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Cisco wants to help partners tackle unified communications

New programs from Cisco Capital aim to ease the UC sales and deployment cycle for the channel

Cisco Capital announced earlier this week the extension of its zero per cent progress payments program as well as the launch of its new grow i.t. partner portal, both designed to better support North American channel partners deploying Cisco Unified Communications solutions.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Capital, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cisco Systems, focuses on financing networks and also does short-term financing, end-user leasing and financing programs in addition to also offering Cisco certified remarketed equipment.

Maryann Von Seggern, director of worldwide channels development at Cisco Capital, says Unified Communications (UC) is a hot commodity right now and notes that it’s one of Cisco’s fastest growing market segments.

“Cisco had growth in this space of about 30 per cent,” Von Seggern said. “UC is a strategic place in the market now for our partners to get into.”

Cisco’s zero per cent progress payments program is now known as the conserve i.t. program, and has been extended through to July 26, 2008. The progress payment portion period of the program has been increased from 120 days up to 180 days for larger companies that deal over $1 million.

“If you’re below the 1500 seat space, there are zero per cent payments up to 120 days,” Von Seggern said. “With bigger companies, we’ve expanded this to 180 days. It’s a partner-centric lease offer because it allows the partners to get paid during the deployment of the solution and there’s no interest being accrued during this time either.”

Joe Pucciarelli, program director for technology financing and management strategies at IDC, gives Cisco Capital a lot of credit and says the company has been able to focus on a specific business opportunity quite well.

“The market for UC is one of the most interesting markets for this segment,” Pucciarelli said. “Ten years ago Cisco wasn’t even a player in this market. Now, they’re one of the top ones sitting up there with the likes of Avaya, Mitel and others. They’ve expanded the platform for their business partners to be successful on some of the largest and most financially rewarding opportunities.”

In an effort to make it easier for partners to deploy Cisco UC solutions, Cisco has also launched its new grow i.t. partner portal, an online resource which provides partners with information, training and collateral as well as other tools.

Pucciarelli says the new partner website is another example of Cisco Capital understanding it needs to empower its partners to help them facilitate sales.

Along with the partner portal, Von Seggern also said Cisco has launched its partner videos on demand (VoDs), which are short, 10 minute videos being rolled out next month.

“From partner feedback we’ve gathered, partners told us they didn’t have eight hours,” Von Seggern said. “We’ve introduced our VoDs to help them save time. We’re also working on Web-based training that features interactive courses on the Web. We’ve also changed our in-person, live training by taking them from eight hours down to four.”

Moving forward, Von Seggern says Cisco Capital will continue to support its parent company as well as its partners to help increase profitability.

“We’re going to continue to go down our partner chain to make sure we’re working hand in hand with (our partners) to make sure they understand the value here,” she said. “Partners said they want to hear from us more routinely, so they can expect to see more operational improvements and more partner-centric offers that are structured in a similar fashion to our process payments.”