Cisco is one of many companies that is active within the channel landscape, and has forged several key partnerships with other IT product developers and service providers over the years. The company has introduced a litany of programs to help its partners navigate the channel and get the most out of their relationship with Cisco.
But there is more to these partnerships than establishing and maintaining a long-lasting relationship. To put things in perspective, IT in Canada spoke to Rebecca Leach, director of Central Canada Partner Sales for Cisco Canada about what the company’s channel programs offer partners.
IT in Canada: How can channel partners benefit from Cisco’s partner programs?
Leach: I would say that, in essence, whenever we build a program for our partners at Cisco, we’re always thinking about the fundamentals of partner profitability and growth. Whenever we look at where we are in the business and we want to build a program around an architecture or a specific specialization, we always think about two things: How is this going to help grow their business in Canada, whether it be segment-specific, like a mid-market, SMB or enterprise play, and how are they going to gain profitability in doing that?
We have programs that are designed to enable our partners with core competencies around technology, such as specialization programs that are part of our certification platform. This includes the Select, Premier and Gold certification levels. We recently announced that we are retiring Silver, which used to sit between Premier and Gold.
We have a program that recognizes partners that are resellers in cloud. So whether they’re cloud providers or builders, we have a number of programs that are designed to support that consumption model. We also have rebate programs in place which are designed to give partners back profitability to ensure that we are replenishing both soft and hard costs associated with participating in Cisco’s architecture programs.
ITIC: Why is now the time to have programs like these in place?
RL: Programs are our foundation at Cisco to help partners recognize and grow their businesses in areas where we can be profitable together and (explore other) opportunities in Canada. The partner programs help us to figure out where the success is for them with Cisco.
One of the reasons these programs are so important now is because not every partner wants to sell the same thing or is looking at the same vertical market or segment within Canada. What we want to do is make sure that we’re tailoring our programs to each partner in such a way that they represent their core competencies in the market, and represent profitability growth for them specific to that competency.
It’s especially important now because we have changing consumption models. It’s important that Cisco be at the table with flexible, agile programs that can help any partner. So whether you’re selling or building cloud, are a hybrid IT partner or a National Direct Integrator (NDI) partner servicing the mid-market, Cisco can help you. Each of those partners has a different route to market, a different approach to their customers and a different consumption models for those customers.
For us, it’s really important that our programs are relevant and reflect market transitions but at the same time offer partners profitability when they’re partnering with Cisco.
ITIC: How do these programs help to strengthen the relationship between Cisco and its partners?
RL: I would say in many ways Cisco enjoys very strong partnerships with many of our partners, and we have a number of partners across the country invested in our various certification programs; about 200 overall. I would say that programs are fundamental to the relationship because they are incorporated into the business plan that we build with every partner, and it helps us to make sure that we’re focused on profitability, growth and technology.
Together, we can be creative and ensure that when we’re going to market with one partner, there is a difference in what that looks like with another partner. The programs are the levers that we pull with each partner to ensure that they’re getting what they need from Cisco and the relationship. The programs really help us have that cohesion between our business plan, the output, and what that end customer experience is going to look like.
ITIC: Why is it important to create a strong ecosystem for channel partners?
RL: The ecosystems are essential, and have been for many years because not all partners have the same competencies from a technology perspective. It’s also important to build an ecosystem that allows the partners to understand and engage in new areas of market transitions.
For example, not all partners in the services (industry) want to invest in a services bench (a group of post-sales engineers that can go into the field and install a complex technology solution at a customer’s site). They may be excellent in terms of the pre-sale, but may not want to invest in the post-sale. An ecosystem in that example is a great opportunity to ensure that the customer is still protected, and that there are no issues from their perspective, but the partner has the ability to (complete) the sale.
By building a service ecosystem, it enables a partner to work with another partner that has expertise in that (area) to support and build that relationship. This enables them to give the customer a dream experience from start to finish.
If you think about our Internet of Things (IoT) initiative, it’s really important to be reflective of all the different transitions in the market. We want to introduce our partners to our new IoT partners through a bridged channel so that we can monetize what’s happening in IoT and bring it back to our traditional channel partners whenever we can.
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