cisco has made 44 acquisitions in the last five years ranging from enterprise-class technologies to consumer technologies like the Flip camera. So how does Cisco maintain its focus and its leadership across all of these various segments?
KG: At the center of everything we do is the network, and the network is a common platform. For years people have been saying certain segments of our market have been commoditized. From a product technology perspective, we continue to innovate to provide differentiation around what a lot of people would position as non-differentiable products—routers and switches. From a partner perspective, we look where partners can add value, and value always equates to profitability. The ability to position with a customer, the borderless network architecture enabling mobility, for example, in connecting that to the kind of the business architecture that's where the customers deliver value, then it becomes a discussion not about routing and switching but about the ability of a borderless network to enable new business transformation. So whether it's borderless network or virtualization at the data center, it's that architectural approach that really brings home the value.

LW: A reseller of one of your competitors recently said that aside from Cisco's brand strength and marketing power, it's exceedingly difficult to compete with Cisco in a deal because Cisco will pull CEO John Chambers and other executives in to help close the sale. How much of an asset is it to have an executive team, as a general practice, that is engaged in customer retention and competitive sales activity?
KG: That's one of the things that I love about Cisco and the Cisco culture. John Chambers established a culture within Cisco that we are customer driven and partner driven. If there is an opportunity to help close a deal or to help a customer, that should always take precedent over anything else we have on our agenda or on our calendar. Chambers sets that bar and he personally believes in it, so any executive in Cisco, not just in the field organization, but any executive in Cisco, is always looking for opportunities to jump in to help with customer situations.

LW: On a similar note, some partners of competing vendors have said that they get creamed every time they walk into a Cisco shop and pitch alternatives because they are talking to a Cisco certified engineer, and it's paramount to threatening that Cisco engineer's job. What is Cisco doing to maintain the value of its end-user certifications and that sales advantage?
KG: It's a huge competitive advantage for us. I think you have hit on one of the reasons why I believe that our channel, our partners are not only one of Cisco's biggest competitive advantages but our most sustainable competitive advantages. Even if someone wanted to replicate our corporate and channel strategy, and they had unlimited investment to do that, it's very, very difficult because we built a brand around those partners and individual certifications. The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) brand is very valuable in the marketplace. One of the things that I think over the last few years that we as a company have come to recognize is the value of that and continuing to invest in those individuals and those individual specializations. It's all about continuing to make those individual certifications more relevant in the future by evolving the content associated with achieving them, and we're investing heavily to do that.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.