Cisco Makes Services Rules Of Engagement Document Available For VARs

It's all part of a formal push by Cisco to drive more opportunities to channel partners specific to services -- and also market Cisco as having a decidedly different approach to the partner services strategies versus HP, IBM, Dell and other large Cisco competitors.

The document, which was first reported on by CRN last month, is now available to any badged Cisco partner. Solution providers can access a PDF download via Cisco's Partner Central portal, and Cisco field representatives are also meeting with partners at present to explain what the document is and how it should be used, according to Raja Sundaram, vice president of Cisco's worldwide services partner organization.

"Services are the key differentiator and profitability agent for Cisco. We know that, and we are looking to put partners at the center of the strategy," he said. "This is all about enabling them and differentiating ourselves."

Services represent about $8.7 billion, or about 20 percent, of Cisco's overall revenue, and comprise a roughly $49 billion addressable market for Cisco partners.

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The most illustrative statistic, according to Sundaram, is that on average, Cisco partners now derive more than 40 percent of their Cisco revenue from services -- up from 20 to 25 percent as recently as a few years years ago.

Cisco is determined to offer more services opportunities to partners than HP, Dell, IBM and Xerox, which have bought large services organizations in recent year or have large services field teams in place already. Cisco, said Sundaram, is also actively against the "hard deck" strategy used by a vendors like HP, in which partner access to certain sizes and classes of customers is restricted or closed off entirely.

"There's no such nonsense at Cisco," Sundaram said. "Partners play a role up and down the [partnering] pyramid."

Cisco does have a list of "transformational accounts" -- roughly its Top 500 global customers -- on which it takes the lead for services, but Cisco partners have opportunities to play in nearly all of its customer engagements.

For midmarket and SMB customers, Cisco has shifted to the much-touted strategy it calls partner-led, in which Cisco VARs take the lead on the customer relationship development. But as Sundaram notes, many Cisco partners also have services opportunity in more than 5,000 major accounts that Cisco defines as "customer-led" -- large, enterprise-level accounts driven by Cisco's sales organization but in which partners are actively engaged for both product and service sales.

Cisco also has new services partner programs designed to match partners up with services opportunities based on their expertise and breadth with Cisco. One is its Integrated Architectures Specialization (IAS), which focuses on large integrator and service provider partners that can be strategic with Cisco around services delivered to customers at country-based or multinational levels -- in other words, the partners that would help Cisco service those Top 500 transformational accounts.

Another is Collaborative Professional Services, in which partners can access SKU'ed professional services offering through Cisco to sell to customers.

Backstopping those programs is the Rules of Engagement document, which was in part developed based on input received from partners at Cisco's regular Partner Executive Exchange (CPEE) events, Sundaram said.

"It's important to understand that they helped shape the document and it isn't just one day where we just put this up on the Web and said, here," Sundaram said. "This is a work in motion and a way to have meaningful dialogue. We didn't make this up in a vacuum."