Leading a more collaborative channel

Leading a more collaborative channel

Local managing director of Cisco, Les Williamson, took up his position a little over a year ago. He caught up with ARN at the recent Cisco Networkers conference to talk about the economic downturn, vertical market opportunities and his vision for Cisco’s partners moving forward.

What are some of the goals you’ve set your partners going forward?

Les Williamson (LW): I’ll talk about this across a 24-month period because that’s our transformed strategic plan time-frame. The focus will be on evolving our current partners into some of the new areas, particularly around the industry solutions we’ve developed. There will be some key skilling up that we’ll be doing with our partners and, in parallel with that, we’ll be looking for some new partners – not so much on the fulfilment side but more on the alliance side to handle the business transformation and business architecture discussions that our customers want to have. I don’t see it as a changing strategy – it’s going to be an evolution of our current base.

Will Cisco be targeting new verticals over the next 24 months as well?

LW: The verticals we’re targeting are certainly not new for Cisco globally – really it’s an internal reflection that these are some of the growth areas in the A/NZ market now. Areas like travel, construction and real estate have been a global focus [for Cisco] in other parts of the world for the last couple of years, particularly in the Middle East, where there’s massive construction going on and in Asia where there’s some 220 airports that have been built from 12 months ago to the next 12 months, so we’ve had a concerted industry focus on that. Now the time is right to focus on these markets in Australia and start to leverage that approach. I’ll leverage our global skills, and those partner relationships that perhaps we forged in China, India or in the US, and make them real for us in the A/NZ marketplace and for customers. Without a doubt we will take up new partnerships. We’re still very much a partner-led model and I’m absolutely committed to only upholding that, it’s just about bringing in and enhancing some of those conversations.

Will Cisco’s interest in software-as-a-service change the skill sets required from your partners?

LW: I think part of Cisco’s success and part of our partner’s success is that continued evolution of skills. That’s a broad statement to make but we invest lots of time and money in driving the skills development of our partners, and now more than ever I see that as a critical focus for us in A/NZ. I’ve got two go-to-market models – the traditional and the evolving – and I want partners aligned to that. The skills and the training will be aligned to that, as will our incentive programs and all our support. We’ve decided on this strategic direction, we’ve evolved our own model, and we’re just starting to engage our partners more in it and get their input into it.

What type of channel partner do you see playing a role in SaaS?

LW: We will engage with new partners to have those different business conversations around SaaS, but some of our existing partner base is already in that space – Dimension Data and others for instance. I’m not predetermining their business models, but we will be with them side by side to take those conversations to potential customers. That’s still being worked out – we’re not going to be prescriptive on the partners we work with, I still think the market is working that out and the partner community is working that out.

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