Cisco To Terminate E-Agent Program

In a notice posted on its Web site, Cisco said it plans to take the last orders through the U.S. program on July 30, discontinuing it on July 31.

The notice points partners to similar programs offered through Cisco distribution partners Comstor, Ingram Micro and Tech Data.

Launched in August 2001, the E-Agent program aimed to free up partners from the burdens of carrying receivables and securing financing for product sales, enabling them instead to focus on service delivery.

A Cisco spokesman said the company is canceling the program because it realized distributors are better positioned to provide such services to its channel partners, pointing to distributors' abilities to deliver fulfillment services on a global basis, provide faster product delivery, include all technology pieces of a solution in the agent program and offer simplified ordering processes.

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A source familiar with Cisco's channel strategy said the company also terminated the program, in part, because it preferred to focus funding efforts on other popular channel initiatives, such as the Value Incentive Program, which provides additional rebates to solution providers on qualified IP telephony and security deals, and the new Opportunity Incentive Program, a deal-registration strategy for new business.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., last week began notifying the 160 partners participating in the E-Agent program of its demise, the spokesman said.

While lauding the program's spirit, solution providers enrolled in E-Agent expressed little surprise at its termination, saying they used it infrequently.

"We used it a couple of times for a couple of large deals," said Stephen Sarkinsian, vice president of marketing at Datatec Systems, a solution provider based in Fairfield, N.J. "I don't think too many people were taking advantage of it," he said.

Some partners said the program was cumbersome for customers.

"Most clients want to cut one purchase order toward a bid, but [under E-Agent] they had to cut one to us for services and one to Cisco for products," said Chris Vincent, vice president of sales and marketing at Global Data Systems, a solution provider in Lafayette, La.

Cisco's distributors have worked with the networking vendor for several months to ensure a smooth transition from the E-Agent program, said Joe Serra, vice president of networking and high-end storage product marketing at Tech Data, Clearwater, Fla.

"Cisco was very good at collaborating so that we fully understood what their needs and requirements would be," Serra said. "We've set up and trained internal staff and put processes in place with different financing options in order to minimize any exposure to lost business for our solution providers," Serra said.

Cisco's E-Agent program was similar to Ingram Micro's existing Preferred Source program, which offers agent services on behalf of vendors, said Ken Bast, senior director of global vendor business management at Ingram Micro, Santa Ana, Calif.

"That makes it easy for Cisco's E-Agent solution providers to transition their business and keep on selling," Bast said.