Cisco Systems knows that the world is anything but business as usual these days. The tech giant has a number of initiatives underway right now to help its community, both local and global, battle the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
That community also includes the all-important channel, Oliver Tuszik, Cisco's channel chief, told CRN.
"We're staying as close as possible and over-communicating with partners, we're supporting customers with their needs right now, and also thinking about the potential impact on the long-run," Tuszik said. "We, with our partners, can help businesses survive during this time … and I think in 6-9 months, we're going to see a new normal."
To that end, Cisco is extending the deadlines for its Cisco Certified Partners to renew their statuses so that their specializations don't run out, Tuszik said. "None of our partners have to focus on their certifications or specializations -- they should be focused on their businesses, so we are giving them this extended grace period," Tuszik said.
Outside of their organizations, there are many individuals that hold their own personal Cisco certifications, such as CCIEs and CCMPs. San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco is also extending the renewals deadlines for these certifications by six months. "There will be no negative effect for this elongation so that individuals and organizations won't have to worry about timing or cost [of the certification]," Tusizk said.
ATSG, a New York City-based MSP and Cisco Gold Certified Partner, holds many Cisco certifications as an organization, including master certifications in collaboration and security, as well as certifications in contact center, enterprise networking, managed services, and cloud.
"The idea of postponing these deadlines certainly is a good move. There's hundreds, if not thousands of partners paying attention to the customer first, and if you have to take someone out of a critical customer engagement to take a test, it's just not the best use of time right now," said John McCarthy, president of rediTech solutions at ATSG. "I applaud this move."
Cisco has been readily available to lend a helping hand to partners who have been inundated with customer requests as many businesses have had to empower most or all of their staffs to work from home, McCarthy said.
ATSG had a banking customer last week that realized it would need to build a cloud-based contact center to help the bank's IT group handle employees that need help working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Along with Cisco, ATSG was able to spin up a cloud contact center offering in about 48 hours, McCarthy said.
"Mid-week, the bank expressed interest in building this and we've had all hands responding to various support requests for making network improvements and expanding all manner of collaboration subscriptions. Even with a full staff, that would be crazy," he said. "Cisco jumped up and said; 'Hey, we have some resources available,' and together, we were able to get that up and running in a matter of days."
Cisco Capital, the firm's business unit that offers payment options for partners in more than 150 countries, also has a number of initiatives going to help partners improve their cash flow or access to working capital, Tuszik said.
"We want to make sure our partners have the ability to service their customers and communities right now and while they get ready for the phase after the virus," he said. "We need to make sure they are capable and have all the support they need to perform right now, but also transform to the new normal."
The new normal, according to Rob Bellmar, co-president of Cisco Gold partner Intrado Enterprise Collaboration, is helping companies adjust their networks and empower their workforces to work from home with more Webex licenses.
Intrado, an Omaha, Nebraska-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner, is enjoying Cisco's free 90-day license offer to businesses who are not Webex customers in this time of need, Bellmar said.
"We cover a large percentage of America's messaging for K-12 schools, so we've been trying to get the word out on some of the free Cisco solutions," he said. "That's been very helpful for us in helping our customers."
During the first 11 business days of March, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said that the firm logged 5.5 billion meeting minutes on Webex.
The number one question that's coming from partners today is around supply chain, Tuszik said. While the firm's distributed supply chain is seeing some impact due to the pandemic, Cisco over the last two years has been diversifying where it produces and sources product to alleviate any supply chain issues and shortages.