SAN DIEGO -- At the Cisco Partner Summit 2012, Cisco enforced the idea that it is continuing to simplify its once complex channel partner programs while simultaneously preparing partners to take on newer technologies.
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Among the announcements made, Cisco hit on three distinct points: improved support services, enabling increased cloud involvement and strategies for partners to get a better grip on mobility. Notably, there was little talk of Cisco's core switching and routing technology.
Did last year's shakeup give Cisco a channel partner strategy reality check?
Cisco suffered last year, with stocks trading at an all-time low and a loss in share of the Ethernet switching market. Cisco CEO John Chambers took immediate action, announcing colossal layoffs and an organizational restructuring of the company as a part of Cisco's "Comprehensive Action Plan."
Massive changes to the organization of the channel partner program -- and specifically the move to simplify how partners offer support services -- are further sign that the company is continuing the fight to bounce back.
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"Cisco got a wake-up call from the street that said, 'Hey, you need to pay attention,’” said Mont Phelps, president and CEO at NWN Corporation. "If you're very successful, you start to believe your own press and start doing things you wouldn't normally do. Reality sets in and brings you back to earth. It may not be that extreme with Cisco, but they get it."
"It's not about how much margin they are generating but about the overall integrated situation for the partner. They are trying to deliver on last year's announcements. There's a lot of potential left," Phelps added.
Cisco Partner Summit 2012: Support services remain in focus
Support services were central to the announcements made at Cisco Partner Summit 2012.
Cisco announced its new Partner Plus Program, which offers incentives to those partners that win business in the mid-sized sector. The idea is to give partners more power and opportunity to grow their own business.
Cisco also announced its Global Services Partner Program, which provides incentives and sales assistance to partners offering the smart services portfolio, an ecosystem of support services for technologies including unified communications, security and wireless.
To further assist partners in their knowledge base when selling to customers, Cisco rolled out new training: Enabling Architecture Sales Excellence (EASE). With EASE, partners receive free training for their sales teams to better sell Cisco's architecture.
Cisco firms up the cloud in its channel partner strategy
Cisco also unveiled a master cloud-builder specialization, which offers cloud partners a chance to offer cloud-related managed services.
As part of the cloud announcements, Padmasree Warrior, chief technology officer of Cisco, gave attendees a sneak peek at the Cloud Connect program, a software platform to make cloud deployments easier and provide better cloud security and cloud operation management. The program will be officially announced at Cisco Live later this spring.
Collaboration and the post-PC era spark partner interest at Cisco Partner Summit 2012
Cisco also talked collaboration in the post-PC era. Barry O'Sullivan, Cisco senior vice president and general manager of the collaboration technology group, announced the general availability of Jabber, Cisco's unified communication application that provides a single interface across presence, IM, voice, video and desktop sharing. Specifically the technology can be extended to mobile devices without further licensing costs.
Extending collaboration into the mobile world is key for success at this point.
"Collaboration is fun to talk about, but extremely difficult to execute, considering all these tangential things like mobility, security, video -- and then you have Quad," said Leslie Rosenberg, research manager for Network Lifecycle Services at IDC.