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As next-generation solution providers like cloud service providers and ISVs become more relevant to hardware-centric VARs and integrators, Bahr said Cisco expects to partner with those companies and also enable collaboration between its various channels. As Cisco becomes more of an SDN player, the ISV and cloud platform communities will be ideal Cisco channel players.
"It's a market in which we think we're not completely penetrated," she said.
Bahr told partners during a recent Cisco Partner Executive Exchange (CPEE) meeting that she will also continue the work started by Sheriff to streamline the administrative work required of partners for advanced certification, audits and Cisco incentive programs.
"We'll continue to look at our audit process and making changes to programs that reduce partners' administrative burden," she said. "We also continue to be very vocal about the need for joint account planning and making sure our partners are rewarded for partnering with us early in the process."
"A lot of those systems are still cumbersome and slow, but Jim started this effort -- his goal was a 1 percent improvement," said Gary Alexander, president and CEO of Alexander Open Systems, an Overland Park, Kan.-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner, referring to Cisco's efforts to reduce partner costs of doing business with the vendor. "It's a modest goal, but it was a goal. We like where they're headed and we are seeing that steady improvement."
Another area of focus, Bahr said, will be Cisco's Teaming Incentive Program, which is intended to reward Cisco partners early on in the sales process to recognize the groundwork a complex sale requires. TIP had several challenges following its initial 2010 launch, with Cisco partners complaining that Cisco account reps hadn't been properly trained on the program and weren't ably helping solution providers realize benefits. But Bahr reiterated what Sherriff told CRN back in January, that TIP was finally up to speed.
"It's getting very close to second nature, which is when you know you've really learned something," she said. "It was a change in the way we go to market -- a level of trust between Cisco and our partners. There's always work to do, but the benefit of the TIP program is agreeing early in the process that we're going to win the deal together."
Bahr encouraged solution providers to increase their knowledge of SDN and the software-centric data center and also keep up their focus on key growth verticals like health care, smart grid and sales to tier-two, tier-three and tier-four service providers trying to build out cloud assets.
She also urged partners to keep an eye on ongoing Cisco channel consolidation.
"We don't see that declining," she said. "I would expect it to continue and the likelihood is there that it will increase."