Cisco partner program aims to cut complexity via portal

Cisco introduced a raft of changes to its Partner Experience Platform, its hub of channel resources launched last year; other IT channel news.

Channel companies will see additions to Cisco's main partner resource portal, which include a consolidated tool set, access to customers' network telemetry data and the ability to create service offerings.

Cisco partner program executives this week outlined the developments, some of which are scheduled for general rollout later this calendar year or in 2022. The additional resources look to help partners navigate emerging sales motions and multiple go-to-market strategies.

"Life is getting much more complex, and complexity is the one thing that is destroying [partners'] profitability," said Oliver Tuszik, senior vice president of global partner sales at Cisco.

Cisco intends to reduce the number of tools needed to do business with the company. Partners have about 180 Cisco tools at their disposal, said José Van Dijk, vice president of partner performance at Cisco. The number of tools is "too much for productivity," Van Dijk said.

Cisco plans to retire at least 50% of its tools and combine others, which will migrate to Cisco's channel portal, the Partner Experience Platform (PXP). As for the timing, Cisco didn't reveal a specific deadline, but Van Dijk said the company has accelerated its tool consolidation mission.

Diane KrakoraDiane Krakora

Partner platform additions

The Partner Experience Platform, unveiled in October 2020 at the Cisco Partner Summit, acts as a one-stop-shop for Cisco partner program resources. At launch, PXP provided program registration and communications functions, as well as access to training, sales opportunities and incentives.

Most vendors lack a one-stop-shop partner portal, said Diane Krakora, principal at PartnerPath, a channel consulting firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. "I think you'd be surprised at the overall lack of automation to engage, empower and manage partners," Krakora said. She noted she typically sees vendors operate multiple channel systems, which sometimes have single sign-on.

Anurag AgrawalAnurag Agrawal

Anurag Agrawal, founder and chief global analyst at Techaisle, a market research firm based in San Jose, Calif., called the Partner Experience Portal "impressive," given its integration with Cisco's Partner Experience Cloud. The integration lets Cisco customers view telemetry data, assets, contracts and licenses. Meanwhile, partners can use the integration to "manage customers through the entire lifecycle," Agrawal said.

The updated PXP offers a benchmarking feature that lets partners compare their performance with that of their peers. Another feature, Partner Connect, makes matches among Cisco partners, enabling easier collaboration on customer opportunities. Partner Connect is available to partners on an invitation-only basis, as Cisco needs to ensure the matching system works properly, Van Dijk said. The company will provide more information on Partner Connect at the upcoming Cisco Partner Summit, an online event scheduled for Nov. 8, Van Dijk noted.

Platform additions soon to launch include an Integrated Planning Process, which Cisco described as a globally consistent partner plan. The plan lets partners and Cisco's partner teams manage goals and key performance indicators.

The platform will also see a Customer Lens for Actionable Insights and Recommendations tool, which identifies partner opportunities by market segment based on a decade of Cisco customer data and buying habits. This tool, which Cisco's direct sales force already uses, is slated for partner availability in 2022.

Partner Experience Cloud in limited availability

Another update to Cisco's Partner Experience Platform is the Partner Experience Cloud. Currently under limited availability, Partner Experience Cloud will become generally available around the time of the Cisco Partner Summit, according to Tony Colon, senior vice president of customer experience engineering and product incubation at Cisco.

Life is getting much more complex, and complexity is the one thing that is destroying [partners'] profitability.
Oliver TuszikSenior vice president of global partner sales, Cisco

The partner cloud will provide visibility, with customers' permission, into customers' Cisco product usage and telemetry data. Partners can use the data to gain insight into customer consumption patterns, which could help identify sales opportunities, Cisco said.

The Partner Experience Cloud will also let channel companies build and offer their own branded services to customers. Those offerings will be packaged as "accelerator" or "ask the expert" services, which customers can access online and rate through a Netflix-like rating system, Colon said.

Citrix partners with global SIs, ISVs

Citrix will look to deepen relationships with global systems integrators (SIs) and ISVs in a bid to broaden its partner ecosystem.

The workspace technology vendor has started to develop customer offerings with global systems integrators (GSIs) such as Fujitsu and Wipro, while it also cultivates relationships with software vendors such as Red Hat.

"To accelerate our growth, we have to expand our ecosystem, doing more with GSIs, cloud partners and software partners," said Sachin Menon, vice president of global strategic partners at Citrix. Menon joined the company 14 months ago to manage the company's GSI and ISV partnerships.

