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On Monday I hosted a live Channels Chat video broadcast with Bob Dimicco, Senior Director of Cisco Services. Bob is responsible for the Collaborative Professional Services program that was launched at Partner Summit.

During the broadcast, he offered an overview of how services are a key differentiator for Cisco partners, and he explained how services can drive partner profitability. Here’s a replay in case you missed it.

Cisco’s services strategy places the partner at the center, according to Bob, because partners are critical to Cisco’s go-to market strategy, whether a partner is selling professional services, managed services, or technical services.

In terms of sales, it used to be that products generated far more revenue for partners than services. Five years ago, 80% of partners’ business was product-based, and 20% was generated by services. Now, partners’ business is almost split evenly between product and services. Bob then told viewers that services help an end-customer see how technology can really generate business outcomes.

Want to learn more? In addition to the video replay above, we’ve got a text summary of the broadcast, along with time stamps to identify sections in which Bob addresses key topics, such as market opportunities around architectures, success stories, and how Cisco’s services are different from those competitors offer.

3:19: What are the market opportunities around collaboration, cloud, video, and virtualization, and how do partners evolve their services business based on architectures?

Bob says the one key facet is that in all of those market transitions, customers are asking, “How can I leverage this technology to create a more productive supply chain, or a greater level of satisfaction with end-customers?” Those situations require a rich set of professional services, whether a customer is working in mid-market, small, large enterprise, or public sector. Using services, a partner can help a customer see where they’re going, and what’s required in the network, as far as planning, design, and operations.

4:25: What are Smart Services and Collaborative Professional Services?

Smart Services have three key components that allow the partner to create a sticky relationship with the customer. The first component is the collection of customer data, allowing the partner to use to a tool to collect information about a customer’s network. The second is correlating that data across thousands of customers—within Cisco’s organization, we have more than 6 million interactions with customers’ networks every year. So behind the analysis lie rules and correlations that enable the partner to bring aggregated intelligence from across thousands of other networks.

Automation of the collection, aggregation, and correlation is the third piece, enabling the ability to give the partner a report of actionable information back to the customer, stating here’s what can be done in your data center or collaboration deployment, for example.
Collaborative Professional Services takes some of those elements and applies those to professional services, essentially within the planning, designing, and building of a deployment and getting it into operation.

7:00 What are some ways that partners are seeing success with some of the services offerings?

What we heard from partners is that they find that they’re typically starting a new practice around a new technology, such as video or UCS, or they’re scaling up or growing a practice. All of the offers within the services portfolio meet those needs and span across Collaboration, Borderless Networks, Data Center, and Virtualization.

Bob then described a U.S.-based partner who had a practice around UCS and was able to use one of the Collaborative Professional Service offers, UCS Practice Accelerator. Over the course of 12 weeks, the accelerator allowed them to get their lab and professional services team set up, while also getting a good understanding for the design and deployment of UCS. Within 90 days, the partner was able to close two $1 million dollar UCS deals. Using the accelerator gave the partner a lot of confidence in terms of using best project methodologies.

The next example Bob was provided was of a partner in Europe. This particular partner doesn’t get involved in wireless too often, so their wireless practice was in its infancy. They were able to look at the CPS portfolio, and look at Guidance and Design Development, leveraging best practices from Cisco Advanced Services. This allowed the partner to ensure that they wouldn’t get caught in a challenging implementation trap, where a business can often lose money.

What about where a practice is well established, but the partner is trying to generate a higher level of profitability from that practice? Bob used the example of a partner in APAC that was doing a large number of deployments of Call Manager. Cisco was able to show them some assessment tools, which can help with the assessment of the underlying routing and switching, as well as where Call Manager will be deployed. The partner was able to reduce the amount of time spent on pre-assessment deliverables to under 10 hours.

Then, we moved on to questions from our viewers.

12:24 How do partners get started in services?

Most partners have a PSDM, a partner services development manager, and this is their Cisco contact, whether they are a Gold, Silver, Premier partner, or distributor. This contact knows about CPS and Smart Services, and once the partner lets that contact or perhaps a Channel Account Manager or Channel SE know that they are interested, then the contact will schedule a one-hour meeting with the Services team. An expert can walk the partner through 20 use cases, and all the different offers, and discuss whether the partner has any ongoing projects in which some of the offers might make sense.

14:39 How is what Cisco is doing different than what competitors are doing?

Bob says that a strategic level, Cisco’s go-to market approach really has the partner as the centerpiece. Cisco works to enable partners to have sticky relationships with customers. Additionally, CPS deliverables are available to partners only, not end-customers, which is a unique approach.

16:09 What are the top two or three benefits for a partner to work with Cisco services?

Every partner is unique—sweet spots for each are different. The biggest benefit is helping the partner accelerate capabilities and capacity. One of the biggest challenges for partners in their professional services organization is talent—it’s a challenge to acquire that talent and get them scaled up. So to the degree that the CPS offers can help with automation of processes, and make employees more productive, it will only be beneficial.
Essentially, Cisco Services can help a partner save time, and money. Services can also allow partners’ CCIEs to spend less time in the office, and more time with customers on architectural projects, or business outcomes.

19:04 How does leading with professional services change the conversations partners are having with customers?

Bob says that one of the best ways to enable that conversation is to bring together the professional services team and account team, and set up a half-day workshop with a customer, to talk about where their IT organization is going around cloud, for instance. They can pull in the different Cisco technologies and architectures that can help.

Bob then noted that partners coming out of the Cloud Builder Program announced at Partner Summit have a Customer Accelerator Module, which is based on creating that sales and services team’s ability to talk at the VP-level with a customer about cloud, their needs, what infrastructure and security they need.  A professional services conversation at the start is the discovery phase—the goal is to find out what are the business drivers that will ultimately fuel the technology drivers.

21:40 How will cloud services come into play with CPS?

The Cloud Partner Program has three different roles that a partner can play: Cloud Provider, Cloud Builder, and Cloud Reseller. Within the Cloud Builder program, we have three purpose-built collaborative professional services modules. They are the program management accelerator, technical consulting accelerator and the customer workshop accelerator.  These will accelerate partners’ capabilities in terms of what are the best practices within the industry, as well as within design, and orchestration.

24:35 Any recommendations for how to find talent that is knowledgeable about services?

Bob says that the talent that partners have is one of the most critical weapons they can bring to the table. To make your talent productive and satisfied in their roles, whether CPS or the Steps to Success program, we put out a bunch of programs to help our partners’ make their talent as productive as possible.

That was it—we sure covered a lot of useful material! Got any additional questions for Bob? Be sure to share them in the comments.

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