Cisco unveils Partner Exchange

Honolulu, Hawaii – Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) has launched Partner Exchange in an attempt to increase partner-to-partner collaboration.

The Partner Exchange network is designed to help channel partners find, connect and collaborate with other partners in design solutions or provide services to customers around the world and in local communities.

More than 8,500 Cisco certified partners, managed services providers, distributors and application partners will be able to use this network.

Cisco polled 473 partners worldwide before creating Partner Exchange and found that collaboration among Cisco partners is generating 31 per cent of channel revenue, and is growing to 15 per cent annually. The study also revealed that 62 per cent of the partners believe that collaboration will continue to grow over the next five years.

Karim Amarshi, CEO of Edmonton-based Acrodex, one of the largest solution providers in Canada, isn’t quite sold on the prospect of partner-to-partner collaboration.

“Partner-to-Cisco yes; that partner collaboration is necessary. Partner-to-customer is going to get stronger and we will be more successful at that. But I am not quite certain on partner-to-partner collaboration, especially in smaller geographies,” Amarshi said.

Keith Goodwin, Cisco’s senior vice-president and channel chief, said there isn’t much partner collaboration with competitors that offer the same solutions and target the same customers. However, there can be partner collaboration if there is a value proposition, even in a local community.

“I can see it if they bring a capability to a customer rather than doing it themselves. There has to be clearly defined roles and not a lot of overlap. It has to be pragmatic,” Goodwin said.

Paul Cronin, president of 1NService of Bellevue, Wash., said partner-to-partner collaboration in local markets is a challenge. 1NService is made up of networking and advanced technology solution providers. They have 55 offices in North America that support more than 800 technicians specializing in design, implementation, training and management.

“This isn’t a revolution, but an evolution and collaboration goes beyond just business. Sales have to connect to sales, HR has to connect to HR and the executive level has to connect to the executive level,” Cronin said.

Amarshi does see Partner Exchange working in larger geographies because of the current IT talent shortage.

Amarshi does see Partner Exchange working in larger geographies because of the current IT talent shortage.

Goodwin added that in smaller countries it can be challenging to partner with a local competitor. “But as they recognize they can’t do it all, and focus on technology or an industry segment, the opportunity to collaborate will bring unique value to customers,” Goodwin said.

Cisco’s corporate goal to grow the company by 17 per cent is also driving Partner Exchange. With more than 80 per cent of Cisco’s revenues through the indirect channel, partners will have to deliver between US$15 to US$20 billion in additional revenue to help Cisco achieve its goal. Partners currently do US$35 billion.

Andrew Sage, vice-president of worldwide channel marketing for Cisco, said that target figure will not be accomplished by dramatically adding to its channel network.

“Partner Exchange helps you to find and partner and be found by partners and we hope it extends beyond the first transaction,” Sage said.

There are three aspects to Partner Exchange, Sage said. They are:

Promote and Be Found where partners create a profile to promote their capabilities;
Find and Connect, which is the search tool that enables partners to find and develop trust; and
Learn and Collaborate. Here partners gain access to best practices, online events and discussion forms.

“You need to develop that trust,” Amarshi said. He added that Cisco’s Partner Networking portal site is a step in the right direction on building trust within the partner community.

Cronin said partner-to-partner collaboration is about helping to further the client relationship.

“The block-and-tackle approach does not work anymore. You need to give client everything they need to solve their (IT) problems,” he said.

CDN‘s full Cisco Partner Summit 2008 coverage

April 9, 2008: Cisco adds data centre to VIP program
April 9, 2008: Blog Golden opportunity in the data centre
April 10, 2008: Cisco unveils Partner Exchange
April 10, 2008: Cisco to push WebEx to the channel
April 11, 2008: Meet Cisco’s Mr. SMB
April 11, 2008: The Canadian market according to Lloyd

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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