Cisco kills off Silver Partner tier in packed summit keynote

In the opening keynote of its annual Partner Summit in Las Vegas, Cisco threw out its Silver Tier and announced a range of programme enhancements, as well as the launch of a Solution Provider programme

In the space of barely an hour on Tuesday, Cisco’s Bruce Klein and Edison Peres performed major surgery on the vendor’s partner programme designed to help partners respond to the growth of the Internet of Everything, excising the Silver Partner tier for good, changing programme requirements and incentives, and launching a whole new element to Cisco’s channel outreach in the shape of a new Solution Provider programme.

Setting out the coming changes, SVP of worldwide channels Edison Peres explained: “We’ve been incentivising you to move along the journey of adding managed services, cloud, and hybrid IT. You’re making those transitions, managed services is one of the fastest growing, most profitable areas for many. Many of you are cloud builders, many are becoming providers.

“The cycle continues into the Internet of Everything so we’re going to start incentivising you to talk about business outcomes and software. We want to give you applications to take to your customers, to truly help you catch the market transition.”

The death of the Silver Partner level was perhaps the most eye-opening change made and came, according to Peres, in response to partner requests.

“Why retire silver?  It’s based on your feedback,” he explained. “You say the value proposition and brand strength of Silver is not that strong … we’re making investments but not getting a return, and the brand has no value to end users.”

Taking questions after the keynote, Edison Peres told MicroScope that he anticipated 60% of Silver Partners would transition to Gold over the next 24 months, and those that fell back were more likely to take up the Master branding, as opposed to reverting to Premier status.

“We’ll put more marketing and incentives behind the Master brand. We’re positioning Master to be as good as Gold,” said Peres.

Peres added that Cisco had put in place no mechanism for dealing with any Gold Partners who might fall backwards during the transition period, saying he did not anticipate any would do so.

“It’s great to see [Cisco] externally acknowledging that the Master certification is to be seen as prestigious as Gold," said Dajit Paul, who heads the services operation at Networks First.

"As a channel services provider we understand the time and associated cost in complying with the vendor accreditation programmes and are proud to already hold Master status," he added.

But Cisco was not done there. Peres also announced a round of changes for Gold Partners, saying he wanted more of them in the game when it came to hybrid deployments, and so was making hybrid IT specialisations a requirement for Gold status. This means Gold Partners will have to actively sell cloud and managed services, either Cisco Powered or through a provider.

In the same vein, the Business Transformation Career Certification – which launched in 2013 and designed to help partners sell into line of business (LOB) managers  – will now be formalised as a requirement, with each Gold Partner required to have one certified individual on staff. Cisco will offer an 80% discount on training and testing for that role for the next six to 12 months.

The other major change for Gold Partners will be the removal of a minimum customer satisfaction requirement as a barrier to retaining Gold status – though Cisco still plans to look for positive customer feedback. Peres said: “We will still require a minimum number of surveys and require that you delight the customers we are going to say no more need to over-manage the system to get to a satisfaction score.”

He was suitably vague on what the baseline for a ‘delighted customer’ might be.

Other major changes include two new Master specialisations, Enterprise Networks and Service Provider Technology, to add to the three existing categories of Security, Collaboration, and Cloud Builder and Datacentre. Five new solutions specialisations will also be launched around FlexPod, VPlex/VBlock, VDI, Enterprise Mobility and Telehealth.

A new deal registration set-up will see the emphasis on reseller compensation shift from backend rebates to front loaded compensation, with various elements brought together under the same deal reg programme. Cisco will also undertake to up guaranteed deal differential by 60%, from five to eight points.

Solution Provider Programme launch marks evolution of Cisco Partner Ecosystem

Meanwhile, Bruce Klein, SVP of Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Organisation, spoke of Cisco’s desire to help partners seize the market transition towards the $19bn Internet of Everything opportunity by evolving the Cisco Partner Programme into the Cisco Partner Ecosystem, following the launch of a new Solution Provider Programme.

This new programme, Klein explained, will attract partners that Cisco believes will be key to the growth of the Internet of Everything, including ISVs and consultancies.

Solution partners – some of which will be existing Cisco resellers – will develop solutions across Cisco’s hardware, software and services platform, to go to market through the existing 68,000-strong partner channel.

“We need to build and connect this ecosystem and if we do, what are the benefits? New solutions, differentiated offers, higher margins,” said Klein.

“We’re on a recruiting binge, its working really well, and we’re turning that ecosystem effect into an advantage,” he said.

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