New ANZ Cisco head shakes up management

Les Williamson has already made some 'spiritual and alignment changes'

New Cisco Systems Australia and New Zealand managing director Les Williamson has jumped from the frying pan and is nearly 50 days into the fire.

Until August, the eight-year Cisco veteran was in charge of the global networking giant’s lucrative but demanding business with its biggest local customer, Telstra. Now his work life has become a lot more complex. He has taken the reins of one of the largest technology suppliers in Australia from his former boss, Ross Fowler.

In his first interview since his appointment, Williamson says he hasn’t wasted any time in shaking up Fowler’s old management team. “I’ve already made some spiritual and alignment changes,” he says.

Williamson has moved Cisco’s former New Zealand country manager David Barker from his local public sector role and installed him in the Telstra hot seat. He has also created several new senior business development positions responsible for “higher level” discussions with the company’s corporate and telco customers.

He says Cisco’s long-term position leading the computer networking pack means it has “earned the right” to have a different conversation with its customers, not just around the basic supply of hardware and services but also on issues such as the environment, the national broadband debate and the technology skills crisis.

Cisco’s latest local accounts filed with the Australian financial regulator show Williamson has inherited a growing business. The company pulled in revenues of A$788 million (NZ$924 million) in the year to July 30, 2006. According to Cisco’s global chief financial officer Dennis Powell, the local operation was slated to grow by about 25% in the year to July 30 2007, beating growth levels of about 10% the previous year.

Williamson won’t give much detail about Cisco’s local financials. He also won’t talk about Cisco’s ongoing legal action to recover A$55 million from the demise of telco One.Tel.

After winning big deals with both Telstra and Optus, Williamson believes the large telcos will keep throwing money the way of Cisco and its rivals because the sector is in a transition phase.

“I think they’re going to continue to invest, but it will be in different areas,” he says.

For example, he points to the growing appetite for video by telcos, an area Cisco has been talking up in the last year. Cisco’s other areas of focus in the year ahead will be the small to medium business sector, as well as selling more video and communications products to enterprises.

Australian Financial Review

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