Cisco's Rodney Clark Dishes on Splunk, Partners, Channel Evolution

Clark, who officially started his job at Cisco three months ago, sat down for an interview with Channel Futures.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

April 12, 2024

6 Slides

Recently appointed Cisco channel leader Rodney Clark said his team is conducting more research into how end customers are perceiving Cisco's channel partners.

Cisco announced last fall that Clark would join the company as senior vice president of partnerships and small and medium business. Now officially three months into his job, Clark is immersing himself in a variety of conversations and initiatives at the IT vendor.

The initiative getting the headlines is Cisco's recently completed $28 billion acquisition of Splunk. Clark said Cisco is seeking to accomplish "three or four milestones" for integrating its partner program with Splunk's by November. In the meantime, he said the vendors are "operating on their own paper" when partners sell them.

"Our goal is to ensure that every Splunk partner that's a part of the Splunk partner program today is enabled to engage and do business the very same way that they do today between now and the time where we fully integrate Splunk into our back-end systems and things like pricing lists," Clark told Channel Futures in an interview at the company's office in Bellevue, Washington, this week.

Cisco's Rodney Clark Talks End Users

Clark's job title looks different from that of his predecessor, Oliver Tuszik. Whereas Tuszik was senior vice president of global partner sales and general manager of global routes to market, Clark is SVP of partnerships and SMB.

The change doesn't seem to be as much in function as it is in what it communicates to the external world. Clark said when he told non-Cisco people that he was going to own routes to market with the provider, they didn't understand the term.

"Those of us who are close to this all day, every day, know what that means. But to the average person externally – to a midsize customer in Alabama – what does route to market mean? All of this [change] was in terms saying in my title what we do: We drive partnerships, and we drive SMB."

Clark said he thinks about the SMB in his job title as "more than just a customer segment."

"For me, it's a proxy on how we leverage the scale of partners to address a set of customers," he told Channel Futures. "... How am I building a set of resources that can address the scale of our ecosystem, do it in a way that is low-touch and high-volume, and do it in a way that's that's low-cost and high-value."

Cisco brought Clark on in part because of his ability to challenge traditional thinking at the vendor. Clark worked for 20 years at Microsoft, often operating in overlapping circles with Cisco but bringing with him an external perspective.

"To succeed in this role, you have to understand our legacy, but you can’t be beholden to it," Cisco chief partner officer Jeff Sharritts said last year.

Clark said key feedback about Cisco's channel strategy will come from from the people its channel partners serve: end customers.

"I talk very openly about evolving our channel. We've come from this transactional hardware company to this age of AI, cloud and marketplace," he said. "In my first three months, we're really challenging each other to ensure that we're delivering on what the end customer really wants through our partner."

In the slideshow above, Channel Futures shares six highlights from its interview with Clark, including multiple angles of the Cisco-Splunk partner program integration.

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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