Cisco partner marketing organization gets new chief

Sherri Liebo takes over as Cisco partner marketing chief, stepping into a setting in which partners are clamoring for more demand generation support.

Sherri Liebo today became the new vice president of global partner marketing at Cisco Systems Inc., where she previously held the job of vice president of services marketing.

Liebo, a Cisco employee since 2005, replaced Amanda Jobbins, who held the position until October 2012.

Industry reaction to Liebo's appointment is positive. "It's very exciting that Cisco is filling this role. We're seeing partner marketing continuing to take a central role in the success of partnering models," said Diane Krakora, CEO of PartnerPath, a channels management services company in Mountain View, Calif.

Moving from selling 'back office' to 'front office' solutions is not an easy transition, especially for those who have built very healthy businesses focused on the data center.

Tiffani Bova,
vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner Inc.

According to Krakora, Liebo is stepping into an environment where partners are clamoring for more support in generating demand. They don't necessarily want Cisco to provide leads, but they do want to leverage Cisco marketing know-how and funds to increase awareness and interest among their customers and prospects.

As the new Cisco partner marketing head, Liebo's job responsibilities are to make sure Cisco drives the right marketing mix to help partners be successful in selling and marketing Cisco technology.

Right out of the gate, Liebo said she's excited about Cisco Marketing Velocity 2013, a marketing professional event taking place in Cannes, France on April 16-18.

"It's a great opportunity for the [Cisco] partner marketing team … to connect with their peers in the partner organization and together figure out how we accelerate and amplify the marketing mix not only from Cisco to its partners, but [also] through the partner's marketing organization," she said.

The new vice president of global partner marketing is also excited to help better synchronize and make more efficient marketing between Cisco and its partners, specifically solution providers and service providers offering as-a-service products to customers.

"This is no longer a business of selling just to IT. Today, solution providers must consider buyers, such as the chief marketing officer, who are driving innovation and growth in their businesses with solutions that improve customer engagements," said Tiffani Bova, vice president and distinguished analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "Moving from selling 'back office' to 'front office' solutions is not an easy transition, especially for those who have built very healthy businesses focused on the data center."

Initially tapped in 2005 to drive the creation of Cisco's Smart Care Service -- purpose-built technical support and services for partners in the midmarket -- Liebo has for the past two years run global services marketing, a $10-billion business for Cisco, and one she describes as being very partner-friendly and collaborative.

About a year ago, at the Cisco Partner Summit 2012, the company launched a new global services partner program designed to accelerate Cisco channel partners' sales, revenue and profit.

The Cisco global partner services program continues to gain traction, Krakora said. The vendor has been aggressively rolling out the program and initiatives, with some traction in North America, Western Europe and India/Australia.

"There is still some confusion around the different service offerings (Smart Services, Collaborative Services) and the routes to market (what does distribution have and do). But overall, we're seeing a more cohesive story and enhanced execution on this program than we have in the last five years," Krakora said.

Prior to her career at Cisco, Liebo worked for 16 years at Hewlett-Packard Co., the last two years of which she was the director of partner marketing.

With the various acquisitions Cisco has made over the past six months, Gartner's Bova said that there are many changes in store for its entire channel ecosystem. Broadening Cisco's portfolio with more orchestration, management and analytics capabilities will require solution providers to invest in software-driven solutions more so than they are today.

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