Cisco urges partners to make their choice

Cisco's worldwide channels boss Keith Goodwin recently made his first visit to the Middle East since taking on the role 18 months ago. He spoke exclusively to Channel Middle East about the big decision facing Cisco resellers.

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By  Administrator Published  April 1, 2007

In March 2006 Keith Goodwin stood in front of more than 3,000 global resellers at Cisco's annual partner summit and told them that things were about to change. As partners listened intently to his vision of how Cisco intended to empower its channel, he informed them that the networking vendor would begin rewarding partners for their "depth" - the ability to develop highly specialised solutions such as advanced security services - or their "breadth", which measures their capacity to integrate multiple Cisco offerings.

That announcement marked the moment when Cisco made it perfectly clear that the future of its business hinged on creating a partner base inclusive of the skills and expertise to cover the diversity of areas it addresses.

12 months on and Goodwin has been reiterating that message to Middle East partners following his maiden visit to the region since becoming the most senior member of the networking giant's worldwide channels business.

With sales of US$8.4 billion during its last fiscal quarter, Cisco's philosophy that the network is now at the centre of all communications and therefore spending on it will continue to massively increase looks justified.

"This network that is emerging as the platform for voice, video, data and mobility is all IP-based so Cisco partners are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the fact that the game is really coming to them," declared Goodwin. The game may be coming to the channel, but the vendor is under pressure to make sure that enough partners are equipped to make the most of it.

Turn the clock back a decade and the Cisco partner network was largely selling routers and switches to the enterprise sector with a tiny portion of break-fix services thrown in for good measure. These days, the Cisco brand is just as much at home in the SMB and consumer sector, while its technology portfolio spans everything from security to datacentres. Its presence in regions such as the Middle East, meanwhile, has grown enormously. Last year, for instance, the company outlined plans to grow its headcount in Saudi from 70 staff to 600 inside the next five years.

"The reason we believe the current accelerated growth is sustainable is because of the unprecedented breadth of opportunities facing customers today," explained Goodwin. "Look at it from a geography perspective and the whole emerging markets concept. Partners have tremendous opportunities to invest where we need capacity, especially in markets like the Middle East."

It is not an exaggeration to say that Cisco has reached an inflexion point with its partners, however. "Partners are going to need to make choices," admitted Goodwin. "They are going to need to make investment decisions because there is no partner out there that can invest across all the geographies, market segments and services. There are unlimited investment opportunities, but limited investment dollars. The opportunity for partners is to become much more focused and that's what we are looking to help them do. The more focused and differentiated they are as a Cisco partner, the more value they can deliver to the customer and ultimately the more profitable they are," he said.

Resistance from partners to change direction and focus on specific areas is one of the barriers confronting Cisco, although Goodwin claims the vendor has initiatives in place to help resellers make such an investment. "[Partners] are going to have to stop doing some of the things that everybody else is doing and shift those investment dollars into areas where other people aren't doing those things," he argued.

Goodwin shouldn't have to wait too long to find out if resellers across the region have heeded his advice. "I have plans to be back here in the Middle East - probably within the next six to nine months," he revealed.

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