Cisco Simplifies Incentive Programs

In addition, the company is looking for ways to help its channel partners hire skilled personnel, a task that’s proving difficult for many solution providers, said Chuck Robbins, vice president of U.S. channels at Cisco, during the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego.

Cisco is making changes to its Opportunity Incentive Program (OIP) that consolidate the deal registration initiative down to two basic options, one for deals built on advanced technologies and one for sales that target vertical markets, Robbins said. Currently the vertical market option is available for new public sector deals, he said.

In the two years since launching the program, Cisco has rolled out eight different versions as new technologies or customers segments were added to the mix, Robbins said.

The result for partners was that the program, while popular, could also be confusing, solution providers said.

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“[OIP] is complicated because there are a lot of programs,” said Christopher Tjotjos, president and CEO of Logos Communications, a Cisco Silver partner based in Westlake, Ohio. “The chief goal is to make sure the [discounts] don’t go out to the street, so maybe there’s some complexity required,” he said.

In addition, Cisco is enhancing its deal registration tool to improve scalability and increase responsiveness from the vendor’s sales team, he said. The updated version should be available in September, he said.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., is also consolidating its Solutions Incentive Program (SIP), an effort to reward partners for combining Cisco technology with applications. When launched a year ago, the program included separate tracks for horizontal and vertical solutions. Now there is one program, he said.

Robbins said Cisco also plans to use the program to foster partnerships between its channel partners.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can work SIP going forward to encourage teaming between partners,” he said.

Cisco this week at the conference is also launching Customized Partner Intelligence, a tool that will funnel communications from across the company down to partners, letting them actively choose which content they receive. CPI also includes a subscription-based service that partners can use to build customized co-branded newsletters.

Separately, Cisco is also now working to team its channel partners with graduates of its Networking Academy Program, an effort to provide high school and college students with IT training. Cisco is rolling out “speed dating” events where partners can interview program graduates for potential employment and also is launching a Web site where graduates can post resumes and partners can post job openings. It is also considering an extension of its internal entry-level sales training program to its partners, he said.

Tjotjos said finding and hiring skilled personnel is proving difficult.

“Our toughest challenge is being able to find security engineers. It’s even tougher than [finding] VoIP [skills],” he said.