Cisco Relying on Channel Partners for Success in AI and Collaboration

Cisco says AI is a winning strategy for its channel partners who leverage its Webex offer, which came long before the AI hype.

Moshe Beauford, Contributing Editor

June 24, 2024

3 Min Read
Cisco channel partners driving success of AI in conferencing and collaboration via Webex.

Cisco's first foray into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) in collaboration came long before ChatGPT brought generative AI to the world's collective consciousness in November 2022.

Kristyn Hogan, VP of global collaboration partner sales at Cisco, told Channel Futures, fresh off the company's first Cisco Live event with newly acquired Splunk, that Cisco in 2020 took the AI-in-collaboration plunge with its noise cancelation capabilities.

At Cisco Live 2024, Hogan shared the firm demonstrated its "two big buckets, with bucket No. 1 representing the contact center, driving customer experience. And since every one of our customers has customers, we want that to get powered by a Cisco contact center," Hogan told Channel Futures.

All of this is underpinned by Cisco's advanced AI technology, with the second "big bucket," as Hogan described it, being hybrid work.

These elements are where Cisco channel partners stand to profit, Hogan said — on AI and its related services in the contact center that focus on enhancing customer and employee experiences.

Cloud migration is another part of that equation where partners stand to profit, no matter if they add AI over the top of existing hardware to stay on-premises, sell a hybrid solution, or get an organization to go all-in with a full-cloud environment.

Cisco Channel Partners and AI Profit

In addition to all the tasks Webex AI Assistant can help Cisco channel partners automate, spanning Cisco's entire collaboration portfolio, Hogan says partners can profit from AI in Webex if they offer services related to organizing data and security, and help customers leverage AI effectively.

Cisco's Kristyn Hogan

There's big business in this, according to Hogan.

"Over the next 18 months, millions of seats are coming, due for a flex subscription renewal, with the majority being on-premises," said Hogan.

Winning these dollars, according to Hogan, could simply come by having a conversation with customers about renewals, migrating to the cloud, and the benefits that AI can extend.

Hogan further shared that not only can Cisco channel partners make more money by moving customers to the cloud, but Cisco has invested in partner dollars to incentivize this transition.

AI Should Be Free, Not an Add-On

Hogan said, unlike competitors, the IT and collaboration giant won't charge for AI; rather, Cisco includes it in every plan for organizations to leverage as they see fit, another area Cisco channel partners can advise their customers, further creating the potential for more revenue.

"AI is baked into Webex meetings so you can unlock all of the AI functions that we continue to innovate every day," Hogan told us.

Hogan also called it a "simpler" sale for customers once they know they don't have to pay extra for AI tools. Cisco competitor Microsoft charges $30 per user, per month for Copilot.

Cisco and Avaya on a Parallel Trek

While both share deep-seated ties to on-premises technology, Cisco has materialized as the leader over Avaya thanks to its ability to modernize faster; yet, as Avaya aggressively updates its approach to business and partnerships, Cisco and Avaya are starting to hum a familiar tune.

Both endeavor to up their AI game, make more strategic acquisitions and to take a more partner-aggressive approach, which could spell a growing competition between the two.

However, the Cisco-Avaya comparison is not unique as most unified communications and collaboration vendors remain on a journey to get their customers to the cloud in some way, shape or form.

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About the Author(s)

Moshe Beauford

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Moshe has nearly a decade of expertise reporting on enterprise technology. Within that world, he covers breaking news, artificial intelligence, contact center, unified communications, collaboration, cloud adoption (digital transformation), user/customer experience, hardware/software, etc.

As a contributing editor at Channel Futures, Moshe covers unified communications/collaboration from a channel angle. He formerly served as senior editor at GetVoIP News and as a tech reporter at UC/CX Today.

Moshe also has contributed to Unleash, Workspace-Connect, Paste Magazine, Claims Magazine, Property Casualty 360, the Independent, Gizmodo UK, and ‘CBD Intel.’ In addition to reporting, he spends time DJing electronic music and playing the violin. He resides in Mexico.

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