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Cisco collaboration group loses another top executive

Tom Puorro left the Cisco collaboration group this week to become an executive vice president at Plantronics. He is the latest in a series of top executives to leave the unit in recent months.

Tom Puorro, a vice president and general manager in Cisco's unified communications division, has left the company for a high-level position at Plantronics, capping a year of nearly complete turnover among the unit's top leaders.

This week, Puorro started his new job as executive vice president and general manager of group systems at Plantronics, which owns Cisco rival Polycom. Before joining Plantronics, Puorro ran Cisco's calling and collaboration endpoint businesses and managed the acquisition of BroadSoft this year.

The leadership changes suggest that Amy Chang -- the newly hired senior vice president in charge of the Cisco collaboration group -- is taking the unit in a fresh direction, although she has yet to outline her vision publicly. Chang declined an interview request through a spokesperson.

Chang had no prior experience in the unified communications and collaboration industry when she replaced Rowan Trollope in May. Trollope, who left to become CEO of contact center vendor Five9, had led the collaboration group since 2012 and oversaw the development of the platform now known as Cisco Webex Teams.

Before joining Cisco, Chang had founded a relationship intelligence company, Accompany, and oversaw advertising measurement and reporting products at Google.

"It appears that the culture is changing. How it is changing is unclear," said Dave Michels, principal analyst at TalkingPointz. "Regardless, one must conclude that the amount of experience and know-how that has walked out the door in the past few months weakens Cisco."

A few months after Trollope's exit, Jonathan Rosenberg announced he was also leaving Cisco. Rosenberg, a co-author of Session Initiation Protocol, had served as CTO of the Cisco collaboration group for five years.

In a tweet, Rosenberg said his replacement, longtime Cisco employee Cullen Jennings, would focus on "horizon 3 projects," a reference to the development of new, innovative products. "My passion is on current product and vision," Rosenberg tweeted.

"At a high level, most of this [leadership turnover] was predictable due to Rowan Trollope's departure," Michels said. "Whenever there is a major change in leadership, there's lots of fallout because of two reasons -- culture change and the new leader wants to build their own team."

Sri Srinivasan, general manager of the Webex collaboration suite, and Lorrissa Horton, who serves under Srinivasan as general manager of Webex Teams and Jabber, both joined Cisco from Microsoft in 2018 -- Srinivasan in March, Horton in July.

Meanwhile, OJ Winge, who founded Acano and headed Cisco's video collaboration unit, and Snorre Kjesbu, who ran the company's IP phone business, were among the collaboration leaders to depart in 2018.

The staff shuffling raises questions about a potential shift in direction for Cisco, although the only significant roadmap divergence articulated this year was a renewed commitment to on-premises products, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research.

In an emailed statement, Chang said Cisco's collaboration business was up 18% this year. "Our collaboration leadership, progress on [interoperability] with Microsoft, Apple, Google and others, and acquisition of BroadSoft is changing the collaboration landscape and making a huge impact with our customers," she said.

At the BroadSoft Connections conference in November, Puorro sought to quiet any whispering about the leadership changes during a briefing with analysts and reporters.

"A lot of moving parts for us," Puorro said last month. "It's not a bad thing; it's just change."

Puorro's position is now vacant. Chang will oversee his unit until she hires a replacement, a Cisco spokesperson said.

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