Cisco is transitioning quickly from a hardware focused company to a software services entity, as networks and data centers become more software defined. Daisy Chittilapilly, Managing Director, Partner Organisation, Cisco India & SAARC, explains how the networking giant is looking at the partner ecosystem as it tries to grow faster than the market
At a broader level, what are your plans and strategies?
Cisco is clearly in a transition. We were largely a hardware focused company but we are now in the transition to become more software and services oriented. In fact, we have a public stated goal of moving around a significant percent of our business to software services by 2020. This is a big transformation that is happening at a company level, which is true for the channel partner ecosystem.
In the last two years, we have bought 16 companies. All of them are software. We always had an innovation engine focused on three strategies: the build, buy and the partner strategy. We have added two new ways in which we stay ahead in innovation. We commit investments to corporate development. We also invest in niche companies. These companies either complement our technology portfolio or give us the differentiation or advantages in terms of speed to market.
All the strategies around innovations are to focus on primarily five things. The first is the Internet of Things. The second pillar is on the security side. The third piece which we have focusing on now is multi-cloud. The fourth pillar of our technology focus in term of how do we make sure that all the technology we build is giving data insights to the customer which will help them take better decisions. And, the fifth is making life easier for employees, which means you can work here or you can work from home and you can be equally efficient whether you are in the boundary of the office or you are outside.
How do you deal with a partner ecosystem especially when the company is undergoing this transition phase?
We always had a very transparent communication channel with our partners through all the transition we have made. We have bought many companies to successfully build our business through acquisitions, so our channel and our partners always had to learn some new thing. We bought over 200 companies and every company has brought a new technology to Cisco. Cisco partners know that Cisco does not stay quiet for too long and they have this relearning capability in their genes, and that I think is the reason for the longevity that we enjoy with many partners.
Is there any specific program that has been designed for this transition phase?
Yes. We’re building a lot of toolkits internally which are given to partners. This is to ensure that they have the necessary tool kits to make sure that they go armed to the customer with the right level of data about our installed base. We are also doing a lot of enablement. We have an internal team called ‘Customer Success’, which is focused on conversation with our customers about taking the shift towards more adoption. Our sales team focuses only on the partners to advise them on how to make this shift with Cisco.
At our global partner summit, we announced two programs .The first is; Migrate to Digital as a program. We are also advising partners on what service lines can be built on top of technology that Cisco is providing that actually allows for creation of more value added services. We have also now made a new announcement for digital system integrators which essentially allow partners to participate in projects which are outcome based for customers and need not necessarily be resale partners.
Are you also looking to engage with more specialized partners beyond your traditional ones?
Absolutely, we have already done that. We had to do that because when we re-entered security about 4 years ago in a meaningful way was that the partner eco-system that did the security business was not the part of our ecosystem that was doing traditional networking portfolio business for Cisco. We have specialised partners who are very focused in one particular technology. We have IoT partners and also partners focused on the OT side. We will continue to augment and broaden our partner base.
Any message for your existing or prospective partners?
Cisco has always has been and always will be partner focused. We are very focused on our partners; we are very focused on the go to market push through the channel. We will be at the cutting edge of technology and will give our partners plenty to play with in terms of technology. We will create markets which we can jointly monetize. We will provide relevance in the digital world for partners. Growth and sustainability is something that is a promise from Cisco to its partner ecosystem.