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New flexible programs - Cisco

01 Dec 06

Customers, partners, and analysts agree the industry is changing, business needs are changing and the way Cisco and its partners must create value and differentiate is changing.
Jennifer Rutherford, Cisco NZ channel operations manager, discusses the ins and outs of the company’s new program and how partners can get the most out of it.
Why is Cisco changing its channel program?
As customers demand more integrated and complex solutions, the partner becomes a more strategic asset enabling business value through intelligent, integrated networks and highly specialized solutions
Customers are now demanding that channel partners have the technology breadth to deliver integrated network solutions and the advanced technology depth to deliver highly specialised solutions. Our goal is to move our partners, and their customers, up toward more of a solution approach.

How does the new program reflect this?
To thrive and survive in today’s competitive landscape, our partners must focus on developing technology skills breadth, advanced technology skills depth, and utilizing a Lifecycle Services approach.
Breadth:  By developing technology breadth partners can broaden their role and extend market focus as an integrated networking solutions provider.
Depth:  Partners can differentiate their business as highly specialised solutions provider to offer complex advanced technology, vertical and application solutions.
To support this transition the partner program is evolving along two axis
* integrated infrastructure providers - delivering on all of the elements of the IIN - breadth
* application and solution specialists - delivering highly specialized value to our customers depth.
However partners have the option to pursue one or both paths

Will specialisations remain?
Yes and they are even more important in the new program. 
To retain Gold Partner Certification a partner needs to have an advanced specialisation in each key technology component of the IIN: routing and switching, security, IP and wireless. 
To achieve these each partner has to demonstrate full lifecycle services capabilities around these technologies.
Cisco is also deepening the offerings for specialisations  These now reflect the depth of skills in any one technology.  By offering three specialisation levels express, advanced and master - Cisco provides its partners with  more differentiation opportunities.

What is the new Master Specialisations?
Cisco has introduced this brand to recognise those partners with the highest qualified practice in a given technology and offer them opportunities for further differentiation. To achieve Master the partner has to demonstrate a deep competency in the specialised technology and prove they have implemented a full lifecycle of services around that technology. Cisco is moving its program to produce specialised partners able to sell entire solutions.  Further specialisations will be announced in the next 6 – 12 months.

What’s in it for partners?
For partners achieving Advanced Specialisation in the growth areas of voice security and wireless there are significant rewards including the highest levels of discount for competitive advantage, up to 20% rebates to reward investment and increase profitability and customer recognition of abilities and skills.

What are Lifecycle Services?
These provide a consistent, repeatable, scalable way to deploy and operate solutions-based network architectures. They are a  well-defined methodology focused specifically on the planning, design and implementation stages of the network lifecycle & cover three areas within each stage: technology, operations and training.  These will be integrated into the Cisco Partner Program as a key new component of all specialisation training to drive customer success and partner profitability in deploying integrated solutions. 
As a result partners can strengthen customer relationships, broaden their services portfolio and enhance profitability through proven, repeatable processes.  All partners will have their sets of lifecycle services and Cisco only wants to augment what they are doing with intellectual property it has developed specifically around its own technologies.

Are these big changes?
While these are the most significant enhancements  made in the last five years they’re evolutionary not revolutionary.
Cisco is building on its value-based channel strategy and will continue reward partners for accelerating growth of advanced technologies (VIP), developing new opportunities (OIP), evolving to sell solutions (SIP) and migrating the installed base (CTMP/TAP).  All of these programs will be rolled out in ANZ.  VIP, SIP and OIP are here now and we’re working to roll out CTMP/TAP. 
All of these will be considered key foundations of the new program.

What’s the transition timeline?
Partners have two years.
Does Cisco expect the number of Gold partners will be reduced?
It’s a possibility and not necessarily through attrition. The new program allows partners to choose courses that better suit their business models. However Cisco is raising the standards signficantly and many Gold partners have said this is a good thing.

Will the new certifications/specialisations be more costly?
Due to content upgrades -  making it relevant for today’s technologies - the initial cost of specialisations will be more expensive. However long-term costs have been kept down by reducing irrelevant requirements and reducing the costs of keeping certifications current.

Will Cisco be helping partners with funding for this transition?
We are investigating this locally but no promises at this point.

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