Coming into this week’s Cisco Partner Summit in Miami, one of the biggest storylines was who exactly would be the event’s show from now on. In August, the company announced that longtime global channel chief Oliver Tuszik was being promoted to head up the company’s EMEA operations. But who exactly would take Tuszik’s place? The company was mum, leading to speculation they’d unveil their new channel leader live at the event.
But the company crashed its own party, announcing on Monday as partners arrived in Miami that former Microsoft global channel chief Rodney Clark will take over for Tuszik as the new senior vice president of partnerships and small and medium business. Clark comes to Cisco from his most recent role as chief revenue officer for Johnson Controls, a Cisco partner in its own right.
Making an appearance on the main stage alongside Tuszik and Cisco chief customer and partner officer Jeff Sharrits, Clark said he joined Cisco because it’s “a partner-led company,” a promise Tuszik has made in just about every presentation he made as channel chief.
“That’s why I’m here,” Clark told Partner Summit attendees. “I have 20-plus years of working directly with the channel, and there’s one thing that was true then and is true now, and that’s that we need each other to bring value to our customers.”
His comments nodded to the event’s theme of “Greater Together.”
Though Clark has been announced for the role, he doesn’t take on the position until next year. Until January, the partner organization will continue to be under the watchful eye of Tuszik, serving in the role he held for more than five years on an acting basis.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in the last five years. I’ll never stop being a partner-focused leader because that’s how we win,” Tuszik told attendees in his final Partner Summit keynote as channel organization boss.
Tuszik was a Cisco partner, then leader of Cisco Germany before leading Cisco’s worldwide partner organization. A memorable personality with his German accent and impressive beard, he led Cisco through most of the company’s transformation from a traditional networking vendor to a company based on software, subscriptions, and services. He championed a model he called “perform and transform” that incentivized partners both for their business today and their preparations for future business models.
In a meeting with press and analysts after the keynote, Tuszik said he was proudest of how his team and his partners got through “the great crisis” of the Covid pandemic by coming together.
“It was tough, but seeing what we could do together was amazing,” Tuszik reflected. “We pumped a lot of money into our partners to help them survive.”
Clark will take the helm in year two of what Tuszik declared last year as “the age of the partner” for Cisco and the industry more broadly, an era where the vendor is expanding the number of partners it works with and where it’s actively promoting the extra benefits customers get by working with multiple partners, including in many cases what Cisco calls “non-transacting partners,” to maximize the value of a solution.
Tuszik said this relatively new model has seen 36 percent growth in the last half-year in his keynote. Tuszik noted that multi-partner deals were up to 6x bigger than traditional partner-led deals, and software attach doubled when more partners were involved.
It will fall on Clark to help guide the future of these ecosystems of partners and how Cisco works with various new categories of partners. And there are other significant changes for the company’s partners simultaneously. The company continues to push hard on managed services as a key route to market company-wide, and the company is spending a lot of time at Partner Summit talking about how AI will add value across its vast portfolio.
“[Cisco CEO] Chuck [Robbins], Jeff [Sharrits] and Rodney will all continue this motion and this focus on you because partnering is part of our DNA, Tuszik said.