Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins on stage at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego

Published: March 2nd, 2016

SAN DIEGO, CA. – Cisco executive chairman John Chambers is not at the Cisco Partner Summit this week, but you can still sense his spirit around the halls of the San Diego Convention Center.

But things are not the same. You can feel it. Chuck Robbins is in charge and with that comes some noticeable differences. What I took from Robbins first keynote address as CEO are two things: fast and simple. You could see it right away in the keynote hall. The audience was smaller in number but getting to your seat was made easier. There were floating panels of inspiring photos with the theme of partnership. Live orchestral music was playing in the background instead of hard rock blaring from speakers.

Chambers would always walk the aisles as he was delivering his speech. Robbins stuck to the stage and this approach mirrors what is happening in the market place with the digital trend.

As organizations start or further their journey in digital transformation, Robbins said customers are moving from treating technology as a fundamental strategy to a service and the CIOs and Line of Business decision makers are under pressure because of the cloud and are moving faster. Being fast is one of Robbins’ mantras.

“Technology is no longer a cost centre but an enabler of the business,” he said.

As an example Robbins told the story of a mining company and an elevator company who changed their way of thinking to move faster. Instead of thinking about servicing one mine; they are thinking of 100 mines. The elevator company might make one elevator at a time but its strategy is based on thousands of elevators.

The strategy of placing Cisco security into everything the company does is also part of being fast and simple too. Cisco security will be in An-As-Service model. Company channel chief Wendy Bahr said the partner strategy is too based on simplicity and alignment. There are 10,000 skus in the Value Incentive Program (VIP) and Bahr realizes that needs to be streamlined. Now Bahr could have overhauled the partner program but instead is working to deliver what essentially is a series of tweaks so that the channel team can move faster.

The big announcement of HyperFlex Systems is not just a standalone but part of a broader offering called Cisco Multi-Cloud Architecture.

Even Cisco’s financial structure was addressed. Kelly Kramer, Cisco CFO, was on stage which indicates that the company is no longer beating around the bush about money. This is the first time a Cisco CFO delivered a keynote address at Partner Summit. They know revenue is shifting to re-occurring revenue streams and those types of transactions need to be addressed by Cisco and its partner base.

Kramer introduced two new Cisco Capital programs; one of them is called Easy Pay, can’t get any simpler than that.

And, finally there will be two Cisco Partner Summits in 2016 and the reason for that is to better align with the 20,000 Cisco sales reps. Bahr said instead of waiting 10 months to launch the partner’s new go-to-market strategy with Cisco they can do it right away. Again that move makes things faster and simpler for channel partners.

I’m not sure if Chambers plans on attending Version 2.0 of the 2016 Cisco Partner Summit, but if he does I wonder if he’ll notice the differences?

One quick hit before I go. CDN has learned that Walter Andri, the president of Avaya Canada has left the company. No word yet on who is being tapped to replace him.