Cisco implores partners to capture the digital opportunity

Cisco execs emphasized to partners that while the digital opportunity is a massive opportunity, especially because it is so critical to customers, partners like Cisco itself, need to make major changes of their own to succeed with it.

Wendy Bahr, SVP of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization

MIAMI BEACH — The digital opportunity – defined as the convergence of multiple technologies enabled by connectivity – is a massive opportunity in today’s market. In the keynotes on the first day of the Cisco Partner Connection Week event here, Cisco emphasized that both they and their partners need to fully understand the nature of the opportunity, and how make changes to best approach customers around it.

“We need to figure out how to capture the digital opportunity,” said Wendy Bahr, SVP of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization. “It’s not the technology —  it’s about how we approach it. Digital is just the convergence of multiple technologies enabled by connectivity, and nobody owns this better than we do. But do our sales reps really understand that the digital impact is about a customer’s current value proposition and its resulting marketing position? When we have that conversation, we are hugely relevant to our customers.”

Bahr said that Cisco thinks there are three key criteria to this.

“It starts with hyperawareness,” she said. “Does the company have the ability to detect and monitor changes in its business environment. Then, can they make decisions based on the data. Then, can they move fast enough? That’s what digital agility is all about.”

Frank Palumbo, Cisco’s SVP Worldwide Data Center and Enterprise Networking Sales, emphasized that unlocking the digital opportunity means being able to answer customer questions about this whole process.

Frank Palumbo, Cisco’s SVP Worldwide Data Center and Enterprise Networking Sales

“What are customers really asking us?” he said to the partner audience. “They want to know how to modernize their data structure. They want it to be simple. They want it open and automated. They want it on-prem and have the option of having it cloud managed. They can’t be locked into Cisco, because they want to use the public cloud, managed service providers and SaaS. They also want the right security and the right analytics – not just to get analytics from the infrastructure to see where there’s a problem, but to see new opportunities for business benefits.

“This conference is about Cisco’s digital blueprint to answer those questions, so you can see where to invest,” Palumbo emphasized to the audience.

“IDC says managing digital transformation activities is a 2.1 TRILLION dollar opportunity,” Bahr said. “And for every dollar that a company pays a consultant involved in a digital strategy, Gartner says we get seven dollars of pull through. That’s the reason to have the conversation.”

Bahr outlined three areas Cisco sees as key to help partners capture that opportunity, which are closely related.

Customer-in selling to address the specific business needs of customers, particularly at the Line of Business level, is key.

“You have to talk to these new buyers in a new language, and be the bridge and connect them to the IT,” Bahr said.  “Deals get to be 5-7 times bigger, in part because new budget is found in Lines of Business. It also allows us to engage in the conversation much earlier in the cycle.”

The second element is developing industry expertise, and relating it to digital-ready architecture.

“Industry vertical language requires that we have new capabilities,” Bahr said. “Some are horizontal, like  customer and workforce experience, and managing operations risk. But vertical is what we are most focused on, and talking about how things get securely connected, collected and consumed.”

The third element is following the customer lifecycle.

“As we transfer more of our value into software aligned into hardware, we have to look at our own customer lifecycle,” Bahr said. “We tell our own sales people they have to have the conversation around hardware, software and services. These are new go-to-market motions that we have to do together. The conversations on how to streamline the customer experience and get the seven dollars from every one paid to a consultant in putting the digital strategy together are very different.”

“We have to change our vocabulary,” Palumbo stressed. “At Cisco, we have been very guilty of this. Customers don’t want to hear about upgrade and refresh. But we have to innovate the install base. We have to convince them to innovate the infrastructure that’s 5, 6, 8 years old. If their infrastructure is not modernized they wont be able to secure it.”

Bahr stressed that Cisco’s top 100 partners sell more than 50 per cent through Line of Business units, compared to 15 per cent overall. They also have 40 per cent of revenue being recurring, compared to the overall partner average of 17 per cent.

Bahr also noted that Cisco provides partners with tools to help partners in all these areas.

“ACES 2.0 can help with customer in-selling by getting your solutions to market faster,” she said. “We assist developing industry expertise with our SalesConnect platform, which provides a wealth of information on digital transformation, and the information is audited and curated to make sure it’s up to date.”

Cisco SuccessHub provides information on customer success best practices, to help partners understand customer lifecycle.

“Success Hub helps you articulate to the customer how they can unlock the value of that software subscription,” Bahr said. “And the Cisco Lifecycle Advantage program means up to 4x higher reach, 10 per cent higher engagement  and 45 per cent higher renewal close rates. We use digital platforms to help you reach out to renewal customers ahead of the renewal cycle.”

Bahr also emphasized that digital opportunity is extending beyond traditional resale

“Resale route to profitability is hugely important, but the digital opportunity also provides the ability for multi-partner relationships – ISVs and digital consultants,” she said. “This is one of our fastest growing routes to profitability. So is the IT service provider route, which includes traditional MSP and even resell partners, who recognize this model is critical to many of our customers.”

Bahr also stressed the opportunities in Designed-In solutions, taking the power of Cisco’s Internet of Things capabilities and adding them to their solutions, and about opportunities from participating in marketplaces, whether distributor or from public cloud providers.

“We all have to change to capture the digital opportunity,” Bahr concluded. “And you as our partners have never been a more strategic asset than at this moment in time. We will keep it simple, stay aligned and continue to make this your most important relationship.”