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November 13, 2008 |

Cisco Looks to SMBs in Partner Program Expansion

Partners spoke up about the necessity for special programs and tools to help them address the needs of their SMB customers, and Cisco listened. By John Danielowich

Cisco Looks to SMBs in Partner Program Expansion

Partners spoke up about the necessity for special programs and tools to help them address the needs of their SMB customers, and Cisco listened.

By John Danielowich

Instead of simply downsizing its enterprise solutions, Cisco incorporated its entire product and solutions portfolio into offerings specifically designed for the SMB market.

Sally Stanton, director of worldwide channel marketing at Cisco, says the SMB market is very important to the company, and one of the great opportunities for growth over the next several years. “With the advances in technology, the growing availability of broadband, and the needs of small businesses around the world, we see this as a perfect time for Cisco and SMB,” she says.

To help partners serving SMBs better address the market, Cisco added a new entry point into the Cisco Resale Channel Program. The company implemented the new program after conducting surveys and focus groups with partners. The partners told Cisco that while they value their relationship, moving from Registered to Premier Partner was difficult with the available resources. The SMB Specialization and Select Certification, which incorporates both online and instructor-led training, aims to resolve the issue, enabling partners that complete the certification to attain Cisco Select Certified status and focus on the Cisco products and solutions that are a good fit for SMBs.

In addition, Cisco Select Certified partners have new resources, tools, and programs to help them build their businesses. One of these is SMB University, which assists with day-to-day business issues and Cisco product training. Others are the Partner Development Fund (PDF) and Partner Development Fund for Unified Communications (PDF-UC), both of which are programs that offer partners a quarterly rebate based on Cisco SMB product sales. Additional benefits are the SMB Opportunity Incentive Program (OIP), a deal registration program designed for opportunities with new SMB customers, and the SMB Partner Practice Builder, which assists partners in building support services, professional services, and managed services. Demand generation activities are available to these partners as well.

“In designing the support tools and resources, we knew that ‘downsized enterprise’ would not work for SMB partners,” according to Stanton. “We have created new programs and tools specifically for the SMB market.” She added, “We continue to learn from our partners on what additional areas of support we can deliver and improve to help them build their Cisco business.”

Other program highlights include the Cisco Partner Space, which allows customers to seek out and collaborate with partners, and enables partners to collaborate with one another. The newly updated Cisco Partner Locator is now connected to the Cisco Partner Space to make it easy for potential customers to find Cisco partners.

Stanton takes a long view on changes in the channel and Cisco’s response to them, saying the channel has been evolving for a long time, and that it will continue to evolve. “With technology becoming more complex, channel partners will need to choose areas where they want to specialize,” she says. “Business models delivering SaaS [software as a service] and ITaaS [IT as a service] will continue to grow. This will require that some channel partners adjust or modify their own businesses in order to take advantage of these growth areas. As in the past, Cisco will be there for our partners to assist them in making these transitions.”

JOHN DANIELOWICH is a freelance writer based in Framingham, Mass.

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