CDW Snags Companywide Cisco Premier Status

The move advances CDW's larger strategy to ultimately become a full-service solution provider, said Jim Grass, senior director of sales at the Vernon Hills, Ill.-based company.

CDW's government division, CDW-G, previously had attained Cisco Premier authorization and already has Cisco Security and IP Telephony specializations. The latest authorization lets CDW extend its Cisco specializations to its more traditional SMB accounts.


Jim Grass says CDW wants to add more value to customer interactions.

"This is a big deal to us. We want to make sure we add value to all of our customer interactions. We want to go beyond fulfilling the order and become the trusted adviser for them," Grass said. "We can really talk technical about what a customer is trying to accomplish and really add value to the sale, as opposed to just sending out a box."

In developing its evolving services strategy, CDW has built nine technology specialist teams overlaying its sales organization, Grass said. Sales associates can draw on these specialist teams to design customer-specific solutions in bandwidth, mobility/wireless, networking LAN/WAN, power, security, storage, technology services, telephony and volume software licensing.

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There are more than 150 specialists on those nine teams to support CDW's 1,900 account managers, said Steve Winandy, director of advanced technologies at CDW.

"Inside an [end user] there are various technical projects happening. For CDW to maintain the position as the source of technology solutions, we created groups that focus on and become experts in those solutions," he said.

CDW also will rely on manufacturers' service groups and third-party partners, including other solution providers, to do on-site work, Grass said.

Vector ESP, a Houston-based solution provider with 12 offices and 180 employees nationwide, has performed Citrix Systems, Microsoft and security implementations on behalf of CDW, said Dean Maire, vice president of alliance business development at Vector.

The solution provider receives a fee from CDW for the work. The charge is usually below what Vector bills its own customers because the cost of winning the business is virtually nothing, Maire said. He is unconcerned about CDW becoming too adept at services and usurping any of his own customers.



CDW is building technical expertise in the following areas:

"CDW has a very good customer base, and they're best in the industry in terms of fulfillment. We feel comfortable with them," Maire said. "The channel has changed. You can't keep the same model as you did five years ago."

Other solution providers said their business could be adversely affected as CDW boosts its services capabilities and certifications.

"I'm concerned that Cisco would allow it more so than the fact that [CDW] will be there," said Pat Grillo, president and CEO of Atrion Communications Resources, Branchburg, N.J., referring to CDW's new Cisco status. "They may add some people who can make some [design] decisions, but to me it's still a box house. I think they will have trouble making the switch [to services]."

Cisco tries to reward partners that sell based on value, not volume, said Surinder Brar, senior director of worldwide channels programs and strategy at the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor.

"We encourage our partners to develop [more skills] and will support any channel partner looking to expand their value proposition, because more often than not, value equals customer satisfaction and that's our top priority," Brar said.

CDW performs services for small businesses and enterprises, Winandy said. "A 12-member law firm doesn't have a solid IT department to be an expert in security, storage, infrastructure," he said. "We encourage and train our front-line salespeople to identify pain points inside a customer."