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Cisco Reveals New Requirements for MSPs, Integrators

Gold-level provider partners and integrators have until April 2022 to meet the requirements.

Jeffrey Schwartz

June 30, 2021

4 Min Read

Large Cisco managed service providers and integrators must meet requirements of the company’s Customer Experience Specialization program by April 7, 2022. Cisco revealed the deadline on Wednesday, among several requirements and updates to the company’s revamped partner program.

The overhaul of its sprawling channel program, which Cisco disclosed at last fall’s Partner Summit, resulted in four partner categories: integrators, providers, developers and advisers. Cisco’s new program also has three tiers: gold, premier and select. Select replaced what was previously the express tier.

Cisco had indicated it would flesh out requirements and benefits of the new program by June. Marc Surplus, Cisco’s VP of partner strategy and programs, discussed the new requirements with Channel Futures. The most notable change for gold-level integrators is they must obtain a specialization in customer experience. While Cisco had shared that requirement during last fall’s announcement, the latest news for integrators is the April 7 deadline.


Cisco’s Marc Surplus

“We think that customer experience specialization is table stakes,” Surplus said. “As Cisco transitions more and more to software, and partners are helping customers get the full value of their Cisco investments, that customer experience specialization becomes paramount, not only to helping the customer get there, but to ensuring partners are able to profitably deploy those services.”

Among Cisco’s 50,000 partners, Surplus estimated that roughly 10,000 are integrators are transitioning from traditional reselling. Surplus is confident that they will be able to meet the April deadline, noting many meet the requirements.

“Most of the others are already on the way to getting there, so we don’t foresee any challenges,” he said.

Cisco is incorporating its Continuous Learning (CL) into the partner program for integrators. Surplus said the move will reduce the administrative burden for partners who need to get training for their people.

Requirements for MSPs

The investments could be more substantial to some MSPs that intend to identify as Cisco providers. Notably, Cisco gold providers must have a network operations center (NOC) that can provide baseline level-one support. Gold providers must also be able to deliver SLAs based on the ITIL framework. Gold-level providers must “prove that they have a robust, rigorous end-to-end managed service practice,” Surplus said.

The Cisco program also has benefits for premier and select partners, according to Surplus.

“There are some partners that will say, ‘I’m OK being a premier managed service provider until my business scales and I can make the commensurate investments,’” Surplus said.

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

Likewise, he noted that there are a growing number of select partners dabbling in managed services.

“We want to support those partners as well,” he said. “That’s good business for both our partners and for Cisco and it gets small and midsize customers a lot of the support they need.”

In February, Cisco retired its cloud and managed services program (CMSP), though those with specializations under that designation remain grandfathered.

“In some instances, they may need to up-level their skills and invest a little bit more to get access to higher incentives and benefits or brand differentiation and recognition in the market,” Surplus said.

Developers and Advisers

In August, Cisco will provide more specifics on requirements for partners that identify as either developers or advisers. Cisco plans to provide developers with more technical training, tools and will provide access to Cisco sales resources. With Cisco’s DevNet specialization, the company aims to make it easier for developers to collaborate and integrate their offerings.

“Obviously, if you’re an ISV, you want to tap into the Cisco go-to-market machine with our partners,” Surplus said. “That co-selling motion will be facilitated, depending on your level of investment, with true joint solution creation, marketing, getting on the Cisco price list — all things that give a partner playing the developer role a lot more scale on their own go-to-market. Because customers want these partners to work with partners, like the integrator role in many instances.”

As for advisers, the global consulting firms likely all qualify as gold partners, according to Surplus. As Cisco formalizes the adviser program, the company seeks experts from different industries and boutique consultancies.

Cisco plans to offer advisers programmatic experience with its partner program benefits, according to Surplus. Benefits will include referral fees for business development, or for those who want to take on the roles of agents.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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