Cisco Reorganizes Executive Ranks. Is it a Purge?

Incoming Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins is wasting no time reorganizing Cisco, even before he officially takes over in July.

Today Cisco announced the largest executive reshuffling that I’ve seen in the company’s history, one that sees many big names moved around and at least one well known executive shown the door. At the top level, Cisco’s charismatic CTO Padmasree Warrior is out as CTO, moving into what Cisco politely calls a “strategic advisor role” as executives transition. Edzard Overbeek, SVP of Services, is also being sidelined into a strategic advisor role. To me, that means that two more of the most visible Cisco executives under John Chambers are effectively out of the picture in the Robbins era.

In my experience, both Warrior and Overbeek are visionaries and strategic thinkers. Neither are the single-minded, operationally focused type of executive that the sales-driven Robbins wants in his executive leadership team. Add that to the departure of Cisco President Rob Lloyd, and there is a massive strategic hole at the top of the Cisco executive ranks that will be exceptionally difficult to fill.

Robbins will try, though. Pankaj Patel, for years effectively the lead technical person at Cisco, now gets the title of VP and Chief Development Officer. In my books, he has always been the CTO, and when it comes to all engineering efforts, that is now the case too.

Rebecca Jacoby, one of my all-time favorite IT executives at any company, is moving out of her role as CIO to SVP, Operations. A new CIO will report to Jacoby. In all my interactions with Jacoby, she has demonstrated a keen technical grasp of how things actually work. One of my favorite interviews with her was one I did a few years back talking about IoT. At a time when other vendors were talking about Internet-connected toasters, she cut through the hype to talk reality. Her operational focus on excellence will work well in the Robbins era.

The other piece of the Cisco exec shuffle is Hilton Romanski, who is becoming SVP, CTO and Chief Strategy Officer (effectively taking Warrior’s job). Romanski had been leading Cisco’s acquisition efforts. He’s a Robbins kind of guy, operations- and execution-focused.

I suspect that in the days ahead we’ll hear about more changes (I’d guess layoffs, or “streamlined headcount” in executive-speak) as Robbins continues to make his mark. In some respects, I suspect there is a purge of those that don’t align with Robbins’s vision. In other respects, Robbins was hired for his operations and execution focus, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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