Cisco has emerged from a painful restructuring as a slimmer, more focused company and, based on dozens of interviews at Cisco Partner Summit last week in San Diego, solution providers see improvements in three areas in particular.
One is systems and processes -- including time to decision and deal-making mechanics such as quoting. Another is a renewed focus on five core priorities instead of 30 to 50 "adjacencies," and third is a willingness to listen to partners and invest behind the programs they've created to push Cisco products and services.
That adds up to a near-universal acknowledgment by solution providers that they feel better off with Cisco than they did a year ago.
[Related: 10 Things We Learned At Cisco Partner Summit]
"I think it's a little early to tell, and we'll know for sure in the next few months," said Mike Girouard, vice president of enterprise sales at TekLinks, a Birmingham, Ala.-based solution provider. "The systems and processes have gotten easier and we're seeing that now come down to the field level, where the rubber meets the road. That's what's going to matter."
Eric LeBow, CEO of Spanlink Communications, a Minneapolis-based solution provider, said he's seen deep investment by Cisco in helping Spanlink grow its video and hosted unified communications practices, the latter of which is based on Cisco's Hosted Collaboration Solution.
"The amount of attention and resources thrown at us to help develop our strategy and grow business more rapidly, I don't think a partner could ask for more," LeBow said. "The biggest difference is the number of resources assigned to my company -- financial resources in the form of MOUs [Memorandums Of Understanding] and things like that -- to help us build out our practices."
"They're listening," said Jerry McIntosh, vice president of advanced technology solutions at ePlus, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider. "We've noticed almost none of the background noise lately: a great field focus and a team going in the right direction. They have a lot of work to do on tools, but it sounds like they've identified ways to take costs out of the business of partners doing business."
McIntosh, like several solution providers, applauded Cisco's announcement that it would eliminate or consolidate many of its existing partner audits, and that for top partners, customer satisfaction scores would be enough to preclude an audit if the partner had no action items and wasn't implementing a full practice.
Moves such as those show a dedication to being simpler, partners said, and that was appearing in channel processes such as deal registration, too.
"We're used to taking 45 minutes to an hour to getting a deal registration ready for approval, and they've adjusted some of the [tools] to get that turned around in a matter of minutes in some cases," said Jay Kirby, executive vice president at Troubadour Ltd., a Houston-based solution provider that recently merged with Dallas-based Lumenate. "We're seeing all that stuff happen much quicker, and I think there's more to come -- more on the back end that we may not see in the streets but that will help."
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