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Several Cisco partners said they've seen good returns from CPS thus far.
"What I like about CPS is that it keeps my engineers in front of the customer and the technology, while the [Cisco] Advanced Services engineers work behind the scenes," said Dale Hardy, vice president, professional services at Nexus Integration Services, a Valencia, Calif.-based Cisco Gold partner. "I have the flexibility to provide full disclosure to the customer on the engagement or simply collaborate with the AS-CPS team and keep it fully transparent to the customer. It is all based on the customer's delivery expectations."
Cisco has responded well to partners about feedback over the pricing of the services in CPS, Hardy said.
"The CPS offers were initially released with bundled pricing," he said. "However, we didn't necessarily want all of the items within the bundles, plus it inflated the associated pricing models. Now there are more flexible options that provide more flexibility and improved cost models."
Harry Zarek, president of Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Cisco Gold partner, said the CPS offer was well packaged and well documented.
"It allows us to get up to speed a lot quicker and in effect have a protection in terms of knowing that we have Cisco-trained, experienced resources that are part of the work we're doing," Zarek said. "The way they've constructed it now is that they're never in front of the customer. It's always a remote support service, and it's we that maintain the interaction. We're the ones that continue to lead the engagement, but by having them as part of it, that helps build our folks' confidence."
That's a big difference from leveraging Cisco Advanced Services to essentially do service fulfillment for customers, he said.
"In fact, what you're doing there is contracting Cisco to deliver the service for you," he said. "So we're not involved, and we don't really have an opportunity to learn from them. That would make more sense maybe for a DMR or someone who doesn't do professional services but not for us."
VARs agreed the growth of their professional services practices is what sets them apart, especially in a channel as crowded as Cisco's. Several major recent solution provider acquisitions that weigh heavily in the Cisco channel, including Softchoice's $17 million pickup of Unis Lumin last month, were in part motivated by professional services.
It's a particular form of value-add, and also a moneymaker, VARs said.
"The issue with professional services is that you're limited by people with certain skill sets," Zarek said. "It's not something you can easily scale systems-wide."
"Our year-over-year growth in professional services has never slowed down, even when the economy did," said Nexus IS' Hardy. "Unlike hardware, professional services is where we can capture increased margins. It's extremely important."