Cisco Partner Strategy On Course with 'New Normal'

Despite all that has happened, Cisco says it is still in a normal business mode.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

June 18, 2020

8 Min Read
On Target, On Course

Despite widespread disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cisco partner strategy hasn’t changed. It’s the right strategy for now and the future.

That’s according to Oliver Tuszik, Cisco’s senior vice president of the company’s global partner organization. He kicked off Thursday’s post-Cisco Live 2020 partner roundtable addressing Cisco partner strategy.

The company’s channel executives talked about the opportunity for partners moving into the “new normal,” and how technology can continue to shape and solve the world’s problems.


Cisco’s Oliver Tuszik

“It is very clear that partner profitability remains our No. 1 priority,” Tuszik said. “This is not only for this time, it is also for the future.”

Despite all that has happened, Cisco is still in normal business mode, he said. Its sales teams, together with its partners, are focused on the same kinds of activities, he said.

“It’s about the customer, the single deal, delivering incredible services, building up pipeline … and, yes, even at this time winning and gaining market share, and having an impact,” Tuszik said. “And our team is supporting partners on the deals, on this current situation, but also for the future. We continue to perform and transform. It’s normal business under abnormal conditions.”

Some things have changed for the better during the pandemic, he said. In the United States, there was a very complex setup when it came to health care, and certain things weren’t allowed, such as having a call between a doctor and patient, he said. These regulations were suspended.

“We’re in a phase where we can predict an outcome, and it’s our team’s job is to help our partners through this slowdown in the business and help them to prepare for the new normal,” Tuszik said.

During the downturn, Cisco has taken numerous steps to help partners, he said. It made changes in the supply chain and helped partners with the support system. Cisco also relieved pressure on a lot of support programs and certifications, he said.

“And we added additional financial support,” Tuszik said. “We launched a new program that is helping customers to free up capacity. We see how this is picking up, with more than 20% growth already in this program. And in addition, we see the pipeline is growing. There’s still a demand for IT because IT is the future and what helps us get through these times.”

The new normal includes three fundamental changes. Those are: secure connections from anywhere; more IT agility, managed services and SaaS; and digitization for survival.

“We see very clearly this is exactly what we were talking about close to two years ago,” Tuszik said. “We will continue to drive the business. These three key areas became more important than ever before.”

Focusing on customer success, a key part of the Cisco partner strategy, has never been more important, he said. That’s because a lot of systems are going to change, and a lot of free trials are in use.

“We need to help our partners to show the customers that they deliver the value so that they go into the renewal mode,” Tuszik said. “There’s a big opportunity, especially due to the high amount of customers. And the customer experience doesn’t stop there. It’s more about we help them to create more value and business outcomes.”

It’s also more important to reduce complexity and give partners one platform to work with Cisco, he said.

WebEx Explosion

Cherie Caldwell is global director of collaboration strategy and business development for the Cisco Global Partner Organization. She said Cisco’s WebEx platform has had …

… three times the normal capacity since the pandemic began.


Cisco’s Cherie Caldwell

“Our partners really jumped on the need for the customers, and provided WebEx meetings and messaging, and calling to be able to continuously work,” she said. “We had a massive amount of free trials set up, new offers created and expanded offers that our partners took to the market.”

More than 70% of companies are going to remain with remote working in some capacity, Caldwell said.

Digital transformation has jumped ahead two years and that’s not going to change,” she said. “Video-first is the new standard for business.”

For partners, there’s an amazing opportunity because Cisco expanded WebEx Control Hub to allow them to make recommendations and upsell for new work trends and styles, Caldwell said.

“This really represents the secure platform and a huge upsell opportunity for our partners to be able to extend the Control Hub,” she said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity for our partners to be able to leverage and offer integrated services, become that true trusted adviser from a digital perspective, and support and provide expertise across these verticals in brand new ways.”

Big Opportunity with SecureX

Dave Gronner is Cisco’s senior manager of security partner go-to-market for the global partner organization. He said Cisco’s new SecureX, an integrated cloud-native cybersecurity platform, brings new opportunities for partners.


Cisco’s Dave Gronner

“SecureX ties together the network security element, the cloud security element, the applications and even the endpoint,” he said. “It also brings in all the third parties, meaning all the non-Cisco solutions that Cisco partners and customers use. So this becomes an incredible power for the partner community as much as customers because they now have the ability to really simplify their cloud security, tie together all these disparate alarms and information, and find ways to make it a lot more coherent.”

Many security partners make a lot of their profit within the consulting and engineering, and orchestration and automation of security, Gronner said.

“SecureX is a perfect tool for the partner as well,” he said. “So not just a launch to the customer, it’s a launch to our channel.”

Security remains one of the most profitable and highest growth areas for partners, Gronner said. That’s because there’s so much consulting and design that customers need, he said.

“There’s a massive shortage of technology and security experts in the marketplace,” he said. “We continue to invest not only in security from acquisition and development, we invest a ton in our partner community, whether it’s training, mentoring, shadowing or services. There are a lot of pieces that Cisco flows in through our partners for our partners.”

Modernizing Services

Denny Trevett is Cisco’s vice president of partner model. He said every vendor and partner need to …

… modernize their services and create new services to deliver business outcomes.

“Here at Cisco, we’re going from that break-fix world; we still sell support, but we’re going to proactively engage our customers at every single step of the life cycle,” he said. “And we’re going to be predictive so we can predict where there will be issues, and before the customer stumbles we’re going to be able to engage with them to avoid problems.”

Cisco is investing in its customer experience life cycle approach where it provides coaching and guidance to its partners, Trevett said.

With Cisco’s new CX Cloud platform, the company can digitally connect customers to Cisco and partners so “we can understand where they’re struggling and where they need help, and digitally engage them,” he said.

“This is a new platform that our partners can leverage to position and drive their services for the future,” Trevett said.

In addition, with Business Critical Services 3.0 (BCS), Cisco makes it easier and more profitable for partners to sell these offers, as well as their own services, he said.

“Every insight or recommendation we provide is an opportunity for partners to leverage their services to act on those recommendations, to do the remediation — and that’s a winner,” Trevett said.

Marc Surplus is Cisco‘s vice president of strategy, planning and programs. He said the past several months have been about helping partners through “unprecedented times and unparalleled circumstances” to perform, and extending Cisco’s program portfolio to support them.

Keep up with the latest developments in how the channel is supporting partners and customers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since March 18, Cisco has made 25 changes to its partner program to support partners in stress areas in their business, he said. Those include financial support, digital marketing and steps to safeguard partners’ rewards, he said.

Jose van Dijk is Cisco’s vice president of partner performance and operations. She said Cisco’s Black Belt Academy is an enablement framework for selling, deploying, adopting and supporting all Cisco architectures.

“We can say digital is here to stay; face-to-face training at least for now is completely out the the window,” she said. “So for our partners, this is really important because we need to make sure that we keep them engaged and informed about the latest with every new technology that we have.”

Another key part of the Cisco partner strategy, demand for Black Belt training is “off the charts,” with more than 32,000 registered users. And in April and May 900 new users joined each week, van Dijk said.

“In the month of May, the consumption tripled from March,” she said. “That is over four years of trainings consumed in one month.”

Julia Chen is Cisco’s vice president of partner transformation. She said partners need to transform because customers are demanding business outcome solutions.

“It isn’t just because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “This is a trend that’s been going on — and there are two main reasons. Recent technological advancements are enabling technology to impact business outcomes in a more integrated way. The other big trend is that our customer set is changing in a very noticeable way. It used to be that our main technology buyer stat was IT departments. But today, everybody’s buying technology.”

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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