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The Smart Solutions concept has roots in the philosophy Cisco has been pushing for years now: an architectural approach to selling IT, based on the idea that the network is the central focus of various platforms and frameworks for solving technology problems in communications and infrastructure. In Cisco's view, as CEO John Chambers has described on several occasions, sellers of technology have to think about IT problems holistically and as line-of-business conversations vs. stand-alone, product-by-product sales and piecemeal troubleshooting.
Using that model, Cisco a few years ago organized its various product lines around three so-called architectures -- Borderless Networks, Data Center and Collaboration -- and in 2011 retooled its partner specializations to align with those architectures, requiring partners to have met new certification requirements by August of this year. The shift mainly affected Cisco Gold-level partners, who now need to attain all three architecture specializations to maintain their status.
Gold- and Silver-level partners that support more than one or two major Cisco lines are naturally able to target bigger, more-sophisticated customer needs because they can offer, say, data center solutions as well as collaboration, unified communications or network security.
Therefore, Mountford explained, it was his organization's priority to figure out how Cisco could better equip those partners to sell with a solution-focused mentality.
"The role formed because we wanted to really start to think about how our customers want to consume technology cross-architecture," Mountford explained.
Mountford is a well-known figure among Cisco partners. He was the networking king's channel chief from 2002 to 2005, succeeded by Keith Goodwin, and ran Cisco's emerging markets theater for many years after.
In June 2011, as part of Cisco's global restructuring, Mountford took the newly created senior vice president-level position heading up Cisco enterprise. He reports to Rob Lloyd, Cisco executive vice president, worldwide operations, and various technology architecture leaders that previously reported to Lloyd now come under Mountford.
"We've never had a head of global enterprise before, and how we define it is that it basically covers everything that isn't service provider," Mountford said. "It's essentially the verticals, all the way up through different ends of the enterprise, and then small business all the way up to our GET [Global Enterprise Theater, representing Cisco's top 30 customer] accounts."
Mountford's global team is about 875 people, including Cisco's technology sales leads for Borderless Networks, Collaboration and Data Center architectures, along with the engineering teams that do validated designs for Smart Solutions, a go-to-market team that manages all the various enterprise sales apparatuses, and a competitive insights team that works on market research and intelligence.
Mountford stressed that Cisco will continue to reward partners that can move beyond the traditional product-resale mind-set of channel selling and approach customer business problems with architecture-based solutions.
"These areas like smart security, collaboration applications, they run across the whole business," he said. "So we came up with the idea that these solutions needed to be big enough for our channels to move the needle for them."