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It's Cisco's goal to have a fundamentally different approach to services than companies such as HP that use a "hard deck" strategy -- in other words, restricting partner access to certain sizes and classes of global customers that those vendors intend to service directly.
It also wants to separate Cisco from the trend of major IT companies buying consultancies, integrators and outsourcers to bulk up in services, as HP, IBM, Dell and Xerox have all done in the past decade, executives said.
"That's never been our strategy," said Raja Sundaram, senior director of services channels. "Strategy-wise, which is better? Do I build a 200,000-person services arm or go acquire the largest outsourcer on the planet? Or do I enable a value-based partner model with an amazing set of partners?"
"We absolutely do not have a hard deck strategy, we have an ecosystem strategy and that's how we can do so much business," said Earle, who spent 18 years at HP. "[A hard deck] makes for a simple strategy, but it's not a partner friendly strategy."
On a global basis, Cisco has about 13,000 services employees, including in maintenance services. Among those employees are 2,000 in-house CCIEs -- compared with what Earle said is more than 84,000 partner employees that hold CCIE certifications -- and 3,800 technical services employees and 5,600 advanced services employees.
Clarity on how Cisco expects partners to work with the vendor on services has been a frequent request from VARs, Earle said. Therefore, one of the big initiatives from Earle's team this winter is the release of what Cisco is describing as a Rules of Engagement document: an exhaustive, thoroughly annotated file that outlines Cisco's global services strategy, how it plans to engage customers and where, on which opportunities it will work with partners and where, and what partners qualify for which services programs based on their certifications.
According to Earle, the document will be made available to every Cisco channel partner worldwide and also every Cisco field employee. One benefit is that it will give Cisco partners a tool to reference -- including a step-by-step guide on how to escalate problems int he services organization -- when they feel Cisco has overstepped its bounds on a partner-led services sale.
"We've formalized it. If you find any [bad] behavior, here is the formal escalation process," Earle said. "We talk about how we pay our people. We've written it all down so we're absolutely clear. It's something we should have done in the past, and we didn't."
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