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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.