Rattle and hum

If you’re looking for a template for running a successful partner conference, look no further than Cisco’s recent global channel summit attended by more than 2,000 partners from around the world. Based around two key themes — rattle and hum — Cisco managed to produce an event that was fresh, informative and, dare I say it, fun.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  April 8, 2005

If you’re looking for a template for running a successful partner conference, look no further than Cisco’s recent global channel summit attended by more than 2,000 partners around the globe. Based around two key themes — rattle and hum — Cisco managed to produce an event that was fresh, informative and, dare I say it, fun.

In the world of vendor partner summits, that is a pretty impressive achievement to pull off. Too many vendors continue to roll out the same tired old themes year-after-year at these events and leave partners wondering if it was really worth the expense and the time out of the office required to attend.

Put simply, if a vendor cannot whip up enthusiasm for its partner conference and come up with innovative ideas and themes, then there is very little chance that partners will go away fired up by the breadth of opportunity that awaits them.

With the two central themes of rattle and hum (the title of a U2 album) embedded in every keynote presentation, Cisco executives took every opportunity to indulge their rock star fantasies at the event.

This even included a few numbers from a band made up of senior Cisco executives, including worldwide channels supremo Paul Mountford on guitar, at the closing party.

So what were the rattle and hum concepts all about? According to Cisco, rattle referred to the need to disrupt, stimulate and cause change that creates growth. Hum referred to the synchronising of two frequencies — namely Cisco and its partners — creating a resonating sound as they move together in harmony.

Cisco is clearly a gorilla in the networking sector. Its domination is there for all to see and it maintains its position — and pursues its growth objectives — through a selective acquisition policy and the expansion of its product portfolio to embrace emerging technology areas. Given this position, the onus lies on the vendor itself to drive its existing channel towards new opportunities that offer the potential for increased sales.

Cisco did this with aplomb and also backed up its commitment to the channel by giving them some tangible benefits to take away from the event. These included the launch of a solutions incentive programme (SIP) to complement the existing opportunity incentive programme (OIP) and value incentive programme (VIP), the launch of a new trade-up scheme that rewards partners involved in making the sale, as well as the injection of US$750m additional financing into the channel from Cisco Capital.

Taking a step back from the announcements and tub-thumping that characterised the event, it is clear that Cisco wants to establish network technology as the foundation of wider IT solutions that involve the deployment of applications and the provision of related services.

In other words, Cisco wants to do everything possible to ensure that the network leads the sale in the eyes of the customer while simultaneously providing partners with the financial benefits and soft incentives that persuade them to move in this direction too. Put the network at the very centre of the IT solution and make it synonymous with the Cisco brand.

When you lead a market segment and hold significant market share, it becomes the vendor’s responsibility to drive the evolution of the segment it serves in order to create incremental revenue opportunities. It is a tactic that Intel has pursued in the CPU space, especially in terms of its efforts to accelerate the deployment of mobility solutions around the world. Cisco has been moving forward in a similar fashion in recent years.

Cisco certainly rattled and its partners were definitely humming at this year’s event. The task for Cisco now is to follow through on its announcements, build on the enthusiasm that was stirred up within the partner community and continue driving into new technology areas and emerging markets.

The networking gorilla needs to keep on dancing despite its size.

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