Cisco gave an update on its cloud marketplaces growth, and incoming channel sales leader Rodney Clark spent time with partners and media.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

November 8, 2023

5 Min Read
Cisco Partner Summit sales alignment with partner
Left to right: Cisco's Jeff Sharritts, Rodney Clark and Oliver Tuszik on stage at Cisco Partner Summit in Miami Beach, Florida, Nov. 7, 2023.

CISCO PARTNER SUMMIT — Cisco compensation and incentives are shifting for the company's internal sellers as the IT giant seeks to drive "greater and tighter alignment" with its community of channel partners.

Cisco chief partner officer Jeff Sharritts gave partners a glimpse into Cisco's internal plans to meet its goal of double-digit booking growth in the upcoming fiscal year. Those plans include a series of global growth sprints tailored to specific customer accounts. Cisco account team members can see those sprints on Cisco's internal platform and channel partners can view data about specific accounts on their Partner Experience Platform (PXP). Moreover, Cisco direct sellers are getting new incentives that encourage them to work tightly with partners on these goals and jointly capture a "a massive renewal opportunity," Sharritts said.

"We have some big goals ahead this year, and we need to be greater together to achieve them. We all know the best way to do that is make sure we align our incentives and compensation to make that happen," Sharritts said on stage at Cisco Partner Summit.

On the partner side of Cisco compensation changes, MSPs are getting a chance for more profit in network management. Cisco earlier this year announced that its cloud-based Meraki platform could manage Catalyst switches. Cisco networking leader Jonathan Davidson said Cisco's life cycle incentive program lets partners earn more money activating select Catalyst switches when they manage them through Meraki.

Cisco announced three new security suites and new modules for its full-stack observability platform on Tuesday.

Celebrating Wins at Cisco Partner Summit

Sharritts said Cisco was conducting approximately 50% of its business through partners when he joined the company in 2000. That number ticked up to 92% last quarter, he said.

"Our partner ecosystem and all of the unique roles you play is our single biggest differentiator in the market. Full stop," he said.

And Cisco partners are playing a key role in some of Cisco's most strategic areas. Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins said 90% of security bookings and 85% of software bookings are coming through the partner community.

Cisco's Chuck Robbins

"While I know it's been painful along the way at times and it probably still is in certain areas, we are so grateful for that. And we appreciate all you do," Robbins said.

The vendor is eyeing an opportunity to increase the amount of business it does with partners in full-stack observability (FSO), as the company seeks to displace vendors such as Datadog, Dynatrace and New Relic. General manager of applications Liz Centoni said 35% of Cisco's biggest FSO involved channel partners.

"Let's take this as a challenge. Next year when I'm back up here, let's celebrate that 90% of our big deals involve you," Centoni told the audience. She added that Cisco's FSO solutions specialization is growing faster than any of its contemporaries.

Cloud Marketplaces

Go to any enterprise IT conference, and the topic of hyperscaler marketplaces will inevitably come to the fore. Security competitor Crowdstrike recently touted its $1 billion-plus presence on AWS marketplace, and and other vendors such as Okta and Trend Micro have championed their presence on similar platforms.

And Cisco is seeing that growth as well, although the company was admittedly "a bit late to the party," according to Cisco EMEA leader and outgoing global channel sales leader Oliver Tuszik. Cisco saw 74% growth in marketplace last quarter as well as a three-times increase in its partners engaging on cloud marketplaces year-over-year.

Moreover, Cisco is increasing its presence on marketplaces as a result of customer demand, Tuszik said.

"The amount of customers that come to us and say, 'I want to do it this way,' is pretty huge and is growing, and we will react to this demand. We need to be there where our customers want to buy our stuff," he told a roundtable of press and analysts on Tuesday.

For Canalys chief analyst Jay McBain, who has hailed marketplaces as one of the biggest trends impacting partners, Cisco's measured approach to marketplaces is actually a feather in its channel cap.

Canalys' Jay McBain

"The whole point of being the No. 1 channel vendor in the world is not being out in front of your blocking. Just let the industry trends take hold," McBain told Channel Futures. "Listen to analysts and listen to the press, and get a hold on what the next 10 years will be. But don't get out ahead of it."

Rodney Clark

Cisco on Monday announced that Rodney Clark will serve as its senior vice president of partnerships and small and medium business. Clark most recently worked at Johnson Controls, but his channel notoriety comes from long stints at Microsoft and IBM. Sharritts pointed to Clark's outsider perspective as one of the reasons Cisco picked him to replace Oliver Tuszik.

"He has a great deal of knowledge about the Cisco ecosystem and what it's meant over the last 25 years, and a great deal of respect for everything that we've done in this room. But he's not beholden to our past. And I think he's going bring a real fresh perspective to the role moving forward," Sharritts said.

While Clark's job at Cisco technically starts in January, he appeared on stage with Sharritts and Tuszik and later sat in on a media briefing. During that Q&A, he fielded a question about his time at Microsoft that saw the vendor roll out several sweeping changes, including a move to a points-based system.

Clark said he joined Cisco because of its reputation of working with channel partners, calling the vendor "one of the best if not the best ecosystem in the industry."

"I''m here is because I'm excited to dig in, learn from and work with all of our partners. I can't comment on the past. I'll let the folks at Microsoft comment on the steps and stages they went through," Clark said. "My focus is on making sure that our focus on being a partner-led company is felt by every single partner that we touch."

Cisco is hosting Cisco Partner Summit in Miami Beach this week.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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