Cisco Rolls Out Online Services Tools

"In the past, if partners had customers with multiple sites, who wanted multiple service levels or, for whatever reason, that had multiple service contracts, they had to deal with each in a separate quote and as a separate order. It all required a fairly significant amount of handholding," Meulema said.

Now with Cisco's new Service Contract Center -- set to launch March 27 -- partners can automatically track their service contracts online and generate quotes and orders "with the push of a button," Meulema said. "They can enter multiple contracts all at once." It also gives partners a 12-month view into their services contract pipeline, he said.

The tool should help partners stay on top of renewal opportunities, which is big business for Cisco. "At any moment the pipeline [for renewals] for the next quarter is $1.3 billion around the world," Meulema said.

Service Contract Center has been in development and represents a multi-million-dollar investment on Cisco's part, he said.

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Cisco is also disclosing plans to launch a separate tool that will help partners measure and assess their services capabilities. The forthcoming Cisco E-Consulting for Partners offering is an automated tool that provides a dashboard view of partners' services renewals and attach rates. It also tracks their performance against their peers, helping partners identify areas they might want to improve, Meulema said.

The tool, scheduled for availability in May, analyzes partners' maintenance services practices, ranks them compared to industry averages and gives customized recommendations based on a database of hundreds of best practices, he said. In the future, the tool will likely also include data and advice on building better professional services practices, he said.

Paul Lopez, general manager of marketing and services at NEC Unified Solutions, Irving, Tex., said the new offerings will complement its own home-grown methods for tracking renewals.

"It gives a chance for us to see if there are ways we can improve," Lopez said.