5 Things To Know About The Revamped Cisco Partner Program

Cisco has made the biggest changes to its partner program in a decade after boiling down the structure to one program poised on empowered partners to sell everything as a service. Here’s what Cisco partners should know.

Time For A Change

In the biggest changes made to its partner program structure in more than a decade, Cisco Systems this week came out with the details of the new Cisco Partner program that it first announced in October. To boil it down, the simplified partner program includes pieces of all 12 of Cisco’s previous programs and recognizes and rewards the four different roles that partners want to play with customers.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the focus that new program will have on lifecycle, managed services, and everything-as-a-service opportunities. That’s because the majority of Cisco partners have moved on from the days of selling hardware. These partners are already offering managed services and fully packaged technology solutions from start to finish to help their customers overcome new obstacles, such as remote working and hybrid IT environments.

Marc Surplus, vice president, strategy, planning and programs for Cisco’s global partner organization, sat down with CRN to go over the details of the recently revamped program. Here’s what’s happening now and what solution providers can expect later this summer.

Simplifying The Program

Cisco dropped the number of partner programs in existence from upward of 12 disparate programs to one unified program centered on the four primary partner roles that solution providers are playing for their end customers.

The newly revamped Cisco Partner Program is not only greatly simplified and is focused on highlighting and rewarding the variety of crucial roles partners play with their end customers, but it’s also geared toward empowering partners to shift their focus away from product selling in favor of lifecycle, cloud, and everything as a service, according to Cisco.

The Deal With Cisco Gold Status

The new program is focusing on four partner roles: Integrator, Provider, Developer, and Advisor. Across each of the four roles, Cisco is offering its sought-after Gold status. The company said it will also be differentiating more distinctly between Gold, Premier and Select partners within the new program.

Surplus said that Cisco partners are not being asked to start over. The new program will recognize and reflect existing partners’ expertise and specializations.

While the Cisco Gold brand represents partners’ deep commitment and investment in Cisco, Premier partners are also among Cisco’s fastest growing and rapidly evolving partners, Surplus said.

Focus On Lifecycle And Everything As A Service

Historically, every time there’s been a market transition in favor of a new capability or partner type, Cisco has responded by standing up a new partner program, Surplus said. This time, however, the tech giant is taking a different approach.

Perhaps the most important feature of the new partner program structure is that it’s aimed at helping solution providers better target lifecycle and everything-as-a-service opportunities. That’s because Cisco acknowledges that its flagship partner program has always been heavily weighted towards resale opportunities. The recent shifts in the market to opex buying, recurring revenue, and managed services, have shown the company that it needed to expand the roles partners play, while also welcoming in partners that may not have considered Cisco as their first choice in the past, Surplus said.

Integrator and Provider Partners

Under the new program, the Integrator role is considered Cisco’s “bread-and-butter” VAR partners. Gold-level Integrators will have to have achieve Cisco’s Customer Experience Specialization by April 7, 2022.

For Premier-level integrators stand out more, Cisco is now requiring these Integrator partners to qualify for either two advanced architecture specializations or one advanced architecture and one business specialization. Additional rewards will follow Premier achievements, including VIP, Perform Plus and marketing benefits, Cisco said.

The provider role was constructed with the MSP partner in mind. The Provider role will now better identify and recognize partners based on their investment in managed services and as-a-service solutions. Gold and Premier providers will be differentiated from the Select provider partners, and Cisco is also upping its investments in Provider partners, with predictable pricing; deal registration for managed services; more flexible consumption options; dedicated investment and business development funds; technical support enablement; and co-marketing, the company said.

Both the Integrator and Provider roles are now live within the partner program.

Developer And Advisor Partners

While not live yet, Cisco is designating two new partner types to come later this summer: The Developer and the Advisor.

Building on top of the Cisco platform is becoming more interesting to more partners, and Cisco wants to reward these partner types, especially those that have taken advantage of Cisco DevNet, a certification track that software developers are now using to demonstrate programmability expertise and software skills, Surplus said. The Developer role will have access to more technical training and tools, solution development, co-marketing, access to Cisco sales resources, and the DevNet Specialization to more Developer partner types.

For Advisor partner types, Cisco will bring Advisor partners more deeply into the Cisco partner ecosystem and is scaling up the rewards for these partners, who used to be part of Cisco’s Consultant partner program. Cisco is also providing technical and strategic development resources, cooperative business development, co-sales and access to Cisco events for Advisor partners.

The Advisor role opens up Cisco to more partners that haven’t wanted to engage in a reseller model, such as agent partners, Surplus added.