By Chad Berndtson
Keith Goodwin's seven-year run as Cisco (NSDQ:CSCO)'s global channel chief will be remembered for Cisco's transition from a partner-friendly vendor with solid programs to a channel powerhouse that now has solution-provider partnering engrained in its overall go-to-market approach.
That was the consensus among a range of Cisco solution providers interviewed by CRN Monday following confirmation by Cisco that Goodwin, Cisco's senior vice president, worldwide partner organization (WWPO), will be retiring at the end of Cisco's fiscal year.
"Channel is embedded in who they are now," said Mike Greaney, vice president of sales for Force 3, a Crofton, Md.-based solution provider. "The Cisco world, the Cisco supply chain and all of their go-to-market strategies now include the channel. He deserves a lot of that credit, and I think his legacy will be that he put channel on the map for Cisco from a mindshare standpoint."
Cisco on Monday confirmed that Goodwin will step down at the end of July, capping off seven years as Cisco's global channel chief, 13 years at Cisco, and 38 years in IT. Moving into the top WWPO role as Goodwin's replacement will be Bruce Klein, currently Cisco's senior vice president, U.S. public sector.
Goodwin presided over the Cisco channel during big transitions in both Cisco as a corporate entity and in the industry as a whole, including the widening customer embrace of cloud, mobility and video solutions. Though the WWPO has had its share of stumbles, partners were unanimous in describing Goodwin as having done a lot to turn Cisco into the channel-savvy organization it is now.
"I'm a little shocked and a little disappointed, because he has been the cornerstone for who Cisco is when it comes to the importance of the channel," said Waheed Choudhry, president and COO at Nexus Integration Services, a Valencia, Calif.-based solution provider. "He's been a tremendous partner to the community, and he drove a lot of the value of certifications and the rigor Cisco puts partners through to make sure delivery of a Cisco solution, end-to-end, is good for the customer."
"I'm shocked that he's retiring," said Jay Kirby, vice president, network sales at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider. "I thought he was really getting comfortable in the role, and I was very confident that he was focused on driving value to the partner community."
Jeff Sessions, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Red River, a Claremont, N.H.-based solution provider, said Cisco (NSDQ:CSCO) was clear about making
partners a priority, and it showed in both Goodwin-led programs and how Cisco leaders responded to channel feedback.
"He did a great job," Sessions said. "They made sure the partners had a healthy respect from inside Cisco and that they knew where we were playing. I'm sure that had a lot to do with Keith."
Gary Berzack, COO and CTO of eTribeca, a New York-based solution provider, said Goodwin had put together a strong channel team as well as inspired better, more supportive discussion between Cisco representatives and channel partners.
"Keith was a good steward. He was clear, precise and supportive of the partners," Berzack said. "They acted strongly as a team. There used to be a wall between partners, and Cisco badged employees where if you were at an event and didn't already know each other, they didn't talk to you. But at every Cisco event, I have seen friendlier partner engagement and a lighter, less business-like approach."
"Keith has always been a great friend to ePlus and a great channel leader for Cisco," added Mark Melvin, CTO of ePlus, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider. "We will miss him."
As Klein transitions into Goodwin's role -- he will report to Rob Lloyd, Cisco EVP, worldwide operations, and remain based in Herndon, Va. -- he won't have to look too far to find fans in the channel.
Many partners who know Klein already, particularly major public sector-facing solution providers and integrators, describe him as a strong and approachable sales leader.
"He knows public sector so well, and one of the problems that usually occurs when [vendors] create channel programs is that they don't understand public sector, and that's where they get into trouble," said Red River's Sessions. "Most anything you'd be able to do in public sector can transition well to the commercial side, and you can't say that about commercial-to-public. Bruce knows the drivers for large-scale business models and he has a healthy respect for what we bring to market."
"We've known Bruce for many years, and our reaction to this is very positive," said Force 3's Greaney. "Bruce has been there for all of the years Keith was on it, and he's embraced a lot of the changes and programs that Keith tried to put in place. He really does see the channel as an extension of Cisco's sales arm and he embraces that. He's also the kind of guy you can get an audience with and have a non-emotional business conversation with. We've found him very direct and candid about what he can and can't do."
Lumenate's Kirby described Klein as "very personable and well spoken" but agreed with some partners that it will take time for him to get his arms around a global role with such varied channel partners.
"I always felt that Bruce knew his business and did a great job delivering that vision and
message," Kirby said. "The only concern I would have is how well does he know the commercial and enterprise markets. The government and K-12 space is a lot different. In the end, I am sure he will surround himself with a strong team that can help mentor him in that space."
"Bruce has done right by us," said eTribeca's Berzack. "I think that, operating from the government side, he's a little bit more of an outsider looking in at some level, so he can bring in some fresh insights and re-invigorate things. He's paid his dues, and in our experience he's been fair and even-handed."
Berzack recalled how Klein's team stepped in during what he described as a "sticky situation" with a government customer, and he not only organized Cisco (NSDQ:CSCO) operations managers to help him but also kept watch on the matter.
"Bruce affected it and monitored it during a three to six month period," Berzack explained. "He was able to remove stumbling blocks."
Nexus IS' Choudhry said his team got to know Klein as it expanded its state and local government and education (SLED) market business, which now accounts for about one- third of Nexus' revenue.
"We put a very strong vertical focus in to Nexus around 2005, and we've seen nothing but growth in the space," he said. "We've clearly shown that we can drive a lot of value in that segment, and Cisco and Bruce and his leadership organization have demonstrated the partner is important. I fully expect he'll bring that vision to the [global] role and we're excited to see it."