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Chang takes leave from Cisco collaboration unit amid reorganization

Amy Chang, head of the Cisco collaboration division, is on temporary leave from the company. Cisco is in the midst of a broad reorganization.

Amy Chang, a top Cisco executive who has led the company's collaboration division for nearly two years, has taken a leave of absence for an unspecified period.

Chang's time off comes amid a restructuring within Cisco. David Goeckeler, general manager of Cisco's networking and security group, resigned to become CEO of Western Digital. The company took Goeckeler's departure apparently as an opportunity to reorganize into five new product groups.

Under the reorganization, the head of Cisco's collaboration business will no longer report to the CEO. Instead, that person will answer to the leader of the new security and applications group. Cisco said it planned to appoint an executive to oversee the new group in the future.

Sri Srinivasan, general manager of the Webex suite, will run the collaboration division, the company said in a statement. Chang will assume a new unannounced role when she returns. Srinivasan joined Cisco in early 2018 after spending more than 12 years at Microsoft.

"After an impressive 15 years of great achievements at an incredibly fast pace, Amy has decided to take a well-earned breath," Cisco said. "She is going to recharge her batteries, while also prioritizing time with her 12-year-old son, and [CEO Chuck Robbins] and Cisco as a whole applaud her for this."

The reorganization comes at a critical time for Cisco's collaboration division, which generated something close to $5.8 billion in revenue last fiscal year. The vendor has an opportunity to capitalize on a surge in teleconferencing and remote work amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Chang's leave of absence also follows a disappointing financial quarter for her unit -- the first under her leadership. Revenue for the product category that includes collaboration was down 8% year over year in the three months ended Jan. 25.

Cisco is battling for enterprise customers with Microsoft, which has attracted more than 20 million daily active users to the Office 365 collaboration app Microsoft Teams. The vendor's Webex business is also taking heat from video conferencing upstart Zoom.

Chang replaced Rowan Trollope as the leader of Cisco's collaboration business in May 2018 after the vendor acquired her startup, Accompany. Chang previously held a seat on Cisco's board of directors but resigned to become an employee.

Chang spearheaded significant changes to Cisco's portfolio. She led an effort to align the features and interfaces of premise-based Jabber and cloud-based Webex Teams. Chang also sought to differentiate Cisco's products based on a set of AI features marketed as "cognitive collaboration."

"I am surprised by the changes," said Dave Michels, principal analyst at TalkingPointz. "Cisco just hosted a highly successful and engaging analyst event last month. The Cisco collaboration leadership team seemed well-aligned, and Chang seemed enthused and engaged."

Srinivasan is a good pick to lead the division, Michels said. Srinivasan spearheaded significant improvements to Webex during his tenure. He will now also oversee Cisco's telephony and contact center businesses.

Srinivasan has been Chang's "right-hand man," said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. His promotion suggests the company's strategy will not change dramatically, at least for now.

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