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Interview: Cisco's Suzanne Hansen

11 Nov 10

After 12 years with Cisco Suzanne Hansen, Senior Manager ANZ Commercial Marketing, knows the Australia and New Zealand channel inside out. She’s worked on both sides of the Tasman but now prefers to do it all by high-tech, Cisco-powered video conferencing.

What was Cisco like to work for 12 years ago?

12 years ago Cisco was one room of engineers who didn’t do anything with the channel. My first job was to set up a channel in New Zealand. We went from a distribution situation where we had something like $250,000.00 of revenue. We took on two distributors, Ingram Micro and Express Data, and in the first year we had US$20 million. It kind of all went from there.

We’ve got gold partners, Tier 2 partners, SMB partners and we stuck with that for a number of years and then in 2004 I went over to Sydney to run the Australia, New Zealand channel.

Were there any noticeable differences between the way Australia did things compared to New Zealand?

Yes, there were actually. Australia was a lot further down the line to what New Zealand was with partners. But New Zealand tends to ‘do’ whereas Australians tend to have a lot of ‘means’. I got told in my first few weeks to stop doing so much. It was an interesting cultural change. They had a complete channel with lots of options where here it was a much smaller channel for us.

Did you take any of that New Zealand approach over to Australia? 

Once we got the channel set up, we didn’t sell anything direct. Australia was a lot more about touching the customers directly, pretty much using the channel as fulfilment. So we took that culture in terms of the channel leading the sale.

What’s happening now is that is Australia and Asia Pacific have decided that they’re going to go very heavily channel led. So now instead of touching end users we are going to be behind the channel pushing it to the end user. It’s now gone the complete step.

New Zealand took a culture of really depending on the channel to Australia and Australia started building that culture. Now what’s going on in the whole region is that we’re becoming very channel led as opposed to direct touch, because we can’t scale to touch everybody that we need to touch.

How did your new role come about?

It’s because we’re partner led now and a big part of that is going to be setting those partners up marketing-wise. Most of our marketing was around setting the end user preference and things like networkers and trade shows and branding. Now this new organisation that I’ve taken lead on for Australia and New Zealand is very much around funding partners to do things.

They’re building the budget up for marketing quite heavily into the partners so we have a lot more funds than we ever did, even in the end user marketing, which is now being thrown into the partners. It’s a really interesting change for us.

How many partners do you currently have in New Zealand?

There are five gold partners and up to around a couple of hundred through distribution. It’s a really long tail.

And has that figure gone up and down over your 12 years of service?

We’re really over-represented in qualified partners in New Zealand and five gold partners are quite heavy for a small country like New Zealand. In Australia I think they have 11 gold partners.

Why do you think that is?

I don’t know, maybe it’s because we’re so remote and we’ve had to do a lot of things. I think New Zealanders are very early adopters; a lot of technology that our partners are selling in New Zealand is extremely bleeding-edge.

With airports and also with NZ Police, we did the first integrated emergence response system over IPTel in the southern hemisphere in New Zealand. And that’s because out partners led us into that. And we recently made a bunch of announcements around Eden Park and what we’re doing there.

What can you tell us about the Eden Park update?

Well the release that Eden Park put out doesn’t really go through what we’re actually doing there – we’re truly doing a stadium of the future. We’re putting a complete immersive experience into corporate boxes so that people sitting there can be talking to athletes, replaying the content and plays as much as they want to customise it for their own viewing. Again all this was partner led by Gen-i and is a first in the southern hemisphere.

We’ve done Eden Park and we’re talking to Otago but I don’t know what the status of that currently is. Because New Zealand stadiums are set up as trusts, they’re individual businesses.

What are your short term goals in your new position?

Now I’m driving an Australian and New Zealand team and the whole point is to put the resources behind the partners that can deliver return on investment; so figuring out who they are and giving them the right resources to go out and represent us.

We need to have them co-brand and set preference for us. We need to have a demand generation mechanism that they can deliver on and create sales. It’s a big project because marketing’s never been important to anybody until recently.

Look out for part two of The Channel’s chat with Hansen next week.

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