CRN Exclusive: Cisco Americas Channel Leader On VIP, Meraki, APIs And The Biggest Channel Initiatives In 2017

Snyder On The Record

Leading the charge for more than 23,000 partners across the U.S., Canada and Latin America, Rick Snyder is paving the way of the future for Cisco's channel with new programs, incentives and initiatives to drive profitability in 2017.

Snyder, senior vice president of Cisco's America's Partner Organization, talks to CRN about where partners should place their bets in 2017 if they want to capitalize on the company's popular Value Incentive Program (VIP), its growing Meraki line, the need to start leveraging APIs and how Cisco is changing the way it engages with the channel.

"In the past, it was a lot more about programs and policy, and now we're changing it up to be much more of a business discussion," said Snyder. "We are in the age of analytics, so I'm arming [my team] with real rich analytics insights so that they can go to the partner and say, "Here's what we're seeing and here's how you can grow your business."

Where should channel partners place their bets in 2017 if they want to profit from Cisco's VIP program?

You can rest assure that there will be lots of money flowing to drive security, to drive software and to drive particularly core and core refresh opportunities. VIP is alive and well. It's going to continue … We see those three big areas right now. We want to send a very clear message around where we want our partners focusing and making investments around.

How big of a priority is it for partners to sell Cisco security in 2017?

It's a super high priority. Security is hot. Making sure our partners are really enabled around security [but also] making sure they understand the message around software and collaboration is important. We've been doing so much to really help our partners understand how to sell software, how to drive adoption and specifically collaboration, which is a key software driver. It's a top priority.

Is Cisco Meraki as profitable for partners to sell compared to Cisco traditional?

There's absolutely a tremendous profit opportunity with Meraki. The Meraki profitability model is different than the traditional enterprise network partner model for profitability. For example, Meraki is more plug and play … It is faster and with that, you can create more value and more margin because you may not necessarily have to send to [a customer's] site your most expensive engineer. Instead, you can have a lesser qualified engineer do some level of onsite work, meanwhile, you got your smartest engineers back in an operation center managing this via the cloud.

What new opportunities does Meraki bring to the channel?

We're going to be working with our partners on helping them understand the different business models to support Meraki services, and there are really robust services opportunities, but it's different. We see this with the Meraki-only partners -- they're doing it differently than the more traditional Cisco partners … We want to show some of the new opportunities for new services, for faster deployment services, for more help desk services and that sort of thing. It's just a different way of thinking.

We have to work with our partners on what is the business model to support standing up and delivering value through Meraki. Meraki is now running at a $1 billion run rate and growing at an astounding rate. It's been probably our most successful acquisition ever.

Are you incenting partners to write to Cisco APIs?

Yes. Absolutely. We will incent partners to really drive applications via the API's. One of the ways we're already doing it is we've got a Software Adoption capability -- that's a program that actually helps our partners that are interested in driving applications. It rewards them for developing applications via our APIs. We're still relatively early on in our API [goal]. If we're looking at a baseball game, we're in the first couple of innings of this ballgame. We'll continue to innovate.

How are you enabling the channel in 2017 to leverage Cisco APIs?

We have done a ton to enable basic understanding of software and many of our partners that built adoption practices are now interested, not just in that core software, but in developing via DevNet on our APIs as well. We've launched the first couple pieces of that … We want to continue to encourage that type of application development activity this year.

Are channel partners responding to Cisco's API initiatives?

They are because it's a major differentiator for our partners. There's been a huge growth with [Cisco] DevNet. We also see that some of our top partners are embracing APIs like World Wide Technology has acquired Asynchrony. Insight [Enterprises] has acquired BlueMetal. They're doing very innovative things to show value and differentiation through software capabilities.

It plays to a number of different ways we're thinking about software, but APIs are becoming increasingly important.

What is your priority for the Cisco channel community in 2017?

Our strategic framework for the Americas is what I call 'The Three Es' – engagement, enablement, and partner evolution. When we executive on The Three Es, it really means growth and accelerated partner profitability. America's priorities are very much in line with driving digital. By digital we mean new customer experiences, helping customers transform their processes and business models, and the third pillar is empowering the workforce and really driving workforce productivity and innovation.

When I talk about engagement, enablement, evolution – this isn't just rhetoric.

What have you done to drive partner profitability through engagement?

We have a major initiative underway to help our partner account managers and sales engineers to really create a new conversation and really have a different type of seat at the table with partners. I'm asking them to change it up from being much more than just partner relationship managers, to asking them to be business managers, general managers, when dealing with those partners. We've put everybody though an extensive curriculum we call Partner Consulting Academy. All of my partner account managers have now been through it, most of my SE's have, and it's all about helping our partner account managers become the real profit drivers for a partner so they can have a different kind of discussion with the partner.

