As a former CEO of one of Cisco’s largest global partners in Computacenter Germany, Oliver Tuszik has a unique perspective on the evolving channel ecosystem.
As senior vice president of Global Partner Organisation - recently replacing Wendy Bahr in the role - Tuszik is tasked with managing and supporting more than 60,000 partners across the Cisco network, accounting for 80 per cent of the vendor’s overall revenue.
Such a responsibility spans value-added resellers, system integrators and managed service providers, in addition to independent software vendors, technology partners and distributors.
But spearheading a global channel strategy in 2019 requires more than mere management and support.
The ability to stand on stage and wax lyrical about new programs, initiatives and solutions is a strength, but not the defining quality of a modern-day channel chief. Partners now judge vendors on more than PR and marketing, they require a voice of authority in a market evolving at breakneck pace.
Hence why Tuszik, having worked in the partner trenches for more than a decade, is well placed to deliver a new channel narrative at Cisco.
“Our focus is on perform and transform,” explained Tuszik, when speaking exclusively to Channel Asia in Singapore. “What does performance mean to me? The way a partner runs a business is based on a need to deliver on a number every single day, and so my initial focus was to stabilise and continuously improve the daily business.
“If a partner is not doing well, then it is also up to Cisco to help them achieve their targets through whatever means we can to influence the outcome.”
Tuszik - who also previously led Cisco’s sales in Germany as country leader - acknowledged that the traditional way of running a business now differs to the requirements ahead in the future. Partners, like customers and vendors, must find new ways to adapt through the discovery of in-market growth opportunities.
But as the Asian channel can attest, markets are constantly changing, with new buyers altering requirements in tandem.
Consequently, Tuszik believes transformation takes centre stage. Because while a focus on performance achieves immediate results, maintaining such performance standards requires continuous adaptation and transformation.
“We announced at Partner Summit that we will change a lot of things over the next few years, not because we love change and not because we believe our current program is not good enough,” said Tuszik, “it is because there is a new opportunity which requires a new type of partner engagement.
“We are working on coming up with new programs, but even more importantly our focus is on partner enablement and how we help our partners get into new markets."
Tuszik advised partners to be proactive in ensuring visibility when decision makers make technology purchases, spanning multiple lines of business and solution sets.
“There is an idea based on the full customer lifecycle to create a completely different kind of customer experience,” said Tuszik. “We ensure that our products, together with our partners, create an incredible value that the customer can really see in their business.”
For example, Cisco’s own DevNet program has also seen significant growth as the industry moves towards more software driven solutions.
Specifically, the program is designed to help developers and IT professionals who want to write applications and develop integrations with Cisco products, platforms, and APIs. Currently, the program has approximately 580,000 registered developers around the world, according to Tuszik, developing based on the Cisco platform.
“Perform and transform is the logic behind our entire strategy,” he added.
Prior to joining Cisco in 2013, Tuszik was CEO of Computacenter in Germany, one of Cisco's largest partners. During his tenure, he led the consulting business, managed partner strategy and spent two years running Computacenter's networking and security business.
Tuszik also spent many years in international leadership roles for GE Capital IT Solutions and CompuNet.
“There are a lot of experiences from my time at Computacenter that influence my decision making at Cisco,” said Tuszik. “For a start, I know there’s not only Cisco in this world.”
An obvious observation perhaps, but for the majority of partners across Asia, multiple vendor strategies are commonplace.
“As a partner, you have other vendors with whom you work with and you are responsible for delivering on customer requests," Tuszik observed. "There is a lot of competition. We cannot rest one single day. We need to work on delivering better support, better products and better programs to our partners."
Drawing on experience as a large-scale technology provider, Tuszik is also aware of the importance of partner profitability.
“We’re investing heavily in ensuring that our partners can stay profitable,” said Tuszik, who understands that profitability requires a "joint effort". “There is a part that we can do, but there is also a part that our partners must do.
"As a long-time partner, you also understand the importance of relationship management. You recognise how important relationships are and the importance of the account manager level to the success of the organisation."
When heading up Computacenter, Tuszik viewed Cisco as a "predictable" vendor, a vendor which demonstrated long-term commitment to partners.
Delving deeper from global figures of 80 per cent, across Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China (APJC), 97 per cent of Cisco's business goes through the channel, representing the fastest growing region for the vendor.
