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Cisco Mulls How To Reward Solutions

The next stage of Cisco Systems' partner incentive program will reward VARs and systems integrators who have invested in constructing end-to-end business solutions, executives said.

The program, referred to as the Solutions Incentive Program (SIP), is under development and won't be launched for at least three to 12 months, said Paul Mountford, senior vice president of worldwide channels at Cisco, during an interview at the Cisco Partner Summit in Honolulu.

"Our programs are all built upon customer value," Mountford said, when asked to comment on the elements of SIP.

Partners welcomed Cisco's support, in principle. "Any time you're talking about an application, that's when you really need a consultative, solutions-based approach," said Christine Holloway, managing partner for customer contact solutions for Norstan Communications, a Cisco voice solutions partner in Waukesha, Wisc.

But others were leery of a cookie-cutter program approach to solutions, stressing the need for flexibility when it comes to specializations or blueprints. "It may apply in certain countries better than in other countries, globally," said Kevin Roche, general manager of North America operations, responsible for global strategic alliances at Getronics, headquartered in Amsterdam.

Cisco's Customer Advocacy organization, which provides maintenance and infrastructure design services, will have a voice in the SIP planning. And it should come as little surprise that IP telephony and security will likely be the first focuses.

Indeed, Cisco Vice President of Advanced Technologies Edison Peres disclosed Thursday at the summit a new services offering designed to aid qualified partners offering solutions underpinned by the San Jose, Calif.-based company's IP telephony line. The new Voice Services Model, due to launch in the next three to six months, will provide additional revenue opportunities for partners who have invested in their own network operations center and who want to offer support for end-to-end voice solutions, Peres said.

In addition, Cisco's services team is launching this quarter a presales support desk for partners defining IP telephony architectures.

Ultimately, the planning behind SIP will center on Cisco's strategy to grow its advanced technology revenue by more than $1 billion with partners over the next 18 months, Peres said.

Toward that end, the company is preparing at least four new specializations tied to solutions architectures rather than specific products. The first two, blueprints for IP video surveillance and the branch office of the future, will be launched by the middle of the year, Peres said in his keynote on Thursday.

Those specializations, when they become available, can be used to qualify for Premier, Silver or Gold partner status, he said.

Peres identified seven key characteristics of a successful solutions practice: customer intimacy, technology depth, consultative focus, vertical-market discipline, application integration skills, lifecycle services and business process integration capabilities.

"We all use the word 'solutions' and probably overuse the word and probably all are correct," he said.

It's Cisco's job to help partners transition to the business solutions model that's best for them, Peres said.

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