Cisco Canada head looking for “next big disruptor” as partner

Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada

Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada

A third of a year into her new role, Cisco Canada president Rola Dagher said the company is “charging at 150 per cent” with its community of nearly 1,700 partners — and the definition of what a Cisco partner looks like it continues to evolve.

Over the last decade, the Cisco channel has changed dramatically, with innovation areas like first smart and connected real estate and more recently the broader Internet of Things movement bringing in an array of partners who not so long ago would have been considered strange bedfellows indeed for Cisco. From building contractors to industrial controls giants, the Cisco partner base has swollen.

And Dagher said the company remains receptive to new types of partners — perhaps particularly those who may not have fit “the profile” of the Cisco partner in the past.

“We’d like to find the next big disruptor in Canada,” Dagher said of the potential ‘next generation’ of Cisco partners. “Right now, we have partnerships across the board with the strongest players in industry. But the philosophy is that anyone who knocks on the door with differentiation, we’ll be interested.”

Rob Barton, principal systems engineer at Cisco Canada, said that as the digital transformation of businesses across the country takes them — and in turn Cisco — in new and perhaps unexpected directions, the best partner is perhaps the partner who can see those changes, and move quickly towards newly anticipated needs. He highlighted the company’s expanding partnership with Apple as such a potential game-changer.

“Those who adopt quickly will lead in the long term,” Barton added.

Dagher said that Cisco plays an important role in helping partners discover and define those new opportunities, and pledged the vendor will continue to lead its partners deeper into the effort to sell solutions based on customer business outcomes, as opposed to the old “volume and velocity” approach.

“Everybody’s transforming,” she said, partners included. “The more direction we can give them around our strategy, our technology, and how we’re impacting businesses together, the better we’ll all be.”

Some of those new types of partners will likely come into existence familiar with the networking giant. At its Cisco Connect event in Toronto, the company put the spotlight heavily on what Barton called “the trifecta of innovation” in Canada for Cisco — its Kanata, Ont. research and development facilities, the Innovation Centre at its Toronto headquarters, and the 12 research chairs it has founded with universities across the country.

In many cases, Barton said, potential new solutions are coming out of the research efforts in the universities, and those that show the most current commercial opportunity are brought in-house at the Toronto innovation centre — the only one of its kind to date for Cisco in North America — to further flesh out the solution and ultimately bring them to market.

He predicted that 2018 would be “a big year” for solutions being developed in the innovations centre and coming into the market, particularly highlighting a smart ceiling emergency guidance solution co-developed by the vendor

and solution provider Compucom.

In her main stage presentation opening Connect, Dagher stressed the importance of the company’s partners in responding to what she called an unprecedented disruption that has developed over the past few years when it comes to digitization. She reiterated that everything the company does with partners “is centered around how we deliver great business outcomes,” and said the company was committed to Canada because of the country offers opportunity from a stable economy, a collaborative public sector, and a leading and innovative education system.

Also, as Dagher put it, “Canadians are awesome.”