B Raghavendran, Managing Director, Partner Organisation, Cisco India and SAARC, shares Cisco’s channel enablement programs and directions for its partners
What have been the key highlights of 2019, and how will 2020 be an important year for the IT channel industry?
We have seen more disruptions in the channel ecosystem over the past year than the industry has witnessed in the last decade. If we look back at 2019, we left no stone unturned to help our channel partners capitalise on the opportunities created by digital technologies. The evolution of our partner programs reflects our continued commitment to improving the overall partner experience, strengthening our joint go-to-market initiatives, and ultimately ensuring our partners’ success in a dynamic and rapidly digitising ecosystem.
We have been focused on helping our partners differentiate themselves while ultimately creating value. The transition towards a software and subscription-oriented strategy puts partners in an ideal position to capitalise on customers’ desire to establish, expand, and accelerate multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud-based digital transformation initiatives. These will be centred on intent-based networking, network analytics, and security. In 2020, gaining expertise in new areas like automation, data analytics, cybersecurity, ML, etc. will help partners better understand and deliver robust vertical market solutions for Industry 4.0.
What are the top three technology trends that the channel community should be betting on, and why?
Industry 4.0, analytics, AI, ML, IoT, and cybersecurity are some of the technology buzzwords used today. But there are some trends clearly emerging in the marketplace, and the channel community needs to gear up to capitalise on them.
The first is hyper-automation. Driven by the growth of RPA and businesses strategising on how to capitalise on the automation tools of their business, hyper-automation will be a key trend for the channel community to bank on. This is about the application of advanced technologies, including AI and machine learning to increasingly automate processes and augment humans. As businesses scale automation within the organisation, they will rely on channel partners to support this transformation.
The second trend is automated security. As we usher in a new wave of technological advancement that will further transform the business, we will also need a deeper commitment to security. As more and more processes and systems go digital, IoT solutions that leverage AI are more prevalent now than ever in securing data. Therefore, CISOs are constantly on the lookout for easy-to-manage security solutions for complex problems.
Lastly, we will see a rise in new-age technologies that will redefine the customer experience, like mixed reality platforms, autonomous things etc. 5G is also just around the corner, and the evolution of the network is going to create new markets and new opportunities. The channel community must prepare to leverage opportunities paved by these emerging technologies.
What are the top channel directions your company has set for your partners, and where should partners invest to be aligned to these directions?
Partners have always been central to our business strategy and core to who we are. We are deeply committed to helping our partners capitalise on new market opportunities. Our mantra is to ‘perform and transform’, which is all about striking a balance between how Cisco performs today, and invests in our partners for tomorrow.
In this new decade, gaining expertise in areas like automation, data analytics, cybersecurity, ML, etc. will help partners deliver robust solutions to drive digital transformation for our customers.
It is essential for partners to build new skill sets to remain relevant to customers. We have been evolving our channel programs to help them capture new opportunities, refine software and services skill sets, and differentiate themselves in the market. As part of this evolution, we at Cisco have been focussed on simplification, building capabilities, and increasing partner value exchange to help them adapt to fast-moving market trends and customer needs while making it easier to work with Cisco.
Cisco’s partner programs fall into three core areas: building and recognising capabilities, refreshing to digital, and moving to lifecycle and recurring revenue. These programs are designed to help Cisco and its partners more effectively shift business to software and recurring revenue and reward partners to drive growth and profitability.
Some of the programs that we are driving are as follows –
- We offer role-based training and certifications to partners looking to boost the skills and knowledge of their employees. Our Black Belt program is a simplified enablement framework built to help partner sales managers and engineers understand Cisco’s competitive advantage and learn how Cisco’s solutions work. India currently has the highest adoption of the Black Belt program.
- We are engaged in a 17-week business transformation exercise where we are utilising the support of a third-party consultant to look at every aspect of the partner’s business, to help them transform from system integrators to value-added solution players. Through this, they are developing their own solutions on Cisco technology architecture.
- We are also working with our partners to pair their capabilities with our architecture through the Practice Development program.
- The new DevNet Specialization program will recognize partners who have demonstrated software development capabilities and differentiated business practices to deliver automation, application development and deployment, security, and digital transformation using Cisco products, platforms, and APIs. Along with these benefits, the DevNet-specialised partner will have access to Cisco APIs and technologies as well as business benefits to succeed in their business offers.
- We work with partners to develop their CX capabilities and become CX specialized. We work on a lifecycle model, which is demonstrated to our partners. Under this program, we don’t just implement the solution, but also help the customer utilise all the capabilities of our technology infrastructure, to ensure desired business outcomes.
- In partnership with our partners, we are co-developing Centres of Excellence (CoE) to demonstrate vertical solutions, technology solutions, security solutions, etc. Today, we have 20 CoEs in the country, showcasing offerings such as DNAC, ACI, connected manufacturing, connected warehousing, among others.
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