How does Cisco channel chief Keith Goodwin spend the night before the kickoff of Cisco’s annual partner conference? Eating dinner with Chairman and CEO John Chambers.
The tradition goes back several years, and Chambers uses the time to quiz Goodwin on everything that’s going on with Cisco’s channel partners, Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Organization, told members of the press during a Q&A session Tuesday at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego.
This year, Chambers was curious to know whether Cisco’s massive efforts to simplify the ways it works with partners have had an impact.
“I was talking to him last night at dinner about ease of doing business and so he asked me the question on how partners feel about ease of doing business. I said, ‘Well, based on our various advisory forums, I think if you asked a group of partners, what you would hear is a fairly significant percentage would say that we’ve made some progress but they would also say that we’ve just started the journey,’” Goodwin said.
Chambers decided to put it to the test during his keynote session the next morning, where he did indeed ask partners for a show of hands on how many felt the San Jose, Calif.-based company is in fact now easier to do business with.
“He seemed satisfied with that answer but obviously he wanted to ask the question directly,” Goodwin said with a smile.
As it turned out, the audience was pretty evenly split between those that saw improvements, those that thought nothing had changed and those that felt the company was harder to do business with.
Solution providers we’ve spoken with during the show gave Cisco mixed marks along similar lines: some say they have seen an impact in the field while others said they haven’t seen improvement. Few if any said Cisco is harder to do business with now than it was a year ago, but I think Goodwin will take that as a win.
“I think I would grade us positively in the sense that we’re making significant investments … There have been some quick wins that we’ve established,” Goodwin said when asked how he would rate Cisco’s progress thus far. “On the other hand, it is a journey because some of the things we need to do to be simpler and easier to do business with require process change and system change within Cisco. That takes a little bit longer … [Those investments] can’t yet be seen by the partners but we are absolutely investing and prioritizing as a company much more than we have in the past.”