You cannot expect anything from partners that you don't do 120% yourself.

Lynn Haber

September 2, 2020

6 Min Read
Top Gun 51 Profile: Cisco's Oliver Tuszik Wins with Partner Insight

Top Gun 51 award winner Oliver Tuszik, senior vice president of the Cisco global partner organization, is approaching the two-year mark as head of Cisco’s worldwide channel team. In those short two years, he’s been in the trenches dealing with big challenges.

First, there was Cisco’s shift from hardware to software; then, more recently, the pandemic. Perhaps Tuszik’s channel savvy and appeal to partners is from his history of being one himself.


Cisco’s Oliver Tuszik

Before the past seven years at Cisco – two years as global channel chief and five years as vice president and general manager of Cisco Germany – he spent almost 11 years as CEO, managing director, and board member of Computacenter, also in Germany.

In his first onstage appearance as channel chief at the 2018 Cisco Partner Summit in Las Vegas, Tuszik laid out Cisco’s partner road map for the next evolution of the company’s business.

At that time, he called what partners should be doing for the first 12 months of that journey, “perform and transform.” Or, managing daily business while building new opportunities. That equates to protecting the partner’s daily business with an eye on getting ready for the future.

More recently, the pandemic axed everyone’s best laid plans. In June, at a post-Cisco Live 2020 partner roundtable, Tuszik said Cisco’s partner strategy was still on target to help partners traverse the “new normal.”

We solicited input from distributors, master agents and industry analysts to compile our Top Gun 51 for 2020. Introduced last year, the Top Gun 51 recognizes premier leaders in the indirect IT and telecom channel. The criteria includes advocacy for the channel, commitment to partners’ business success and dedication to earning the channel’s trust.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes Tuszik tick.

Channel Futures: Partners like you. What’s your secret sauce?

Oliver Tuszik: I don’t believe I have a secret sauce. It’s more like having pretty simple principles. It’s about being focused — and we love this, especially at this time. You’re not able to do 100 good things; you’re only able to do a handful with the passion and dedication to have an impact.

Oliver Tuszik of Cisco is part of Channel Partners/Channel Futures’ 2020 Top Gun 51. This program recognizes today’s channel executives who build and execute channel programs that drive partner, customer and supplier success. So check out the full list.

Also, in this job, having been a partner, thinking like a partner is a great advantage. Whenever you’re in a job you’re trying to think like a customer — and, my customer is the partner, no doubt. It’s helpful if you understand the basics, the logic, what’s important.

Then, one piece is not me, but Cisco, and I’m doubling down on this one. It’s being predictable, reliable and open, honest and direct. Sometimes you see companies dealing with change and feel like they should be careful about telling the partner, which I believe is wrong. I think that you have to be open and honest. These are professional companies with very senior managers, very experienced people. Having a very clear message which is sent out as early as possible is important.

That’s what we did a few years ago. Telling partners that change is coming, and we don’t know exactly how it will look. We don’t know how fast we need to implement it, but it will happen without a doubt, and we want to do it together with you.

It’s all about perform and transform. There’s a tendency for big vendors to focus on all the new stuff, what’s coming next and what the analysts like to hear. But the way we look at it at Cisco – and it’s become a mantra even within Cisco – is not to forget performing while thinking about the transformation.

And, in the time of COVID-19, there was a shift on perform, and helping customers to survive. And with partners, we did an amazing thing focusing on the daily business. But on the other side, nothing has …

accelerated the transformation like COVID-19. Changes that were already happening got on steroids.

One more thing, that’s maybe more personal: Being a leader, being a role model is key. You cannot expect anything from your partners, you cannot expect anything from your team that you’re not delivering yourself at a 120% level.

CF: In your two years as Cisco’s global channel chief, you’ve been there for two significant events: leading partners through Cisco’s transformation and the pandemic. Talk about your role and what it’s been like through these times.

OT: I would say that this is the best role you can have at Cisco. Maybe Chuck’s role is better. But in the end, when you’re working in the partner role, you have contact with everything that’s happening at Cisco. You have the full portfolio. You’ve got all the routes to market — whether that’s by distributor, service provider, small company or big company, managed service. You get to deal with everything.

My role is amazing. I can influence the force multiplier within Cisco, which are the partners. We do 90% of our business with partners — and we stick by this. People ask that because of COVID-19, will this change? No.

COVID-19 showed us that we were faster in reacting, faster working in the new normal, faster adapting to changes. The phases that different countries were going through [because of COVID] weren’t all happening at the same time. This ability to localize, still delivering global standards, is a strength we have together with partners.

This is why I love my job.

I can see the value. I can prove the value of partners. And I can utilize it to the benefit of Cisco. And don’t get me wrong, I’m paid for and working for Cisco. But Cisco and I understand that partner success is our success.

So, back to the Cisco transformation, something that Chuck started about five years ago — the shift to software, the shift to recurring subscription. And he continues adding on to this.

He’s not driving this change because he had a funny idea overnight, but because he’s listening to customers and he’s listening to partners. This transformation was something that was happening when I came, but I made it the No. 1 priority for partners without forgetting the daily business.

When COVID-19 happened, our perform and transform strategy was the perfect fit to react to it. It was more about new buying centers and new ways of delivering, so the managed services had started already.

It’s more about customer value and managing the entire customer life cycle. And, last but not least, everything becoming more intelligent, software-driven, the software-defined network, software development based on DevNet. All of these areas got a boost during COVID-19.

Don’t get me wrong; the time that COVID-19 hit was horrible for us, and all of our customers and partners. There were a lot of things that were shocking to see. On the other side – and we’re not done with COVID-19 – we accepted this and we’re in it, and it doesn’t feel like a crazy new thing anymore.

What we saw was that staying together with our partners is stronger than ever before.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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