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Inside the new-look Cisco channel

Inside the new-look Cisco channel

Tech giant establishes five routes to market across expanding ecosystem.

Wendy Bahr - Senior Vice President of Global Partner Organisation, Cisco

Wendy Bahr - Senior Vice President of Global Partner Organisation, Cisco

Today, more than 80 per cent of Cisco product and service revenues go through an ecosystem of resellers, distributors, service providers, systems integrators, cloud service providers and independent software vendors (ISVs).

And in this digital world, ISVs are taking centre stage.

Citing retail as a key example, Bahr said Cisco is unearthing cloud marketing companies that take Wi-Fi data and mash that together to provide value to the CMO.

“When you partner within an application provider such as that, they do know the CMO and if you can create a relationship, there’s a value exchange to be had,” Bahr said.

“So when that customer buys the application, the partner can say to IT that the application will acquire X amount of network connectivity, Wi-Fi etc. The partner is providing value because the IT department is no longer blind-sided.

“And crucially, when it goes to procurement as a bundle which includes the ISV application alongside the network provider, it makes it harder for procurement to pull the deal apart.”

Adopting the multi-partner approach, according to Bahr, increases deal frequency by 5-7 times, deals that become more profitable and secure, creating stickiness and relevance inside the customer.

“We’re showcasing our developers to the channel,” Bahr said. “This is about creating the pathway so that our traditional resale partners and our ISV, consulting and services-only partners can create a multi-partner outcome.

“This is often built on the back of digitisation and we’ve started to create ecosystem exchanges because this is a completely different channel.”

As part of its broader partner strategy, Cisco is aiming to work more strategically with this new type of partner to develop business solutions that capture market transitions such as IoT and digitalisation.

To achieve this, an immediate priority continues to be building and enhancing a connected partner ecosystem.

“Our partner ecosystem is changing,” Cisco vice president of partner organisation APJ Vicki Batka added. “Our mix is moving away from traditional resale and we need to do more to talk to these new partners.

“We need to step up and show up a bit differently. We used to go to consultancy partners and say come to us, hear our digital story and we’ll work with you via an industry. But they already have their own ecosystem in say healthcare for example, so we need to go to them. It requires a subtle change in approach.”

Tara Ridley - Director of Partner Organisation A/NZ, Cisco
Tara Ridley - Director of Partner Organisation A/NZ, Cisco

In offering a regional view of the Cisco ecosystem, Batka said the vendor has - and continues - to change its approach around the new breed of partners emerging, altering how it engages with born-in-the-cloud providers as the industry evolves.

“At first we didn’t have the right way to fit these partners in and it was difficult to talk to them and build Cisco preference,” Batka acknowledged. “But if you look at those five routes to market, that’s how we are evolving and changing with the market.”

Crucial to this change locally will be Tara Ridley.

As reported first by ARN, Ridley has recently taken charge of Cisco’s partner business group across A/NZ, with Jason Brouwers now leading the vendor’s commercial sales business.

Following an internal reshuffle in mid-May, Ridley now oversees all partner relationships and strategies going forward, alongside volume sales responsibilities and a small to medium business growth remit.

Since joining the tech giant in 2007, Ridley has worked across a range of divisions, with roles including partner account manager, sales manager, enterprise segment director and services sales director.

“Our role is changing,” Ridley told ARN. “The role I performed as a partner account manager ten years ago, and the skill sets and conversations I had have changed.

“The way we show up has changed and we’re continuing to improve our ability to help build this new ecosystem of partners, through establishing key relationships and demonstrating ongoing value to our customers.

“It’s our role to bring that ecosystem together because software is a totally different game.”

With global, regional and local initiatives underway, coupled with partner expansion plans, Cisco in 2017 can be defined by two words.

Channel. And change.

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