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Cisco also unveiled Tuesday Express Collaboration Specialization, a fast-track program for partners to earn Premier-level collaboration certification. Cisco said the idea behind the initiative is to attract new collaboration partners and also to streamline the process by which existing -- and especially smaller -- partners can earn Premier certification in Cisco's Collaboration program.
The Express Collaboration Specialization program works by slashing the training requirements solution providers must meet to earn Premier certification by more than half, said Marc Inderhees, senior sales business development manager of Cisco Worldwide Channels.
"We are very much bringing this to market to address the great opportunity that we see in [the midmarket] segment. It's a new entry point into our Collaboration Partner Program, one that is roughly 50 percent less from an overall partner training and investment perspective as compared to our larger, more enterprise-focused program, the Advanced Collaboration Architecture Specialization," Inderhees said.
"Previously, to sell this portfolio, our partners were required to complete the larger Advanced Collaboration Architecture Specialization program," he continued. "But now we significantly lowered the barrier to entry."
Inderhees said solution providers would need to complete "just north" of 300 training hours to earn Premier-level certification with the Advanced Collaboration Architecture Specialization. With the Express Collaboration Specialization program announced Tuesday, however, that number has been trimmed down to roughly 150 hours.
That said, partners who land this Premier-level certification through the new Express Collaboration Specialization program will receive the same benefits of those who complete the advanced program, including Cisco's technical support and participation in Cisco's Value Incentive Program (VIP).
Layer 3 Technologies' McCoy said his company will definitely strive for Premier-level certification now that the training requirements are more feasible for smaller organizations like his own.
"This will be our next step. Traditionally, to hit the Premier authorization, it was just too big of a jump for us," McCoy said. "Even though this will still be a big jump, it's going to be attainable, and it will open up a whole product line that I haven't been able to sell in the past."
A similar fast-track certification program was announced for Cisco telepresence partners, also targeting the midmarket space. The company's Refreshed TelePresence Advanced Technology program, like the Express Collaboration initiative, scales back on the training requirements partners must meet to earn Premier-level certification for Cisco's Telepresence portfolio.
Lastly, Cisco unveiled new marketing and demand generation tools partners can use to accelerate their push into midmarket organizations, along with an updated Cisco Midmarket Collaboration Promotion, which offers partners one-step deal registration and discounts on select Cisco Telepresence solutions.