Cisco Systems will work with its biggest international channel partners to offer more comprehensive service and support to customers, especially multinational enterprises, the network equipment giant has announced.
Under the Global Services Alliance program, Cisco would coordinate its support more tightly with that of its partners and set out to jointly offer "services stacks" which may include installation, planning and design of systems in addition to traditional operational support, Cisco's Customer Advocacy division director of global alliances, Pierre Damestoy, said.
Channel partners typically share support tasks with vendors on an "a la carte" basis, and tighter coordination can lead to faster responses to customers, according to IDC analyst Ken Presti.
For example, a vendor might not have staff in a particular city and a partner might not be able to fix systems, and knowing that ahead of time could smooth out the work, he said.
Teaming up with a vendor such as Cisco on broader support programs might also help to solve the channel companies' current biggest concern, declining profit margins from product sales.
"Partners need to put a lot of wood behind the arrow on building a good services business," Presti said.
Services stacks were the minimum set of services necessary to successfully deploy a certain technology, Damestoy said. That may include elements such as optimisation of the technology for performance and security, he said.
Cisco would define the services stacks and then make sure that all their elements were provided by either Cisco or the partner.
"We need to find [partners] that will be highly complementary to our own service offering to provide the full lifecycle service to a particular customer," he said. "Cisco has no intention, on our own, to provide all these services."
To participate in the Global Services Alliance program, a channel partner needs to have Cisco Gold Certified Partner status in the US and Japan as well as multinational certification in two of Cisco's three multi-country regions - Asia-Pacific, Americas International, and Europe, Middle East and Africa.
They also will have to make ongoing investments, such as linking their own internal support systems to Cisco's, according to a Cisco statement. Cisco initially was looking at about 10 partners as potential participants, Damestoy said.