Yet despite such a channel-centric approach, Tuszik acknowledged the need to better align activities with the market through improved communication.
"We have strong marketing campaigns,” said Tuszik. “We do wonderful things on enablement, we do country digitisation activities with local governments, we do programs on certain technology, we do a special things on services.
"But on occasions, these activities are un-coordinated, as such, what I will improve, and what I am working on, is orchestrating all the activities so that the partners get aligned, giving them the best support they can get."
While certain themes run through any global strategy, regional level differences also come into consideration in a bid to cater for the unique markets across APJC.
"This is by far the most diverse region,” said Tuszik. “I come from Europe and the difference between the French, Italian, Germans, etc, is nothing compared to the APJC region.
“Across APJC, you have very mature markets such as Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ), huge markets like China and Japan, then markets like Indonesia, Singapore and India. They are all very different."
In assessing the regional landscape, Tuszik sees some markets moving towards more of a service-based consumption model, "so we are support these markets a lot more".
"Markets such as A/NZ are more like the UK and the US, which are very fast moving, with a couple of global players,” added Tuszik.
For example, Tuszik also alluded to different buying behaviours in markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea.
"This is why we drive our partner model," he explained. "The last mile of localisation is done by our partners. Our partners have the capabilities to pick the right mixture of products and sell them as it fits to these markets.
"Our team is doing an excellent job in this region with regards to this localisation strategy, and that is the reason why this region is growing. No matter what jurisdiction, we have different routes to market, which links to the different partner plays."
In markets such as the US and Europe, large-scale players exist. Whereas in APJC, a lot more smaller providers exist, which Tuszik admitted can often create increased levels of innovation.
"These smaller players are moving fast and they need to move fast, they need to adapt,” added Tuszik. “Our partners and the Cisco team are doing a great job here."
Tuszik also has plans on phasing out the vendor’s Services Partner Program (CSPP) over the next two years in a move designed to ensure the entire channel shifts their business models to software and services.
"We have always had a services program, which is enabling and supporting our partners to sell services with a product," he added.
First revealed during Partner Summit in Las Vegas, Tuszik outlined his plans to revamp the vendor’s channel programs, focusing on lifecycle management and customer experience, with remuneration moving to recurring revenue.
As the CSPP is phased out, partners will instead be encouraged to adopt its Lifecycle Advisor offering, a trial program intended to encourage partners to work with customers beyond just product sales.
Furthermore, Cisco will move its services-related rebates to an annuity-based model that measures partners on monthly recurring revenue, expansion growth and renewals.
“With this new customer experience approach, we are trying to manage the entire customer lifecycle of a product,” said Tuszik. “Instead of leaving them with the product, we are helping them.
"For example, if a customer buys a management platform for an Internet-based network, it will need to be configured and set up. We are supporting our partners to help the customer through the entire lifecycle."
The rationale for Cisco, is that if the customer sees the benefits of a new product or solution and the value that it is creating, then the user is more likely to buy additional products or solutions, generating additional service opportunities for partners.
“It is important that our customers see the value of our solutions, and this is what our program revamp is all about,” said Tuszik.
Given that APJC is so diverse, Tuszik said Cisco targets different types of partners depending on the country they serve.
“There is no one kind of partner,” said Tuszik. “The perfect partner for a market like New Zealand might not be the perfect partner for Singapore or Indonesia or India.
“We are looking for partners that can follow us on the perform and transform logic, who do business with us today but are investing in their future with us too."
To put it simply, Tuszik believes that the best partner is one capable of utilising the Cisco portfolio while creating "measurable value" for the customer.
Specific to the health of the ASEAN channel, Tuszik observed a market displaying "great promise" due to the emergence of smaller service providers, rather than dominant global players.
"There is certainly room for growth in regards to the existing partners,” said Tuszik. “There are a lot of companies across ASEAN that are currently investing in new technologies and digitisation, which is especially evident in a market like Singapore.
"I believe there is space for new partners and even new kinds of partners. These partners might not even been classical IT system integrators, for instance, but are technology related."
Tuszik’s goal is not to exchange long-term reliable partners with new ones, but to develop whoever will join the vendor on the transformation journey.
“If partners focus on their current capability, pick an area and create value, I believe they have a huge opportunity in front of them,” added Tuszik.