Chambers Rallies Cisco Partners Following Long Year Of Restructuring

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Top-ranked Cisco solution providers attending the Partner Summit say Cisco is doing a good job following through on its promise to be simpler and more streamlined as a business partner.

"The tools they've been rolling out to remove the repetitive input, the number of places to look things up, the access to info, it's all better," said Bruce Flitcroft, CEO and senior principal of Alliant Technologies, a Morristown, N.J.-based solution provider. "Ordering and delivering is also streamlined, and that was pretty bad a year ago. It's not perfect, but it's much better than it was."

Flitcroft said Alliant overall gets better information from Cisco -- contextual information about customers versus merely information about transactions or maintenance renewals.

"It's in the platforms, and we can capture that data in real-time into our platforms," he said. "These moves take time. Cisco's proven it's dedicated to them."

Mont Phelps, president and CEO of NWN Corp., a Waltham, Mass.-based solution provider, said NWN has seen less time needed for transactions and bookings on Cisco deals, and that the various programs -- from channel incentives to registering for services opportunities -- weren't nearly as complex.

"They've reduced the number of programs so it's not so complex we have to figure out what we should be using," he said. "It's still early, but it seems like they're actually trying to deliver on what they said they'd do."

Phelps and other solution providers praised Cisco for eliminating and consolidating many of its existing partner audits -- processes that often take time and investment on the part of partners to show their Cisco relationships are up to snuff.

"We had all these different surveys we had to go through -- multiple audits that sound like they're going to be a much simpler process moving forward," added Dan Holt, senior vice president and general manager, managed services, for Computer Services Inc. (CSI), a Paducah, Ky.-based solution provider. "That's going to leave time for more important things like innovation and revenue generation -- and selling more Cisco stuff which we know they want."

"They're making all the programs more consistent," said Tony Berg, director, data center at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider. "The way you manage deals in the programs, you don't have to spend as much time figuring out how to stack them or look at, 'hey, this one will make me more money than that one.' They've made some big strides in that area and we see that every day."

Jeff Sessions, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Red River, a Claremont, N.H.-based solution provider, said Cisco's simplified approach is allowing more time for engagement with vertical-focused partners. Red River sells primarily to federal government customers.

"Operationally, there are definitely some areas that need to be improved, but they're listening," Sessions said. "On the sales engagement model, they're attempting to do a lot with the architectural approach, and they are engaging in the partner side in federal a lot more. We are seeing a lot more traction here."

Ray Apy, president and CEO of Annese, a Herkimer, N.Y.-based solution provider, said Cisco's changes were beginning to take root with partners but that it would take a while to see their effects.

"Cisco's a big company," he said. "It takes a long time to turn an aircraft carrier."

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