Citrix's collaboration with GSIs helps customers manage the complexities of buying and deploying workspace technology, Menon said. Customers must evaluate and pull together many different technologies to meet their specific future-of-work needs. Citrix, however, seeks to co-innovate with GSI partners to build industry offerings that simplify procurement and consumption for customers.

Co-innovation within partner ecosystems, an emerging practice, goes beyond traditional channel relationships built on technology training. Co-innovation, instead, focuses on jointly creating repeatable offerings that address customer problems, often within vertical market niches.

"It is not enough for us to go and train GSI partners in software and hope some deals come in," Menon said.

Examples of this approach include Citrix's partnership with Fujitsu. The two companies collaborate on a healthcare offering tailored for radiology departments. Citrix contributes software, while Fujitsu offers healthcare industry expertise, implementation services and ongoing support, Menon said.

With other partners, Citrix creates "mini-ecosystem solutions" that involve GSIs, ISVs and, potentially, public cloud providers, Menon noted. He cited Wipro's VirtuaDesk virtual desktop offering as a case in point. VirtuaDesk is built on software from Citrix and Nutanix Enterprise Cloud.

"We are encouraging GSI partners to engage with us in that way," Menon said. He noted that Citrix plans to roll out additional offerings with integrators.

On the ISV side, Citrix will pursue software partners that can drive incremental revenue for the company. Citrix earlier this year became a certified Red Hat Ansible automation platform partner, forging tighter integration between Citrix's application delivery controller (ADC) and the Ansible application deployment tool. Citrix ADC also integrates with Red Hat OpenShift.

In addition, Citrix is working with ISVs to build linkages between products where significant customer overlap occurs, Menon said. "In some cases, an API needs to be available to make life easier for customers," he added.

Partners launch, update Azure services

Channel partners are ramping up their Microsoft Azure businesses. Recent moves include the following:

  • Deft, a Chicago company that provides cloud, consulting and data center managed services, launched an Azure practice, citing "heightened client demand." The offering expands Deft's service offerings, which include AWS consulting. Deft is a certified AWS MSP partner.
  • Toronto-based Aptum updated its Managed Azure Cloud services with three tiers that provide the appropriate amount of services according to a customer's level of cloud expertise and outsourcing appetite. Aptum's Foundation service tier provides managed services for companies with significant internal IT resources and minimal skills gaps, the company said. The Advanced tier is geared to customers with gaps in cloud expertise or resources. Customers that seek to outsource many IT functions can tap Aptum's Premium service tier, which covers cloud adoption planning.
  • Core BTS, an MSP based in Indianapolis, said it earned Microsoft Azure Expert Managed Service Provider status. The Microsoft designation requires a third-party audit to verify a partner's Azure capabilities. Core BTS in 2019 acquired the Microsoft business of SADA, which has since focused on its Google Cloud partnership.

M&A updates

  • Electric AI, an MSP based in New York, acquired Techvera, an IT support provider in North Texas. Techvera has more than 90 customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth market and elsewhere in the U.S. The company's vertical markets include legal, financial, oil and energy, transportation and logistics, and construction and manufacturing.
  • Accenture agreed to acquire Benext, a digital products consulting company based in France. Benext offers agile coaching, cloud-based development and data science. When the transaction closes, the company's employees will join Octo Technology, a French company Accenture acquired in 2017. The deal would expand the European reach of Accenture Cloud First.
  • Netrix, a managed and professional IT services provider based in Chicago, acquired PSC Group. The transaction bolsters Netrix's cloud application development and data intelligence practices, according to the company.

Other news

  • Softchoice and Canadian charity TakingITGlobal aim to bring technology support to schools in indigenous communities in northern Canada. Softchoice, based in Toronto, will serve as the MSP for TakingITGlobal's Connected North program, which provides education services through Cisco's WebEx. Participating schools include facilities in Canada's three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.
  • StrongBox Data Solutions, a data management and archive vendor based in Portland, Ore., retooled its channel program with a new partner portal and marketing investment funds. The program, which encompasses MSPs, VARs and integrators, also now provides a simplified deal registration process, according to StrongBox.
  • Navisite, a managed cloud service provider based in Andover, Mass., obtained Premier Consulting Partner status within the AWS Partner Network. Navisite also holds the AWS Managed Services designation and AWS Competency status for Oracle, SAP, DevOps, Migration, Life Sciences and Digital Workplace.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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