Cisco Systems' Chief Strategy Officer Ned Hooper, the architect of countless acquisitions over the last dozen years, is leaving Cisco to form a strategic investment company. Hooper has been credited with numerable Cisco acquisitions which have transformed the company from a one-time routing specialist to the dominant networking vendor in the world.
In his blog announcing the departure, CEO John Chambers credited Hooper for the Airespace acquisition, for example, a move that helped Cisco transition from the so-called "fat AP" Wi-FI era to the controller-based, enterprise wireless LAN market. Today Cisco dominates this market, which happens to be growing faster than any other market Cisco participates in. More recent acquisitions led by Hooper include Tandberg (which put Cisco at the top of the video conferencing world) and WebEx (which gave Cisco a dominating position in the web conferencing industry).
Chambers has often said that Cisco's three-pronged approach to handling market transitions and growing market share consists of three elements: "build, buy and partner." Many industry observers would say the "buy" part of that strategy has been Cisco's real money maker, and Hooper was widely regarded as the key leader in these moves. M&A has pushed Cisco into strong market positions in switching, wireless, video and many, many other markets. Despite the occasional miss (Flip cameras), Cisco has a better track record with acquisitions than almost any other technology company. Hooper's departure will be a real test of Cisco's ability to continue its high M&A batting average.
Hooper's departure has triggered some other changes in the executive suite. Senior VP and CTO Padmasree Warrior will take over Hooper's role, expanding her title to chief technology and strategy officer (CTSA?). Hooper's strategy and business development team will now report to her. The multi-billion dollar M&A war chest Cisco has been hoarding is now Warrior's to command.
Warrior, who has been a co-leader of Cisco's engineering organization for the last year, will continue to have a hand in overall technology development within the company. According to Chambers' blog, the CTOs of Cisco's individual business units will report on a "dotted line" to her to enable strong alignment between technology strategy, business strategy and M&A activity. However, overall leadership of Cisco's engineering organization will now be held by Pankaj Patel, senior VP of engineering and general manager of the service provider business. Until now, Patel has shared engineering leadership with Warrior while also leading Cisco's service provider business. Now he is Cisco's top man in the engineering organization.
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On a slightly related note, Barry Sullivan, Cisco's SVP and general manager of collaboration is rumored to be leaving Cisco, which presumably clears the way for O.J. Winge to take over the position. During Cisco Live in San Diego this month, Chambers specifically identified collaboration as a market where Cisco needs to execute better. Sullivan's departure could be evidence that change is afoot in that business unit.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director