Will Cisco Raid Microsoft?
Cisco expects to announce a new North American Channel Chief by February. Will the position go to a Cisco insider — or is it time to raid Microsoft’s channel team to fill the post? Here’s some speculation from The VAR Guy and reaction from Cisco Senior VP Chuck Robbins — who was promoted from the channel chief post to focus on commercial business.
First, some background: During a meeting in December with The VAR Guy, a Cisco partner mentioned that he saw two clear options for Cisco’s North American Channel Chief post: Either promote from within — with VP Wendy Bahr the leading candidate to fill the slot vacated by Robbins’ promotion — or raid Microsoft to fill the post.
The Insider: On the one hand, Bahr’s proven track record at Cisco would provide a smooth transition and stability across Cisco’s North American Channels. According to CRN, she is one of the top 25 most powerful women in the channel.
Not that she throws around that perceived power. When you meet Bahr, she comes across as a down-to-earth, partner-first type executive. As the Cisco partner put it during a chat with The VAR Guy, “Wendy is first in line for the position and has earned the right to be the top internal candidate. Partners really like her.”
The Outsider: Still, reaching into Microsoft for a new North American Channel Chief is a rather intriguing alternative. After all, Cisco and Microsoft are now battling in the Unified Communications and managed services markets. Cisco announced its managed services strategy in October, and CEO John Chambers says the company has a three-year lead over Microsoft in the Unified Communications space.
In order to maintain or even extend that lead, Cisco will need to recruit more software developers to write Unified Communications applications. The “platform” for unified communications, in Chambers’ mind, has to be network-centric rather than Windows server-centric.
And as we all know, Microsoft’s channel and ISV (independent software vendor) partnerships are among the strongest in the world. In order to achieve similar success with ISVs, it would make perfect sense for Cisco to raid Microsoft for some of its channel talent, noted the Cisco partner.
So, what does Cisco think of all this speculation? When asked about Bahr and potential Microsoft candidates, Cisco Senior VP Chuck Robbins offered the following perspective: “Both options [Wendy and a Microsoft veteran] are interesting possibilities and I think both would make sense. When you look externally, you end up with a small pool of people who can deal with the magnitude of what we do. Those are two interesting options for sure — and we all think the world of Wendy internally.”
It’s important to note that Robbins wasn’t confirming that Cisco has actually talked to Microsoft veterans for the position. The VAR Guy threw speculation about Bahr and Microsoft at Robbins — and he provided an on-the-spot reply. It’s a safe bet, The VAR Guy believes, that the candidate list did include at least one or two Microsoft names. A formal announcement about the new North American Channel Chief should arrive by February or so, according to a Cisco spokesman.
In the meantime, Robbins is busy focusing on his new post–continuing to expand Cisco’s US commercial business. After a few business meetings this morning, The VAR Guy will be back later today with a complete recap of his chat with Robbins.