Cisco Arms Partners With New Professional Services Enablement

Cisco Tuesday launched new Collaborative Professional Services (CPS) aimed at giving its partners the upper hand in a new era where professional services dominate the solutions landscape.

The network market leader views the new professional services offerings, launched at the Cisco Partner Summit in New Orleans, as its biggest differentiator in driving partner profitability in the next generation of IT solutions, including cloud computing and unified communications.

The services are aimed squarely at helping partners shorten the learning curve to break into new technology markets, reduce the risk associated with those emerging technology partner bets, and provide software tools aimed at speeding up deployment of new technologies, executives said.

’The reality is that building your own [intellectual property] is very painful and very long. With the rate at which technology is evolving, we really don’t have the time to do it to the level we’d like,’ said Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, a Cisco Gold partner based in Ontario. ’The quality [of services enablement] we’re getting from Cisco allows us to get into the market quicker ... Whoever gets there first is going to get the larger share of the business.’

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Cisco has made a strategic decision to let its channel partners take the lead on services rather than build out a large professional services organization of its own, said Karl Meulema, senior vice president of Cisco Services.

’Unlike many others in the industry, we’re not building out a services organization of hundreds of thousands of people. We go through our partners,’ Meulema said. ’At same time, that means we have to take responsibility for making our partners successful; in other words, enabling our partners.’

Cisco said the professional services enablement effort is aimed at increasing partner professional services revenue above the 40- 50 percent of total revenue enjoyed by many Cisco partners.

The enablement offerings fall under three primary areas: professional services practice accelerators aimed at new technology practices such as cloud and unified communications; professional services development and guidance aimed at helping partners create designs and implementation documentation; and assessment services with automated software tools designed to help partners determine a customer's network readiness for new technology design.

Cisco said in one pilot the assessment service allowed a partner to reduce a manual network analysis from 128 hours to only two hours.

Cisco said it has been extensively piloting the offerings for the last 18 months with 45 partners on 154 engagements. There are currently 30 professional services offerings under the three primary categories available today. The most eagerly anticipated -- cloud professional services training modules -- will be available starting in August, with some coming in the fall.

The practice accelerator is priced at $27,000 and guidance and development services are priced from $15,000 - $35,000 respectively. The assessment service is priced at $2,000-$8,000 per project. Cisco said the professional services enablement is delivered virtually.

NEXT: Is The Pricing Too High?

Ron Dupler, CEO of Green Pages, Kittery, Maine, said Cisco's professional services enablement strikes at the heart of what it takes to succeed in the cloud computing era. "The cloud computing economy is all about professional services," he said. "In the cloud it is all about business services. For years, solution providers have put together technology products. In the future it is all about services."

That said, Dupler cautioned that the pricing of the Cisco services enablement appears high at first glance, especially given the solution enablement kits that are being delivered to the market by VMware for a fraction of the cost of the Cisco professional services offerings.

Zarek said the fees Cisco is charging for partner enablement are fair.

’The fees that Cisco charges are reasonable. I’d say they are at or below market rate, so there’s a big incentive for us to partner with them,’ Zarek said.

Cisco for its part said partners are buying proven best practices professional services methodology with the CPS offerings based on Cisco's own advanced services group and what Cisco is calling 20 years of product knowledge and six million network transaction it monitors each year.

Cisco's new Cloud Professional Services offerings provide partners with skills capabilities centered on Cloud Return On Investment (ROI) analysis, Application Readiness Assessment, Operational Technical Assessment Process Change. The professional services practices accelerator also includes business planning, readiness and enablement for marketing and sales, practice management, virtualized configuration, and application and data migration.

The Cisco Cloud Professional Services certification includes three modules: Cloud Practice Management Accelerator, Cloud Technical Consulting Accelerator and Cloud Customer Workshop Accelerator. Each of those three cloud professional services accelerators has specific methodologies, templates and tools on virtualization, cloud software, cloud readiness assessments. These accelerators are aimed at providing intensive training for five to ten partner employees in a series of interactive modules and mentoring.

Chad Berndtson contributed to this story. For more on Cisco's vision of the cloud see CRN's exclusive interview with Chairman and CEO John Chambers.