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Cisco: Partners heading in the right direction

The coronavirus pandemic has not knocked Cisco’s existing strategy off course, with the vendor convinced its channel is able to tackle current and future problems

Cisco’s previous wave of channel announcements came in November 2019 at its partner summit, with the vendor keen to get resellers lined up behind software and services.

The firm has made 25 changes to its partner programme since lockdown started, but the majority of these have been in direct response to the pandemic and not substantially changed the direction the firm was heading in.

Oliver Tuszik, senior vice-president of global partner organisation at Cisco, said that it had managed to get partners in a position where they could deliver the support that customers were crying out for in the current situation.

“The world is changing but our partner strategy is not. The partner strategy is absolutely the right strategy for this time and for the future. Partner profitability remains our number one priority,” he said.

“Despite all the things that are happening, we are still in a kind of normal business mode,” he said, adding that it was still about customers, building the pipeline and winning and gaining market share. “We continue to perform and transform – so, normal business, but under abnormal conditions.”

He said that Cisco started talking to partners two years ago about a strategy that was based around “performing and transforming” and those themes had become more important during the pandemic.

“The three key areas that we defined two years ago became more important than ever before. New buying centres have the budget right now and they consume managed services, software-enabled networks and platform-enabled outcomes to create the flexibility to deliver higher values and business outcomes and, last but not least, customer experience,” he said.

“We need to help our partners to show our customers that they deliver the value, so that [when] they go into the renewal motion, there is a big opportunity. It’s about performing and transforming and the balance is more complex than ever before, but we support out partners in the way they need the support.”

That support has included making 25 changes to the partner programme portfolio since 18 March in four areas: to protect certifications and specialisations, support liquidity and cash flow, expand digital selling to increase MDF and virtual events, and to safeguard partner rewards.

Marc Surplus, vice-president of partner strategy and programmes global partner organisation at Cisco, said that it had made changes at the same time it continued to help the channel transform around the existing core strategy.

Cisco has also been providing training with its Black Belt Academy offering, and Jose van Dijk, vice-president of partner operations for Cisco’s global partner organisation, said that the uptake had been significant in the lockdown.

“In April and May, we had 800 to 900 people joining each week,” she added. “If you look at the number of training hours consumed, in the month of May the consumption tripled from March, we have 35,000 learning hours, which is almost four years of training consumed in one month.”

She added that the vendor was relieved that it had been prepared to offer partners digital training before the pandemic hit.

Julia Chen, vice-president of global partner transformation at Cisco’s global partner organisation, said that the shift by customers towards digital pre-dated Covid-19, and its channel had been pointed in that direction for a while. The changes in the past few months had been around the speed of digital adoption.

“With this crisis we know that digital transformation has accelerated,” she said, adding that Forrester was predicting that cloud applications and outsourced services would be the ones to benefit most.

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