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Cisco sales: burning the whole candle

Recent reorgs, restructurings may have been too much for Mountford and Jobbins

Paul Mountford, head of Cisco's global enterprise sales, and Amanda Jobbins, vice-president of global partner marketing, resign in the same week after a year or so in their new positions. Last month, Cisco announced 1,300 layoffs, most reportedly affecting sales.

A year ago - around the same time Mountford and Jobbins take on the roles they will resign from in the same week - Cisco announces 6,500 layoffs, eliminates over 12,000 company positions, and vows to become leaner and more aggressive during a period of slumping sales and pressured profits.

Coincidence?

Welcome to the world of sales, where those with the stomach and insomnia burn the candle at both ends. More specifically, welcome to the world of Cisco sales, where the entire candle is engulfed.

To say the past year has been a tumultuous one for Cisco would be an understatement. By the company's own reckoning, it was a bit too aggressive in refreshing certain product lines, pursuing adjacent markets and then mismanaging those initiatives. The company got too fat, according to CEO John Chambers, too complacent, too distracted, too indecisive and too slow.

In an effort to right the ship, it cut staff, pared products and markets, vowed a new aggression against competitors like HP and Juniper, and set course on an Accelerated Cisco Transformation Program (ACT), a plan to streamline products, operations and marketing practices to achieve greater efficiencies and growth. The latest layoff of 1,300 in a "limited restructuring" is said to be attributable to ACT, which may implement more reductions before year's end.

Cisco also restructured operations, doing away with the cumbersome and slow-to-decide council management paradigm and retooling sales. This is when Mountford took on leadership of global enterprise sales from his previous responsibilities of leading Cisco's Emerging Markets Theatre.

"Paul had been with Cisco for 16 years and had held many high level positions at Cisco, so while he departed after a short time in his new role, he had been tremendously successful driving Cisco's emerging market strategy," says Gartner IT sales analyst Tiffani Bova.

Jobbin's, meanwhile, replaced Luanne Tierney, who jumped to rival Juniper in a similar position as vice president of global partner marketing in January 2011.

All of this may be taking a toll on Cisco sales. The demands of being more aggressive with less resources means longer hours of courting new accounts, maintaining existing ones, creating more demand and raising quota targets accordingly.

And it all may have been too much for Mountford and Jobbins, both UK natives who expressed desires to return to their homeland for more family time when they resigned. But it shouldn't come as a surprise, despite the timing.

"Hard charging executives who have spent their careers driving change into the complex world of IT sales at some point need a break," says Gartner's Bova. "So with the new year at Cisco and the timing of other long term Cisco veterans retiring and changing positions this is just par for the course."

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