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With thoughts already turning to what the next year will hold, MicroScope put some questions to Angela Whitty, managing director, UK&I partner organisation at Cisco. As well as talking about making life easier and more profitable for the channel, some of her focus has been spent on working with partners for the wider good. Here are her answers to our questions.
What are Cisco’s plans for partners in the UK and Ireland during FY20?
Following a strong performance in FY19 supported by our partner community, in FY20 we will continue to play an active role at the heart of the UK and Ireland’s digital transformation. Partners are fundamental to this objective. Their intimate market knowledge allows us to get under the skin of what customers are looking for from technology vendors such as ourselves. The way businesses are consuming technology is evolving constantly and the same is expected of the partners – who they depend on as their trusted advisers.
We continue to invest time and resources into our partners on an individual basis rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. We want to better understand the growth opportunities they have identified and how we can help with achieving them. This is demonstrated in the shift we’ve made to selling solutions rather than selling point products with commercial models that are “pay as you go” rather than a more traditional one-off upfront payment.
We are also focused around how we simplify the way our partners do business with us to make them both more efficient and, more importantly, more profitable. At a corporate level, we are looking at how we streamline our tools and processes so that our partners have a single interface into Cisco for all the information they may need.
Another consideration that businesses don’t always think about, but only notice when it fails, is cyber security. As digitisation continues across the UK, we will continue to support our partners by providing the world-leading connectivity, collaboration and security services that customers demand.
What role will partners play in Cisco’s community engagement programmes?
One of my passions is exploring the way technology can be used to help solve some of the most pressing issues that affect people’s lives day to day. I have been very fortunate to have a career spanning many years at a company that shares my ambition to create a positive impact in the wider world.
The major highlight for me this year has been how Cisco and its partner community have come together in support of the homeless charity, Crisis UK, and its vision to end homelessness for everyone within the next 10 years. We have run a number of events alongside our partners that have raised funds and awareness for the plight of homeless people across the UK. Most recently, 100-plus people from Cisco and its partners walked a 25km Bridge Trek across the iconic bridges of London. A fantastic event and, more importantly, we hope to have raised over £30,000.
These types of initiatives, where we are collectively supporting a single charity, benefit a great deal from the involvement of a wider network of companies and people. Each one of our partners, with all their talented employees, offer different expertise, skills and ideas of how to create lasting a impact that changes people’s lives for the better. As well as leaning on partners to support our own initiatives, Cisco is committed to helping partners looking to make a difference in their own local communities.
What skills should partners be onboarding to keep pace with technologies hitting the market?
While in days gone by, partners may have looked to recruit people with specialist skills to help them corner a specific market, the key for channel organisations now is adaptability. Technical and digital skills are at an absolute premium, so businesses across the channel and beyond need to tap into a wider pool of talent to address the impending skills shortage. We need to identify and train people at a faster rate, looking at talented people across other industries and sectors with transferable skills who we can upskill in the technical and business fields required.
We will continue to invest in the Cisco Learning Partner Programme to provide our UK partners with value-added services, including mentoring, training and certifications in Cisco’s core technologies. As well as helping partners to develop technical skills across competencies such as connectivity, collaboration and cyber security, Cisco offers training on business skills for those pursuing careers in sales, marketing and management.
What has been the response/take-up from the channel to the Marketing Velocity initiative?
Cisco’s Marketing Velocity programme is a global initiative that provides our partners with an end-to-end marketing solution to attract customers, deliver more sales and drive profits. Digital marketing has become bread and butter for sales-focused organisations and B2B customers are already 60% through the buying process before they even speak to a sales representative.
This is an example of Cisco’s commitment to investing in the success of its partners and the esteem we hold them in. With 85% of our sales routed through the channel, we want to be as easy to do business with as possible, and initiatives like our Marketing Velocity platform are born out of this desire.