With Cisco Systems moving forward in so many areas this year, Ross Pellizzari has had his hands full.
“It was an exciting year, for sure,” said Pellizzari, Cisco Canada’s vice-president, channel operations. “You can get to a place where you’re investing so much (in your partners) you just maintain that investment but we’re continuing to grow our investment as our market grows. Even though Canada isn’t growing and the IT spend isn’t growing substantially, our market opportunity is growing because of all the different technologies we have at our fingertips now.”
Some of those major technologies include unified communications, data centre, managed services and Telepresence, all areas Pellizzari says are primed for growth. With the multitude of technologies that Cisco is playing in, Pellizzari’s advice for partners is to find what they’re good at and specialize.
“Partners will learn getting Cisco specializations in the area of technology that is their core competency will give them a competitive advantage,” said Pellizzari.
With the opening of its new Globalisation Centre East in Bangalore, India this year Cisco launched a major push on growing its revenue in developing markets. It also launched the Cisco Managed Services program, which integrates the recently enhanced Cisco Powered Program framework and is intended to assist partners in bringing Cisco-powered managed services to market as well as provide incentives to and financially reward partners.
Partners will receive training, have access to joint marketing and branding opportunities, and receive financial rewards for delivering services that target customer business needs. Rebates and incentives will increase as a partner moves-up the program ladder.
On the SMB front, a number of key announcements were made at Cisco’s Partner Summit, including the Smart Business Communication System (SBCS), a group of technologies targeted at SMBs, as well as the Select Program, a channel program for SMB-focused Cisco partners.
Pellizzari says getting Cisco registered partners that have chosen to serve the SMB market and unified communications to “pick-up their game” is the idea behind Select.
“We make an investment in them and they make an investment in Cisco, and it really opens up a whole new market to them that we typically haven’t been very active in,” said Pellizzari. “(We’re) very focused on SMBs right now and want to see our market share grow.”
SBCS is designed to be an integrated network platform with all the tools and functionalities, from routing and security to switching and unified communications that an SMB would need. It includes the unified communications 500 series, which initially supported small businesses with eight and 16 user versions and was recently expanded to include two new versions to bring support up to 32 and 48 users.
“It’s not just the large corporations and banks that are taking advantage of UC and the productivity enhancements,” said Pellizzari.
“SMBs are looking for ways to have a competitive advantage, whether it’s using the Web or technology to reach more customers.”
Cisco’s UC revenue has grown by 30 per cent worldwide, says Pellizzari, adding it’s not just about the handset but with all the applications that revolve around it.
There’s a substantial partner opportunity in building applications for UC, he says.
In Canada, the Select Program has signed-up 28 partners since its launch. Market share growth for Cisco is at 25 per cent in the Canada/U.S. Theatre, with Pellizzari adding Canada is holding its own. Of Canada’s $2.2 billion annual IT spend, some 38 per cent is by SMBs.
“The spend of the SMBs is very significant in Canada,” he said.
Cisco also turned to cyberspace to help its partner community this year with the launch of the Industry Solutions Partner Network (ISPN) under its Solution Incentive Program. Borrowing inspiration from social networking sites like MySpace and Second Life, the IPSN portal is designed to give ISVs another route to market by giving them an opportunity to market their solutions and see what other partners have to offer.
Looking ahead to 2008, Pellizzari says Cisco’s continued focus on Canada will be on SMB and on the commercial space.
“With the growth rates there we want to make sure we continue to move forward, doubling and quadrupling our number of Select Partners in that space,” he said.
“Our distribution business is growing well but we need it to grow even faster, because that’s the main route to market for those partners to get to those end user customers in SMB.”