Cisco Channel Chief Vows Partner Training Push


Also next week, Cisco is launching a new program to help solution providers that build Cisco-based solutions for vertical markets.

One of Cisco's top three priorities for this fiscal year is a deeper focus on partner enablement, Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of worldwide channels at the San Jose, Calif.-based company, said in an interview with CRN earlier this week. To show its commitment, Cisco in fiscal 2007 is doubling its channel partner training investment from the prior year, creating a new, dedicated partner training organization led by Liz Lawson, Cisco's new senior director of partner development and education.

"In the past, we would determine how to train the Cisco field, and then we would determine how to adapt it to Cisco partners," Goodwin said. "Now we're trying to understand the needs and requirements of our partners and ensuring that as we develop training concepts and training delivery vehicles, that we're doing that in a partner-focused way."

As a result, partners will see fresh training content with a focus on new technology and how to sell it, according to Goodwin. Cisco also plans to make more training content available online through its Partner E-Learning program. Partners, too, should expect more training to be ready for them upon new product launches, he said.

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"Cisco recognizes that the human part of it, from training to support, is critical to our continued growth," said Mont Phelps, president of NWN, a solution provider based in Waltham, Mass. "We're all growing so rapidly, especially in the advanced technologies, that we have to continue [training] to expand."

One reason partner enablement is taking on such importance this year for Cisco is that the company has launched a new marketing campaign focused on "the human network," a concept the vendor will rely heavily on channel partners to position and sell to customers, Goodwin said.

"As the network becomes the platform for all communication, we really move from thinking about the network historically as a network of personal computers moving data to a human network focused on collaboration," he said, adding that marketing materials built around the new campaign will be available to partners in January.

What's more, the new training effort will help partners deliver the types of solutions customers today are demanding, Goodwin said. "We're trying to prepare partners to take advantage of an unprecedented opportunity as the relevance of the network becomes more important to our mutual customers," he said. "It's all about preparing our partners for that."

Cisco on Monday also plans to roll out its new Vertical Select Program, an initiative aimed at partners targeting the financial services, education, health-care, and state and local government markets. Cisco expects to expand the program in the coming year to include the retailing market.

The program provides qualified partners with specialized support, including marketing and demand-generation programs, industry consultants and sales training, resources and tools, Cisco said.

To participate, partners must be nominated by their channel account manager. Requirements also include having a dedicated vertical practice with current customer references.