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Cisco introduces Host to Agent model

New collaboration channel program announced to further Cisco's global partner business

Lisbon, Portugal — Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) announced a new go-to-market channel program in hopes to boost more partner-to-partner collaboration at its Channel Exchange conference, held here.

Called the Cisco Global Resale Agent, the program supports partner collaboration across multi-geographies beginning at the Premier level and up.

In essence, a Cisco channel partner in Canada that has a customer with business interests in Mexico acts as the “host” partner. The host partner chooses an “Agent” partner through a set of requirements and online tools based in Mexico to act on behalf of the host for the resale of Cisco products.

According to Alex Thurber, Cisco’s senior director of technology go to market, the deal flow begins when the host partner registers it on the Opportunity Incentive Program (OIP). Then through Web 2.0 technology under the Partner Exchange virtual environment the host finds an appropriate channel partner to work together with. The terms and conditions of the agreement are pre-determined by the host partner and the agent partner accepts it online. Cisco validates to make sure that both are recognized company partners. Once all three are engaged in the deal, the host partner works on the local side of the deal and architects the entire solution. The agent books and implements the transaction from their end.

“Partner-to-partner collaboration helps to extend the reach of solution provider. This model extends across countries and across all of our theatres. It is really anywhere a deal exists,” Thurber said.

Bob Cagnazzi, CEO of Bluewater Communications Group of New York, said the new program will make it much easier for the customer to do multi-national implementations.

“From a client perspective it is way easier. They no longer have to cut 50 different purchase orders or take hold of the equipment and ship it overseas. They do not have to handle tariffs, taxes, and VADs. They were never in the logistics business. No one company or OEM could do that before this program. It gives us a scenario where the customer just has to cut one cheque,” Cagnazzi said.

The benefits of the Global Resale Agent model for the host partner are improved customer satisfaction, more up-sell opportunities, and professional services. The agent partner gets to resell hardware and services and get Value Incentive Program (VIP) rates. “They also build a relationship with that customer for other types of IT expansion. This enables partners to go after new business,” Thurber added.

Paul Edwards, channel and SMB analyst for IDC Canada, said the Global Resale Agent model is an important step for Cisco for building out the formalized strategy for partner-to-partner interaction.

“Partner-to-partner collaboration has been around a long time. This is nothing new, but up until now it has been more reactive in the channel than proactive. Now it is proactive,” Edwards said.

Edwards see Canadian solution providers as more likely to be hosts than agents in the Global Resale Agent program. For example, McGregor, a one time Canadian manufacturer of socks, now distributes socks. They have many relationship companies across the globe that they partner with. Edwards said that Canada has thousands of these types of customers especially in the SMB.

Cisco has targeted roughly 4,000 global companies for the Global Resale Agent program, on which 150 are currently in a pilot project. Thurber said that 1,632 of those customers targeted are in Canada and the U.S.

“This is a customer focused pilot program, but as we build it out we estimate that thousands of partners will be involved as either host or agent,” Thurber said.

A recent global study on partner collaboration conducted by Illuminas Research and commissioned by Cisco found that partner-to-partner collaboration generates 31 per cent of channel revenue and is growing 15 per cent a year.

“We are trying to foster the idea of collaboration and this host/agent model will help partners take in best practices,” he said.