Cisco partner program, specialisations revamped

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Cisco partner program, specialisations revamped

Cisco Systems wants its partners to think about solutions from a “cross-architectural” perspective in keeping with how their customers are now buying IT, executives said.

To that end, Cisco is growing its newly simplified partner program by two new “roles” and is evolving its specialisation track to focus on cross-architectural solution specialisations, the tech giant unveiled on Tuesday during the virtual Cisco Partner Summit 2021 event.

Cisco’s restructured Partner Program was first introduced last year and is centred on four roles that partners are playing for customers: Integrator, Provider, Developer, and Advisor. The Integrator and Provider roles were launched last year. The Developer and Advisor roles will be live on November 29, Marc Surplus, vice president, strategy, planning and programs for Cisco’s Global Partner Organization, told CRN.

Cisco said that partners can choose or naturally fit into at least one of the roles and can also focus on more than one role as their businesses transform. Each role will offer Cisco’s Gold, Premier and Select tiers.

“Everything we do in our partner programs is to give partners choice in how they differentiate their Cisco practice, Surplus said. “We‘re always going to be value-based and we recognize and reward partners for investments they make in their practice.”

Logicalis, a Cisco Integrator and Provider Gold partner will also pursue the Developer and Advisor roles to help separate and differentiate parts of its business for its customer base, said Ron Temske, vice president of cybersecurity, network and collaboration solutions for the firm.

“To me, it’s really just recognizing the shift that was going to happen in the market regardless,” he said. “This is just a way to demonstrate some competency and provides a little bit of credibility to the market for a customer who maybe hasn’t had the chance to work with you in that capacity.”

Cisco is hitting the ground running with the Developer role, which already includes 1,000 partners with DevNet certifications and 1,600 approved partner solutions that Cisco is co-selling with its early Developer partners today, Surplus said. “We have the wind at our back with this one, and we‘re not even live yet,” he said.

The Advisor role already has more than 250 partners actively co-selling along with Integrator and Provider Cisco partners. The average deal size for these partners has increased by 2.8x, Surplus said. “We’re really excited about promoting this co-selling,” he added.

Surplus said that Cisco is seeing momentum with all four roles. There’s been a 20 percent increase in Customer Experience specialized-partners and 11 percent growth in Premier and Select partners within the Integrator tier since its launch a year ago. Cisco has added more than 40 percent more Provider partner types and there are currently more than 2,200 Cisco-based managed services in the market today. “The strategy is working,” Surplus said.

Cisco is also evolving its Specialization portfolio by offering five cross-architectural Solution-based Specialization areas -- analogous to Cisco‘s Advanced Specialisations -- for partners that accel in more than one Cisco offering: Secure, Agile Networks, Hybrid Work, End-to-end Security, Internet for the Future, and Optimized Application Experiences. The change, said Surplus, will help showcase partner value better to end customers. The five new Specialization areas will help partners qualify for the Premier and Gold-level inside Cisco’s Partner Program, the company said.

“The changes to our specialization portfolio will be more aligned with the types of solutions that customers are demanding, and our partners are selling,” Surplus said.

Surplus also announced Cisco is reducing the administrative burden of achieving specialisations by eliminating continuous learning points requirements, individual role requirements and architectural siloes. Cisco is also taking away the learning points requirements from its current Specialisations structure, effective on Tuesday. “We’re not going to tell our partners how to manage their teams -- they already know how to do that,” Surplus said.

Cisco will also offer a new Environmental Sustainability Specialization for partners that want to highlight their green credentials. This Specialization will be made available to partners in the second half of Cisco‘s fiscal year 2022.

Cisco said it is moving away from the term “Master” in reference to its top Specialization designation so that partners can continue to proudly display their Specialization level.  

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