How exactly will Cisco's Partner Consulting Academy benefit partners?

We're giving them a whole set of analytics and tools. Using big data and analytics capabilities, and business insight dashboards, by leveraging SAP and Tableau [software], we've got just this incredibly rich set of analytics that helps our partner account managers sit down with a partner to help them understand the opportunities they have in their business. [That helps a partner] really understand where they can change it up to do something differently to drive profitability and go really where the money is.

What else is helping partners grow?

We've developed a team called the Partner Consulting and Innovation team that we've now formed and brought under my organization. We do everything from very basic benchmarking and reports to helping partners understand where they might be on a certain profit or growth lever and where the opportunity is. We can then go in and do very deep consulting as well – getting inside and working with the CEO, COO, the CFO hand-in-glove to help them understand where they can unlock profit potential in their business by leveraging practices and leveraging their own services. Those are just a few of the many things we're doing to drive a whole new level of engagement.

How is this level of engagement different from what Cisco had done in the past?

In the past, it was a lot more about programs and policy, and now we're changing it up to be much more of a business discussion. It isn't just rhetoric. We are in the age of analytics, so I'm arming these folks with real rich analytics insights so that they can go to the partner and say, "Here's what we're seeing and here's how you can grow your business."

How have you helped partner enablement?

We launched the Digital Solutions Integrator Program – it's a pilot for now. These are consultancies that do work in areas like big data, Microsoft capabilities, consulting in areas like digital. Many of whom are boutique, and we're bringing them into the ecosystem, connecting them to ISV's and traditional resell partners to drive business outcomes to customers.

We've got upcoming what we're calling the Security Fire Jumper tour and that will be in 36 locations. We're making big investments here to drive security enablement.

Why should partners participate in the Security Fire Jumper Tour?

We've created internally, what we call Fire Jumper training. What we do is we train our engineers, most of whom have a strong networking background, to go really deep into the entire security network architecture … we're taking that training out to the partners.

We've developed a comprehensive training that's focused on the SEs, and it covers all aspects of security, and we labeled it Fire Jumper training. Our goal is to get thousands of partners Fire Jumper trained, and we've seen an amazing difference internally of a result of doing this.

Why is there a need for this Fire Jumper security training?

We have a security continuum now that no one can rival, yet up until the last six months, it's been a challenge for us to get everybody around just how robust our offers are. A big part of our success is messaging because we've bought great companies like OpenDNS, Lancope – we got this robust set of capabilities that transcends all these different capabilities. We have network security, content security, security inside the data center, security in the cloud.

It's very important to us to make sure that, although we have a very broad portfolio, I want to make sure our portfolio is applied and then enabled with the partner in a way that's very prescriptive to that partner's goal into their objectives.

The last pillar in your partner strategy is evolution – What's the significance there?

We're in this era of disruption and it's huge. Whether it's new consumption models like as-a-service, moving to digital, moving to the cloud – these are all very challenging transitions for our partners. Our role is that is to help them every step along the way in that transition.

We've done things like big data plays, done a Microsoft play, we've done Splunk as a major play and the whole idea here is we're making it easier for the partner to sell these as prepackaged solutions that a partner can take to their customer and they can consume it easier and digest it easier and implement it in a way that makes it much easier for them.

Is there any program you think partners should join to help them evolve?

We have launched at Partner Summit a program called Impact. It basically is around helping partners deliver business outcome sales training. I am co-funding it. So the partners that sign up are getting a massive break on some superb training. It's around selling verticals, around developing business outcomes, how to leverage independent software vendors … We have had 24 partners since Partner Summit that are already under contract and most of them are training their sellers.

What is your goal for Cisco's Impact program in 2017?

My goal is to train 100 partners and over 1,000 partner sales executives so they're going to be better off selling into this digital business outcome world. That's one of the big things we're doing this year to help partners in the evolution.

All of these [programs] directly align in the America's priories around digital, security, software and core.

How are you helping connect partners and ISVs?

A big part of everything is developing this partner ecosystem of independent software vendors (ISVs), of digital solution integrators, of consultants, to bring these to our reseller partners so they can really collaborate with them. What partners really wanted, is they wanted us to pre-qualify who the right players are and we've been doing that – whether its SAP, or Splunk, or MapR, Cloudera, any of the Hadoop players – we've been doing that and the partners are really leveraging that now. I see some of my competition is starting to copy that. I guess copying is the sincerest form of flattery.