Cisco's Partner, Distribution Strategy For Tandberg Solidifies

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No sooner did Cisco complete its acquisition of Tandberg last year than concerns flooded in from partners about how they would get access to Tandberg video products and who in the channel would be able to sell them.

But with the Jan. 31 deadline to map Tandberg partners into Cisco channel program having just passed, much of Cisco's partner program and distribution strategy for the Tandberg portfolio has finally taken shape. Some partner concerns remain, but for the most part, Cisco VARs and integrators are ready to applaud the networking titan for a thorough integration job.

"I can't say one bad word about the team that they gave me as far as getting through the program," said Robert Swing, CEO of IVCi, a Hauppauge, N.Y.-based solution provider. "Cisco's management team goes deep, and they guided us through the whole process."

As of January 2011, Cisco had about 1,200 total Cisco and Tandberg partners. About 600 of those partners were Tandberg-only before the acquisition and are new to the Cisco channel program with the integration.

Scott Brown, vice president of worldwide distribution, acknowledged partner frustration that the integration had taken nine months to complete. But according to Brown, the pace was deliberate, and will help all Cisco UC partners in the long run.

"Tandberg had a very different set of selling motions than what we had traditionally done at Cisco," Brown said. "It was smart to run the two channel programs in parallel since we closed the acquisition, to allow us to go through that learning process and be careful and thoughtful."

Cisco completed its $3.3 billion acquisition of Tandberg in April 2010, a move that effectively gave Cisco the No. 1 worldwide market share in business video conferencing.

At the time, however, Cisco and Tandberg solution providers sought assurance from Cisco that it wouldn't overexpose the Tandberg product portfolio and dilute potentially lucrative video opportunities for experienced video VARs.

They also craved details, especially about how would the products be distributed and who in the Cisco channel would be qualified to carry them. At the 2010 Cisco Partner Summit in April, executives said that a combined problem was nine months away.

In a November interview with CRN, Richard McLeod, senior director of collaboration, confirmed that Cisco would continue to run Cisco's partner program and Tandberg's enVision partner program in parallel until Jan. 31.

At the same time, Cisco introduced the TelePresence Video Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) program, a new Cisco ATP with Express, Advanced and Masters specializations like other existing ATPs, and a designation called Advanced Plus, for partners that are sufficiently advanced on Cisco's UC portfolio and can make a quicker jump to the Masters level.

According to McLeod, Cisco selectively invited current Cisco video and telepresence partners and Tandberg enVision partners into the ATP first, and then began inviting select Cisco UC partners as well.

TelePresence Video ATP partners have access to Cisco incentive programs like VIP, OIP, SIP and TIP, and the ordering and partner reward mechanisms from Tandberg's enVision program are now fully integrated into Cisco's own.


Next: Cisco's Specialty Distributors Confirmed

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