IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Cisco Readying New Tools, Flexible Purchasing Options for MSPs

They will be the latest manifestations of an ambitious campaign led by Michelle Ragusa-McBain (pictured) designed to drive deeper engagement with managed service providers by simplifying procurement, training, and other critical processes. By Rich Freeman

Cisco is readying an AI-powered tool designed to help members locate relevant materials in a growing library of content more easily.

“Everything’s kind of scattered, and people tell me it’s hard to find,” said Michelle Ragusa-McBain, Cisco’s global community lead and channel evangelist for MSP and everything as a service, in a conversation last week at the first ChannelPro SMB Forum event of 2022

Called Partner Journey, the Google-powered site will direct users to a customized list of resources based on their skills, challenges, and maturity level.

“It’ll take you where you need to go and tell you all the different solutions or trainings or videos or webinars that can help you with that,” Ragusa-McBain says.

Coming soon as well from Cisco are API integrations that will enable members to purchase products via RMM and PSA vendors like ConnectWise and Datto.

“We’re piloting it with Meraki at first,” Ragusa-McBain alsays, adding that the objective is to make working with Cisco easier by giving partners multiple ways to acquire licenses. “If they want to buy direct, if they want to go through an RMM/PSA, if they want to go through distribution, if they want to go through pay as you go, you can do any of that.”

Similar aims motivated the recent launch of Cisco Secure MSP, a centralized service for purchasing and deploying SaaS security products, including the Cisco Umbrella family and multifactor authentication software from the vendor’s Duo unit.

“We’re really just trying to simplify our stack,” Ragusa-McBain explains. 

New also in recent months is a series of self-serve “black belt sensei trainings” on technical and sales-related topics. Partners who complete several of the classes receive a three-part series of live consultative trainings with Cisco subject matter experts as well.

Current and forthcoming benefits like those all feed into Cisco's larger goal of driving deeper engagement with MSPs, a critical channel for reaching a vast and growing SMB market.

“We see huge opportunities in this space, and we know that we have an opportunity to get even stickier with managed service providers like we’ve done with bigger partners for years,” Ragusa-McBain says. The key, she continues, is serving the requirements of a community that has received less attention from Cisco in the past than those large companies.

“This huge partner that we typically would have in the enterprise space doesn’t need the same help that the smaller partners do,” Ragusa-McBain observes. “They need different content, they need different marketing, they need different MDF.”

Cisco is staffing up to meet those needs for MSPs. “There’s all these resources at Cisco that are dedicated now just to manage service providers,” Ragusa-McBain says, citing a new team of MSP marketing advisors as an example. “That role never existed at Cisco.”

Ragusa-McBain plans to continue spending much of her time searching for ways to make buying from Cisco, navigating its partner program, and getting educated about its products easier for the MSP channel. 

“The process of doing business with us can be challenging, so my biggest goal throughout the rest of the year is simplifying that process for our partners,” she says.

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