Take your partner by the virtual hand

Take your partner by the virtual hand

Keith Humphreys discusses the merits of Cisco’s virtual online community, which it is creating as part of its new partner network.

IBM, Microsoft and SAP pioneered partner-to-partner (P2P) networks back in 2005 to assist partners with selling broader solutions, reducing marketing expenses and increasing speed to market by combining their resources and expertise.

Setting up a P2P framework that enables partner-to-partner collaboration is a significant investment, but the three software companies all have anecdotal evidence to prove an excellent return on investment.
If a reseller has participated in IBM’s Value Net, Microsoft’s Partner Channel Builder or SAP’s Channel Partner Solution Network, then they have experienced the value of P2P.
Cisco is one of the first hardware vendors to join this software trilogy, and it has extended the P2P networks by embracing Web 2.0.

When Cisco chief executive John Chambers said that Web 2.0 applications were driving up demand for switches and routers, it drove up the share price, so he must have thought that this was job done. He made this statement at C-Scape ­ Cisco’s analyst event in San Jose in December, where he also talked about changing from a management style of command and control to one of collaboration. He illustrated this with the appointment of eight executives to form a development council to promote collaboration.

Cisco’s P2P tool for channel partners and independent service providers to interact is called the Cisco industry solutions partner network (ISPN). Cisco has effectively built on the solutions incentive programme (SIP), the Cisco technology developer programme (CTDP) and Cisco’s solution catalogue.
ISPN focuses the partner on best practices for selling and implementing repeatable industry solutions. Members also benefit from training, access to industry expertise, proposal-based joint marketing funds, turnkey demand-generation resources, and facilitated joint business planning workshops.

The steps for a Cisco partner to participate in the ISPN are that eligible partners are identified by their channel account manager (CAM) through the regional and partner business planning process, and are nominated to the programme by their CAM. Partners with an existing pre-qualified industry solution in SIP are also eligible.
Members must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a Cisco Select, Premier, Silver, or Gold certified partner;
  • Develop and maintain an industry-focused business plan;
  • Have one customer reference within their chosen industry;
  • Allocate industry-focused sales and marketing resources; and
  • Maintain an industry-focused pipeline.

    The partner view, Partner Focus, is a 3D immersive environment where channel partners can discover the wide array of solutions available from Cisco independent service provider partners. This resembles the Cisco virtual campus in Second Life, but is based on a virtual world by Unisfair with a trade show facilitating easy navigation for channel partners.

    Cisco has effectively merged P2P and virtualisation, but initially it was the virtualisation aspect that received coverage and not the P2P aspect. This is a pity, because by investing in P2P, channel partners can develop cross-partner alliances, gain an increased focus on solutions sales, and the incremental value, and gain access to additional resources.

    Keith Humphreys is managing consultant at euroLAN.