Cisco Partner Summit To Focus On Services

As the role of the network changes, it is up to both Cisco and its partners to evolve their services offerings to enable a new generation of smart services that will be delivered collaboratively. According to Sherri Liebo, vice president of commercial services marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems, one of the Partner Summit's key messages will be that the next generation of smart services requires greater dependency on partners and represents a significant opportunity to grown their services businesses. Liebo said this collaborative services go-to-market strategy combines the Cisco's expertise of the network with the partners knowledge of the customer and helps develop services based on mutual customer needs.

Building on the announcement of Smart Care Service, which was debuted at last year's Summit, Cisco plans to move the offering from the pilot stage to general availability. Cisco anticipates general availability will create a four-fold increase in the number of partners offering Smart Care services. Currently, Smart Care is generally available in the U.S., Canada and Europe with limited availability in emerging markets and Asia Pacific regions. Worldwide availability will start in August, Liebo said.

Smart Care is a Cisco offering that gives partners full visibility into the status of all Cisco devices on their customers' networks and enables them to offer scanning, monitoring and security auditing services. Basically, Smart Care proactively notifies partners of changes taking place in the devices on customer networks and lets partners remotely remediate problems when they're found, helping them solidify their roles as trusted advisors to customers.

Cisco will also unveil just how the offering has helped partners since the pilot for the program launched.

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Liebo said in the year since Smart Care launched, partners using the service saw an increasing number of customers, approximately 50 percent of customers secured by partners running the pilot were new. Liebo added that Smart Care helps VARs identify new service opportunities, since roughly 60 percent of customers' equipment is not covered by the service.

Additionally, she said, Smart Care has helped generate more hardware up-sell opportunities, not only by helping discover equipment that needs replacement, but by finding that 15 percent of devices found are in end of sale. Smart Care also helps partners sell their own brand of services, Liebo said, noting that 60 percent of customers that went through a network security assessment had vulnerabilities that previously went undetected.

Overall, Liebo said, partners who use Smart Care can differentiate themselves from the typical resale model, generating additional revenue by cutting down labor costs and creating more customer loyalty.

Tom Shaw, founder and president of Wide Area Management Services (WAMS), a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solution provider, was part of the Smart Care early adopter program. He said Smart Care has brought him increased revenues, but also let him wrap additional services around Smart Care, services WAMS calls Smart Tools.

"There are so many Cisco partners out there and partners are seeking innovative tools to differentiate themselves," he said. "It does afford us the ability to wrap in new services. We fix and repair the client's network using Smart Care."

Additionally, Shaw said, he's made management as a service available to other Cisco partners who want to reap the benefits of Smart Care and other remote monitoring and management solutions. WAMS' Management as a Service model lets traditional VARs without the resources to build a network operations center (NOC), staff it with qualified engineers, develop a ticketing system or network management system tools enter into a "whitelabled" manage services offering to their clients. Shaw said there are currently three Cisco VARs private labeling WAMS NOC services.

"There are a lot of VARs that have been in a break-fix mode," he said. "VARs have to evolve their businesses."

Cisco is also set to build upon last year's release of E-Consulting For Partners, a tool that gives a dashboard view of partners' services renewals and attach rates, which helps them measure their performance against other partners and offers recommendations for where services offerings can be improved.

Raja Sundaram, Cisco's director of services channels, said the goal of E-Consulting has been to collaboratively go to market with partners to offer tailored services specific to customers' unique needs.

At this year's Partner Summit, Cisco is poised to expand the E-Consulting program beyond the 1,000 certified or specialized partners already supported. Sundaram said E-Consulting will be made available to more than 4,000 partners, including two-tier partners for the first time, by the end of this year. By the 2009 Partner Summit, Sundaram said, E-Consulting will be available to between 6,000 and 7,000 partners.

So far, E-Consulting has given participating partners a 10 percent improvement in attach rate and a 12 percent improvement in services delivery, Sundaram said. All told, that equals roughly $157,000 in increased services revenue per partner, he said.

"The goal is to differentiate from competitors and improve services profitability," he said.

Liebo added that Cisco's smart services offerings make partners a key part of the value chain. She used the analogy of an ice cream sundae: Vanilla, which is the base of the sundae, is the services, but each different customer wants different toppings. Tools like Smart Care and E-Consulting give partners the specific toppings catered to their customers' tastes and helps them build a more valuable services offering specifically for them.

"It's all about how can we take the labor-based component out of the picture and deliver services collaboratively to help partners differentiate themselves," she said.