Channel Post speaks to Shadi Salama, the Channel Leader for Middle East at Cisco about the company’s channel partner program, the benefits and how partners can join the program
Please tell us about Cisco’s Channel Partner Program.
Cisco, as a company, has been known for its innovation. The biggest advantages our channel programs offer is innovation in technology as well as our channel partner programs and a wide range of training and certifications – more than any other vendor in the market.
Cisco was amongst the first to do a value-based program, where instead of looking at sales volume, we also considered a number of other metrics such as certified engineers, specialization, and mix of products. This has now become standard across the industry.
Cisco partner programs are designed to offer rich incentives and promotions to our partners and increase their revenue potential, profitability and customer satisfaction. Depending on the partner’s Cisco certification and specialization, they could take advantage of myriad programs that vary by region and technology.
Through our programs, we share the upcoming and disruptive technologies with our partners and incentivize them to adopt it. With these incentives, we eventually make a change in our partner program and enable our partners with new capabilities.
Apart from our regular partner programs, we have also added new specializations to provide partners with the training and tools necessary to sell the Cisco technologies that are evolving the service provider market today. All our channel partners are needed to include cloud services as part of their portfolio, which has paid off big time as cloud services have now become a huge part of the channel partners’ businesses. We have also added IoT and Master specializations in addition to our Express and Advanced specializations to gear our channel for the future.
Cisco has five categories of Partner Relationships: Cisco Certified Partner, Cisco Cloud and Managed Services Certified Partner, Cisco Specialized Partner, Cisco Authorized Technology Provider, and Cisco Registered Partner.
How do you onboard partners to the program?
We onboard partners via a wide array of different methods. We onboard through our team via a structured engagement process to ensure that they are successful. Our authorized distributors also play a pivotal role in onboarding news partners with a variety of tools, enablement and training to ensure that they are successful.
Are there any criteria partners need to match before joining the program?
Partners need to log onto our portal and register to become a partner. We have been and will continue to be a channel driven organization. In addition, we don’t place any hurdles for our partners to become authorized. I am personally looking for partners who are hungry to drive growth and profitability for both their respective organizations while utilizing our world class solutions.
What is the benefit of the PartnerPro program?
Cisco’s channel partner programs enhance partners’ ability to deliver intelligent networks and technology architectures built on integrated products, services, and software programs, in a value-based style that rewards partners with incentives. In addition to regular training and certification programs, Cisco also focuses on hybrid IT and business transformation in order to help partners increase profitability.
Cisco’s training and certification initiatives enable its partners to be customer centric and increase their potential and profit with emerging technologies including IoT, cloud, virtualization, automation and management which gives them a competitive edge.
We are committed to the success of our partners and their profitability and offer a broad spectrum of advantages which helps them connect to advanced architectures, solutions, software and services to capture market share by providing:
- Business enablement to prepare, build and grow more quickly
- Incentives and rewards to recognize their success
- Marketing and demand generation to attract customers and increase sales
Across the Middle East, Cisco’s channel partners have continued to reach new heights in delivering solutions across cloud, data center, mobility, and security. This is especially true in anticipation of growing technology take-up in the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) era, in which Cisco predicts that there will be 500 billion connections by 2030.
Our next generation Cisco Channel Partner Program includes a number of changes to Cisco’s partner certification structure — most of which are focused on managed services and cloud — and bundles all of Cisco’s deal registration programs, including the Cisco Opportunity Incentive Program (OIP) and Teaming Incentive Program (TIP), into one.
We have streamlined our certification structure to better enable partners to differentiate and invest in their Cisco practice. Cisco has also simplified and enriched incentive programs to better recognize and reward partner value, and protect their investment.
Cisco helps partners take advantage of the rich incentives and promotions that are specifically designed to increase profitability and customer satisfaction. The Cisco Value Incentive Program (VIP) helps partners get rewarded while differentiating their business by promoting the adoption of targeted Cisco technologies, solutions and services.
How do you compare your partner program with similar program from competitors?
Differentiation is a necessity for a partner in today’s highly competitive market with constant pressure to be profitable. We have successfully helped partners increase their profitability with Cisco via our value-added programs including our master specialization. We have created subject matter expertise within our partners to focus and help solve clear business outcomes.
As the business outcomes become more complex and with the current economic climate, we have up-skilled our partners to focus on delivering new solutions such as cloud and managed services – via new consumption models to better serve our clients.
Our next generation Channel Partner Program enables and rewards our partners for adopting new consumption models and reaching new buying centers, with an emphasis on solutions, hybrid IT, and architectures. Our partner programs ensure that our partners are way ahead of the competition with cool, new, unique solutions.
Through our range of specializations and partner programs, Cisco enables channel partners with the required skill sets and incentivizes them to adopt these technologies and remain profitable. The technology innovation gives Cisco’s partners the ability to move into markets sometimes years before competitive channel partners.
Are any training programs part of the channel partner program you run?
Skills shortage is one of the major challenges when it comes to the latest trends such as IoT and SDN. In order to capitalize on these technologies, enterprises will need well-trained and skilled staff. Cisco predicts that approximately 220,000 new engineers will be needed globally every year for the next 10 years to keep up with the technological surge of Internet of Everything (IoE). This is a gap that must be filled if the potential of IoE is to be realized.
For partners to be successful in this area, they need to play key roles in defining, selling, deploying and optimizing these mega trends that will deliver clear business outcomes and meet customers’ needs. At Cisco, we provide partners with technical support, productivity tools, online training, marketing resources and sales promotions in addition to our channel enablement programs.
Through our new specializations, we provide partners with the training and tools necessary to sell the Cisco technologies that are evolving the service provider market today. Our specializations are designed to help partners develop skills critical to business success and help increase their profitable revenue.
How has your partner program evolved over the years? Do you receive any inputs from your channel partners to better the program each year?The Cisco Channel Partner Program has always focused on value versus volume, rewarding partners who create value, no matter their size or sales volume. The program has evolved over time to identify market transitions, enable our partners through these transitions and recognize partners for their practices. With major market transitions happening today, our channel partners have unique opportunities to once again evolve their business models and offer even more value to their customers, while at the same time, differentiating themselves and growing profitably.
Given the industry shifts around IoT, cloud, digital transformation, mobility, SDN, and other trends, we have seen changes in our partner programs to better align Cisco’s partners with current market trends. For partners to be successful, they need to play key roles in defining, selling, deploying and optimizing service provider technology solutions that will deliver clear business outcomes and meet customers’ needs.
To help partners and solution providers capitalize on the $19 trillion opportunity that the Internet of Everything (IoE) offers, in November 2014, Cisco rolled out three new partner specializations focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) that include the Advanced IoT Connected Safety and Security specialization, the Advanced IoT Manufacturing specialization and the Advanced IoT Industry Expert specialization. These new programs are designed to help IT solution providers expand their knowledge of operational technology (OT) and specific vertical markets, the two areas that are needed to succeed in the IoT era.
Solution providers who earn the IoT Industry Expert specialization will become part of the formal Cisco Partner Program, likely as a Select or Premier partner, as these certification levels require fewer specializations. Like all Cisco specializations, the new Advanced IoT specializations require partners go through a sales and technical training process. The number of specializations that partners hold has a bearing on whether they are a Gold, Premier or Select Cisco partner.
Cisco also launched its first Internet of Everything Partner Playbook to help provide a blueprint and assets for partners building vertical practices and aiming to capture part of the IoE and Internet of Things opportunity. The playbook addresses four vertical markets — public sector, manufacturing, transportation and utilities — that Cisco has identified as representing huge opportunities for its channel partners.