Cisco opens Business Edition 6000 phones to distie CTO

Cisco Business Edition 6000Cisco Canada has introduced a program that will see three of its Canadian distributors configure-to-order its popular Business Edition 6000 IP telephony solution.

Under the plan, Comstor, Ingram Micro, and Tech Data will each offer pre-configuration of the phone systems, allowing them to drop-ship orders to customers ready to be installed and turned on, although not yet configured to user preferences. David De Abreu, vice president of Cisco Canada’s solutions and partner organization, called it a “made-in-Canada” solution that will help its partners go to market faster with the popular systems.

“We’re focused on making it easier for our partners to be successful, and part of that is making it quicker for them to go to market with the Business Edition 6000 product,” De Abreu said. “It will help our partners compete better, and satisfy their end customer needs.”

Rod Scotland, national architectures strategy manager for the mid-market at Cisco Canada, used an analogy to car sales. Under the system, distributors will be able to do everything to ship a fully functional base model “car” to end users, although channel partners will still be called upon to provide the options, bells, and whistles that end users want on their particular systems.

Scotland said the approach will save channel partners time in the sales process, and it also provides distributors a chance to differentiate. While the configuration services will be the same across the distributors, each will be able to introduce “their own abilities and processes.”

Tying it all together is a Cisco-run Web portal that allows partners to order CTO Business Edition 6000 products and specify the basics of the customer configuration for the distributors to execute upon. The portal will be open to all of Cisco Canada’s collaboration partners, and Scotland suggested there were opportunities to address new partners with the product due to some of the heavy lifting of configuration being handed off to distributors’ benches.

It’s not surprising that the idea is a hit with the company’s distributors. As disties continually strive to reinvent themselves for the new market, configuration and technical services are often right at the top of the list of new ways to add value. But the technical benches held at distribution can remain something of a well-kept secret, particularly at the level of broadline distribution. A program like this – and the attention drummed up for it by the Cisco marketing machine – can go a long way to help participating distributors bring their configuration centres to the forefront, and greater visibility is key to greater mindshare amongst solution providers.

In Canada, Cisco works with five primary distributors. With Comstor, Ingram Micro, and Tech Data already on board, that leaves Avnet and D&H on the sidelines, at least for now. It’s not hard to imagine Avnet, in particular, getting involved in this program, given its focus on solutions distribution, which has involved more and more pre-integrated solutions of late. The CTO model may be a bit more of a stretch for the business model of D&H, but Scotland maintained the CTO program is available to all of the company’s distributors.

In addition to going to more distributors, the company is looking at ways to broaden the number of services distributors can provide for solution providers. Today, the CTO service is limited to what Cisco calls “day zero” implementation services, the basic connectivity between a server and endpoints, and other basic setup capabilities. But Scotland said the plan is to introduce options for distributors to handle what Cisco calls “day one” implementation services, which handles more deep customization for customer needs and applications. He said the company will likely get those “day one” services opened to distribution within a quarter.

Eventually, there will be multiple SKUs of the pre-integrated Business Edition 6000 made available through distribution, and Scotland stressed the company will offer partners options for how they go to market with the product, including the traditional product sales model where partners themselves handle all levels of configuration and customization.

This is the first time Cisco has opened up its unified communications products to distribution for CTO anywhere in the world, and De Abreu said the Canadian team is working to spread the idea to other regions.

“They’re looking to adopt this on a global basis,” he said.

The Canadian subsidiary is also considering what other Cisco products can be handed over to distribution for first-level integration, part of a broader push by the networking giant to take better advantage of the capabilities of its distribution partners, particularly when it comes to reaching and serving the midmarket. While it has never before offered such options with its unified communications and collaboration lineups, in the past, Cisco has made other product lines available for configure-to-order through distribution. For example, last year it announced plans for distributors to pre-integrate certain SKUs in its Unified Computing lineup.