Splunk, Cisco lay out strategy for channel partners to thrive

Cisco explained both how they are restructuring itself as well as re-energizing Splunk along the new business model Splunk adopted last year, and what this will all mean to channel partners.

LAS VEGAS – At the Splunk partner summit at their Conf.24 event here, Splunk, whose sale to Cisco was finalized last month, indicated to their assembled partner audience what this would mean for them. The Splunk executives were also joined by new Splunk CEO Chuck Robbins, who of course is also the CEO of Cisco. They all discussed the new opportunities that will be available to Splunk partners, as well as how they will be protected going forward.

“The good news is that Cisco has long been a partner company,” Robbins said. “In the late 90s I was on the direct side there, and was asked to move to the channel side, and my reaction was ‘what did I do wrong?’ But the channel was ingrained and later, I moved back to sales leadership roles.”

On the legacy Spunk side, the channel business has also been growing.

“A year ago we had 70 percent of our business impacted by partners, and we are not slowing down,” said Gretchen O’Hara, VP of Worldwide Partners and Alliances at Splunk. “It is now at 90%.”

“What I’m super excited about is they have been a major part of our growth story,  making Splunk more tightly aligned with Cisco security to add more value,” said Gary Steele, who was Splunk’s CEO previously, and who is now Cisco’s President, Go-to-Market.

At last year’s Conf.23 Splunk spent a lot of time indicating their strategy going forward, and Steele emphasized that none of the fundamentals here change because of the acquisition.

“When we came together, we didn’t throw the road map out, as many acquired companies do,” Steele said. “We will continue on that. “Our critical integrations wont impact the road map. We need to keep moving the ball down the field, and show that that we are an innovator and that we are better together.”

“We delivered joint innovations delivered quickly with Splunk, at RSA, and Cisco Live, to show the joint value of the two companies quickly.” Robbins said. “We didn’t want this to take 18 months. Before, we could watch data for customers, but we had no way to structure it and provide value for that. I dont think there is another company on the planet who can do what we do now, which all leads into digital resilience. This work, what has already happened on the AI side, bringing together solutions applying AI on top, will be the big play for the group in here.”

The two partner programs will remain separate, perhaps for the very long term, but Robbins said that wouldn’t work to the disadvantage of legacy Splunk partners.

“We have programs to protect you against thousands of Cisco partners flying in,” he stated. “We’ve learned how not to do it and we’ve learned how to do it well. This work will take what has already happened on the AI side, and apply AI on top of their own technology. This will be the big play for the group in here. You can also represent to the customer what we believe the value of the portfolio is.”

O’Hara detailed what’s being changed to make it easier for partners to impart the message of consistency to customers.

“Our strategy this year is consistent from last year, to minimize disruption,’ she said. “That will improve tools processes and systems to make to easier to do business, so you can focus on customers. We continue to focus on enablement directly relating to business goals, driving consistent value led proposition to ensure millions in partner value. Our transparent took for this is the most visited page of our partner portal. We continue to focus on enablement directly relating to business goals, driving a consistent value-led proposition to ensure millions in partner value. This  tool is the most visited page of  our partner portal. Partners who have taken advantage of this have had 10x momentum this year.”

O’Hara also announced the addition of a fourth motion to the Splunk partner universe – Advise ( after Sell, Build and Manage).

“We look forward to Advise getting into full deployment this year,” she said. “Splunk will be also be releasing five targeted marketing campaigns over the summer, including   – creating too skit – Gold Standard TA – now available in partner prortal

Rodney Clark, SVP Partnerships and SMB, Cisco, asked how they really get their joint customers really looking at this opportunity we have created.

“We have field teams working with partners to put them on the path to deliver value, and 75% of Splunk partners already on Cisco,” he said. “Our teams meet every single day on your behalf. You just need to tell us what you want. We aren’t going to leave any Splunk partner behind.”

Clark announced that they need continued investment in innovation, and just announced their AI specialization last week.

“We have a pilot program introducing and cross-selling Splunk, and there are some immediate opportunities,” he said. “We need feedback because we are off and running.”

Christian Smith SVP and Chief Revenue Officer for Splunk,  said that Splunk had acquired 521 new logos in the past year, which were heavily partner driven.

“We methodically focused on how to become a better partner organization, and radically reduced our friction points,” he said. “We simplified rules of engagement and are enforcing them. Customer value is still the north star. We have tried to get away from transactions and focus on value.”

Smith said that their sales strategy now revolves around positioning use case, not products. They help us differentiate value from competitors, deal with use case taxonomy, and talk use case as a language company.

Ryan Morris, President of Blackwood.ai

“Our global priority accounts doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the rest, about 3100 of which we do business with,” he stated. “The number one way to get into a GPA is with a partner, We only have two use causes in ‘plays in a box’ today. That’s not enough.”

Ryan Morris, President of Blackwood.ai,  a D.C.-area Splunk partner since 2009, and winner of seven Splunk public sector awards, sees the Cisco Splunk merger as a major boon for them.

“We were certain that this would happen at some point,” he said. “It’s been a matter of timing price and circumstance. We’ve been waiting 16 years for consolidation and it just happened last quarter. It makes a tremendous amount  of sense because in a data world, companies need that scale. We are excited that they did it the way they did.”

Morris said that Cisco moving many of its products over to Splunk is significant.

“Cisco acknowledges that this is disrupting themselves,” he stated. “They already moved their competitive products to Splunk – so bingo, there is now no competition between them. Cisco has built a massive channel that sells Cisco products. Splunk has a unified engagement model that Cisco has lacked before, and employs it to expand use cases.”

Cisco is now a Blackwood.ai partner as well.

“We signed with them in January and are just getting ramped up in their program,” Morris said.