Cisco connects customer demand to new partner specialisations

Cisco connects customer demand to new partner specialisations

New solution specialisations span hybrid cloud, hybrid work, secure access service edge (SASE) and full-stack observability.

Oliver Tuszik (Cisco)

Oliver Tuszik (Cisco)

Credit: Cisco

Cisco has introduced six new partner solution specialisations aligned to “fast-growing market opportunities”, expanding capabilities via the channel to meet evolving customer demands.

Unveiled at Cisco Partner Summit 2022 in Las Vegas -- held in-person for the first time in three years -- the additional offerings span Full-stack Observability (FSO); Hybrid Work from Office and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), in addition to Hybrid Cloud Computing; Hybrid Cloud Software and Hybrid Cloud Networking.

The aim is to better align the ecosystem with end-user requirements, with each specialisation recognised and rewarded based on the value delivered -- tied specifically to “knowledge and experience”.

“The rules of the game have changed,” observed Oliver Tuszik, senior vice president of Global Partner Sales at Cisco. “A new customer experience exists, we’re in the age of the partner and we need an integrated engagement model to succeed.”

In addressing the channel in the opening keynote, Tuszik said the ecosystem delivered 10 per cent in bookings growth during the past 12 months, despite evolving societal and economic challenges.

This is in addition to a 48 per cent rise in managed services deals linked to Cisco Meraki, a 66 per cent rise in cloud marketplace bookings and 34 per cent more managed services orders specific to small-to-medium sized business (SMB) customers during the fourth quarter of 2022.

“Our customer has changed in terms of what they expect from us and how they buy from us and we need to accept that a new customer experience has to be delivered,” Tuszik added. “This new customer experience requires much more but crucially, it can’t be delivered without partners -- nothing will work without partners.

“It’s the perfect time for partners but to be clear, we won’t be able to deliver in the age of the partner if we don’t adapt, change and add new capabilities. We need a more integrated engagement and this will be the next big transformation.”

Such changing market dynamics also dovetail into the six new partner solution specialisations. FSO showcases partner expertise in centralising and correlating application performance analytics across the full IT stack, including integrations across AppDynamics, ThousandEyes, Intersight and Secure Application.

Within that context, the channel must demonstrate expertise in delivering “superior customer experiences”, as well as driving revenue streams and accelerating digital transformation.

Hybrid Work from Office focuses on skills and experience in helping organisations evolve traditional on-site and off-site work models -- notably, solutions which will “power hybrid work” irrespective of environment.

Meanwhile, SASE will acknowledge partners helping customers securely enabling roaming users, devices and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications without “adding complexity or reducing end-user performance”.

Hybrid Cloud Computing rewards partners that provide customers with “simple and secure” hybrid cloud computing experiences while Hybrid Cloud Software demonstrates expertise in managing operational complexity by helping customers "streamline and unify" IT operations with secure, hybrid cloud management software.

Also, Hybrid Cloud Networking recognises partners that "securely and efficiently" connect and manage customers’ data, workload  and applications across data centres, edge, and multiple cloud environments.

“These new specialisations are aligned with the types of solutions and expertise customers are demanding,” said Marc Surplus, vice president of Partner Strategy and Programs at Cisco.

“They demonstrate to customers that they are working with the best partners in the industry. We’ve designed the solution specialisations to complement partners’ prior investments in Cisco and to build on their current expertise so that partners can further differentiate themselves in the market.”

Closer to home, Courtney Dodds -- recently appointed as vice president of Partner Sales across Asia Pacific, Japan and China (APJC) at Cisco -- emphasised the benefits to both customer and partners.

“Customers favour this approach because they are ultimately getting more value from the technology they purchase,” added Dodds, when speaking to Channel Asia. “And partners benefit because this approach is rich in services and more profitable. We continue to see our ecosystem embrace these types of specialisations -- they’ve been asking for more and more in the region.”

In response, Dodds said Cisco will “ramp up” enablement specific to the new solution specialisations via the vendor’s Black Belt Academy, an initiative which was built in-region and rolled out to the rest of world.

“We still lead the world with that,” Dodds added. “We trained over 6,000 of our partners, teams and individuals through the program during the past 12 months, and are now looking to reach 7,000. Of course, we still need our partners to understand individual products as that’s important but we continue to evolve our solution areas to maximise the new opportunities ahead.”

Available via the vendor’s partner program, the specialisations also aim to increase sales opportunities for the channel while adding flexibility to partner certification requirements, emphasising the importance of multi-architectural expertise.

“Specialisation is ranked number one as the initial critical partner selection criterion for 74 per cent of customers,” noted Anurag Agrawal, chief global analyst at Techaisle. “By tying solution specialisations to customer buying criteria, Cisco makes it easier for customers to identify which partners to work with.”

The new solution specialisations represent one of the four categories available to qualified Cisco partners, and also houses cross-architectural offerings prioritised by customers.

Other categories include architecture specialisations aligned to deep product expertise in specific technology areas, as well as Cisco Powered Service which showcases partner proficiency in delivering managed services and as-a-service offers. Also, business specialisations focus on horizontal business practices that are “essential” to supporting customer goals.

James Henderson travelled to Cisco Partner Summit 2022 in Las Vegas as a guest of Cisco.

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