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Cisco brought together analysts, consultants, and channel partners in Los Angeles to present an update of its Collaboration products and strategy. One of the best sessions was led by Richard McLeod and featured several of Cisco’s channel partners. Richard introduced the session by stating, once again, that Cisco is “a partner-centric company,” noting that of its $4.1B collaboration sales, 95 percent of the sales were done through partners. While Cisco has 17,000 people in sales and marketing, it also has 280,000 channel employees (sales and technical), and that partners and its channel organization are the key strategic business asset for Cisco.
Three of Cisco’s channel partners shared insights as to what they’re seeing in the market, and how to help drive adoption of UC and collaboration. Here are some of the highlights of the session.
Steven Reese of Presidio stated that costs have already been greatly reduced and it’s no longer about customers achieving lower TCO, and that “we can’t get into the race to zero cost model.” Instead, companies need to focus on “how do I do more, increase productivity, or automate a manual business process.” Reese is seeing these conversations happen because the budget consideration has moved to the line of business, and noted, “We’re talking to the head of sales, patient care facilitators, chief medical officer, etc., more about producing a better experience than reducing costs.” Budget creation has moved out of IT and into the business.
Jamal Denny of Long View Systems agreed, noting that “Decisions moving from IT departments to lines of business is a growing trend.” Mike Danson of Touchbase UK talked about how his company is working with enterprises to transform the customer experience. He stated that Touchbase UK is seeing "transformational projects" similar to how contact center are transforming the customer experience.
All of the partners agree that using the Cisco technology internally within their organizations is critical. Several partners referred to the analogy of “would you buy your meat from a vegetarian?,” meaning that you wouldn’t buy technology from a company that doesn’t use the technology they’re selling. Presidio’s Reese claimed that “Partners using the technology should be table stakes,” and partners need to focus on “what are we doing to be more innovative” with the technology. Presidio has a program to motivate reps to do more virtual sales calls in order to get more productivity out of them. Also, Presidio found that the company’s use of the WebEx Social collaboration tools started as mainly for knowledge sharing, new-hire onboarding, and event management for training. Today, they have 30 internal use cases for the tools.
Touchbase’s Danson noted, "Touchbase is about to deploy WebEx Social throughout our organization," which will assist them in their ability to sell the value of the solution to others. Long View’s Denny added, “We use the Cisco telepresence and video heavily for demos. The technology and sales team can’t always be in the same city, so we use the technologies for the demos. People like to try out the technology and ask us questions about it.”
There was a good deal of discussion about how to work with customers that use both Microsoft Lync and Cisco UC and collaboration products. Depending on the situation, the partners may displace Lync, or “we may play nice. It depends on the customer and their needs.”
Reese noted, “For customers with full deployments of Lync, we just play next to them. It has to be a discussion about what you’re trying to accomplish, not features.” He added, “Any displacement of Microsoft technology can be scary to IT people that have invested in it.” Long View Systems has solutions architects that oversee the Microsoft/Cisco practice in order to gather all of the customer requirements. Denny noted, “It often ends up being a Cisco solution. We have an internal bake off to make sure we give customers what they need.”
Everyone agreed that the discussion has to be less about technology and more about solving the customer’s business problem. Rather than having a product discussion with customers about Cisco Jabber, the conversation needs to be about the overall business value. The consensus is that the partners need to be able to support both and provide solutions that best meet their customers’ needs, regardless of the vendors.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?