Get Connected: 8 Hot New Products, Tools And Incentives For Cisco Collaboration Partners

Collaboration Craze

It's been a busy year for the Cisco collaboration team.

In addition to rolling out a slew of new platforms and tools that promise to help even the most remote, on-the-go teams stay connected, Cisco said at its 2014 Collaboration Summit in Los Angeles this week that it's offering a number of new promotions and incentives to partners to help bring those solutions to market.

Here are 8 new products, incentives and tools that Cisco collaboration partners don't want to miss.

Business Edition 6000S

For Cisco collaboration partners looking to give their midmarket businesses a boost, there's the new Business Edition 6000S, a new version of Cisco's flagship Business Edition collaboration platform that is purpose-built for smaller organizations.

Much like the enterprise version of the Business Edition offering, Business Edition 6000S is an all-in-one collaboration platform, delivering voice, video, instant messaging and any other communication apps on a single Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR).

The difference, according to Cisco, is that Business Edition 6000S is about 22 percent cheaper to deploy than its predecessor, the Business Edition 6000, making it more attractive to smaller organizations.

Project Squared

Looking to bring enterprise-grade collaboration capabilities to today's clear computing device of choice -- the smartphone -- Cisco introduced this week Project Squared, a new mobile app for iOS and Android devices.

Available now as a free download, Project Squared lets users create virtual meeting rooms from which they can message, share files or launch video and voice calls with others. The app also can be launched in web browsers, including Firefox and Chrome, and on Macs.

While the app is free for now, Cisco said partners stand to gain with Squared by offering management and integration services, helping customers, for instance, integrate the app with other Cisco collaboration tools, like WebEx.

The Cisco TelePresence IX5000

For Cisco collaboration partners looking to target the higher end of the market, there's the new IX5000, a TelePresence endpoint for immersive, three-screen videoconferencing.

Delivering what Cisco calls the "most sophisticated collaboration experience on the planet," the IX5000 is equipped with three 4K ultra-high-definition cameras and three 70-inch LCD screens. The system also cranks out what Cisco called "theater-quality sound" from 18 custom speakers and a sub-woofer.

But don't let all the bells and whistles fool you. Cisco said the IX5000, despite its souped-up appearance, requires just half the bandwidth and power of its predecessors.

The Cisco Experience Center

For some customers, seeing is believing.

That's why Cisco, according to Richard McLeod (pictured), senior director of Cisco's worldwide collaboration channel sales, is opening up its Cisco Experience Center -- a one-stop shop for virtual demos of all Cisco videoconferencing products -- to its partners. In the past, McLeod said, the Experience Center could only be accessed by internal Cisco employees. But now, partners can leverage the tool to conduct demos of hot, new collaboration products, such as the IX5000, without actually having the product physically in-house.

"We are now opening that to our partners for their utilization," McLeod said. "They just have to schedule it in advance and work with their channel account manager."

Collaboration Use Case Tool

McLeod also urged partners to take advantage of the new Cisco Collaboration Use Case tool, which helps solution providers map customers' business objectives to the specific Cisco collaboration production that would best fit those needs.

Partners can use the tool to search by key business objective, such as improved customer service or shortening sales cycles, or by a certain line of business, such as HR and finance. From there, the tool will help them zero in on the best Cisco product for the job.

"It's very much a business-outcome-oriented approach," McLeod said.

WebEx License Promotion

In a bid to boost adoption of its WebEx cloud-based conferencing system among midmarket customers, Cisco is now offering a WebEx license promotion, through which partners can offer end customers 10 free WebEx licenses with the purchase of either Cisco's Business Edition 6000 or Business Edition 6000S platforms.

According to McLeod, these trial WebEx licenses deliver the full range of capabilities one would get when actually buying the tool, and last for 90 days.

"As we say in sales, it's the 'puppy dog' sale," McLeod said. "Let the dog live with you for a day, and you're probably going to buy it."

Software Activation Incentive

According to McLeod, a customer is much more likely to renew a Cisco software license -- such as those for Cisco WebEx and Jabber -- when they are using that particular piece of software organizationwide. In other words, he said, if a customer buys 10,000 enterprise licenses, and only actually uses 2,000, the chances for a renewal are slim.

That's why Cisco is now offering partners a Software Activation Incentive, which offers them a rebate for activating more of their customers' software. Partners earn the rebate when 75 percent of users within a customer organization are using WebEx or Jabber. If 75 percent are using both WebEx and Jabber, the rebate is doubled.

"We are incenting our partners to turn on the software," McLeod said. "It takes time to turn on the software, help customers load it on their PCs, load it on their devices and explain to them how it works, so we are trying to prime the pump a bit."

Collaboration Adoption Incentive

Last quarter, Cisco also rolled out its Collaboration Adoption Incentive, which rewards partners who not only activate more of their customers' collaboration software, but ensure that software is adopted to its fullest.

To earn this additional incentive, Cisco collaboration partners must prove that, in addition to just turning on their customers' software, they are training them on it, have detailed deployment time lines, and are taking other steps to ensure full user adoption.

"We are migrating from activation to true adoption," McLeod said. "It's a journey, but at the end of the day, what really matters for us is usage."