Cisco is preparing for its next wave of partner program change and execution with a new breed of cross-architectural specialisations taking centre stage.
According to global partner organisation SVP Oliver Tuszik, Cisco will heavily focus on specialisations fostering the creation of integrated solutions across a wider array of its product portfolio.
Speaking during Cisco Partner Summit 2021, Tuszik explained the solutions specialisation move will be focused on how customers want to buy and what they are looking for.
"That is a shift we have seen and it didn't come with a pandemic. It started before. But we see that customers are looking for more integrated solutions that address a need or address a problem and create clear business value," he said.
As an example, Tuszik specified how hybrid working has generated the perfect marriage of hardware, connectivity and security.
"For this, you need a lot of different technical skills, but you also need to bring it together as a very easy, simple-to-buy and consumable solution," he said.
The five cross-architecture specialisations -- secure and agile networks, hybrid work, end-to-end security, internet for the future and optimised application experiences – correspond with Cisco's advanced specialisations.
While such cross-architectural integrations may be possible for larger partners, these may be harder for smaller partners.
However, for Tuszik, this is where distributors come in.
"[The distributors are] delivering more and more services to their partners," he explained. "So that even if you are a small partner, you can offer a range of services and consolidated integrated solutions to your customer that you would normally not be able to serve on your own."
What Cisco's pivot means for partners
As Cisco progressively pivots its business towards software and subscription-based selling, partners naturally have to change historical business models to cater to the shift.
"There are fewer customers buying pure, simple technology," Tuszik said. "So, a partner is less about selling the best technology, but about selling the best customer experience. And this is business model transformation."
"We are selling on our marketplaces; we are selling as agency models. We want to have consumption models. This complexity is one of the burdens that we need to work on together with our partners."
On the subject of customer experience, Tuszik touched on last year's announcement that all gold-level integrators will have achieved Cisco’s Customer Experience Specialisation by 7 April 2022.
Understandably, as Tuszik admits, there were concerns that some partners would lose their top-tier status. However, one year later, these mutterings proved negligible.
"The answer is clearly no," he said. "Because all or gold partners now already have a practice that is focused on the entire lifecycle that is focused on customer experience.
"Yes, we set some deadlines to catch up on, but I haven't seen any complaints or escalation."
The integrator role was one of four newly-defined roles unveiled last year as Cisco began consolidating a dozen separate partner programs into one single program, forming part of a channel overhaul designed to simplify go-to-market engagement.
Specifically, these were integrator, provider, advisor and developer, which are intended to provide opportunity for partners to differentiate across multiple areas of the vendor’s portfolio, from reseller to managed services, as well as developer and advisory practices.
According to Tuszik, the integrator role is the closest to the traditional Cisco reseller and as such witnessed the biggest take-up.
"But we see that a lot of the bigger integrators normally have a managed service practice – so [they have] the provider practice" he explained. "[The bigger players] are catching up on this one. Now we are focusing on migrating and opening up to the newer roles, which is about the advisor and the developer role."
Building from his comments at Cisco Partner Summit 2018, Tuszik is still maintaining a steely focus on eradicating complexity from the vendor's partner relations.
"Complexity is one of the burdens that we need to work on together with our partners. It is the one thing that we need to fight together," he said.