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5 Predictions for Customer Care in 2016, and Beyond

Who likes Tomorrowland?

Some people go to the futuristic part of Disney’s theme parks for the rides. The rides are certainly fun, but I go because it makes me think of the future. Perhaps that’s why people post so many predictions blogs every December: We like to dream about possibilities.

tomorrowland blog image

Photo courtesy of Disney Wiki

In my role, I have the privilege of helping our team shape the future of Cisco’s Customer Care solutions. We always start by listening. We talk to customers and partners to hear what they want. We try to understand what is driving and shaping their thoughts. And we think a lot about how we can help businesses better serve their own customers.

Here’s what our team sees for Customer Care in 2016.

5 Predictions: Read More »

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The Internet of Things: Hype or Reality?

Having spent several days last week at the Internet of Things World Forum in Dubai, I am more convinced than ever that the Internet of Things (IoT) is not some hyped-up futuristic vision of what could be, but a present-day reality that is transforming businesses and industries here and now.

In this blog series over the past six months, I have touched on many of the technology and business factors to consider while planning an Internet of Things (IoT) deployment—from access technologies to emerging standards and the convergence of IT and organizational technology (OT) . I spent three blogs discussing fog computing, analytics, and applications, and was happy to be part of the announcement of the OpenFog Consortium last month. All of this focus on IoT culminated last week, when the IoT World Forum highlighted both well-established IoT solutions and numerous IoT startups that are gearing up to change the future.

Successful IoT deployments integrate operational control systems with enterprise information systems for greater visibility, efficiency, and security.

Successful IoT deployments integrate operational control systems with enterprise information systems for greater visibility, efficiency, and security.

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Devops Means “No, you cannot operate my cloud”

One of the things I really believe strongly is that modern SaaS software development – both the practices and code it produces – are significantly different from traditional enterprise premises-based software development. Yet, I find that for people who have never built and operated a modern SaaS platform, these differences are difficult to grasp. Let me replay for you a conversation I’ve had many times.

Jonathan: “We’ve built this awesome new Cisco Spark cloud platform, which powers the Cisco Spark app. We do continuous delivery, pushing new updates every day. Our engineers operate the platform – a.k.a. devops – and they track a bunch of metrics on quality and engagement that they use every day to make improvements in the code.”

Customer/Partner: “That sounds great! I’ve got a question though – do you have a packaged version that I can operate on premises?”

The answer is – of course not.

When I tell customers/partners this, they are surprised. The reason for this is NOT that we don’t want their money (trust me that’s not it), or that we have some kind of policy or strategic reason that we don’t want to do it. The reason is that it’s technically infeasible. And doing so would mean we’d have to destroy many of the benefits that we’ve built for our customers in the first place.

The reason ultimately comes down to Read More »

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Executive Insight: Q and A with SVP Wendy Bahr

Cisco Partners Executive Insight QA Bahr

Today on the Partner Blog we’re kicking off a new Executive Insight series, where we’ll be visiting with Cisco executives to gain insight into key focus areas, themes, and topics that pertain to our partner ecosystem.

And what better way to start than by having Wendy Bahr, SVP, Global Partner Organization, join us for a discussion?

Wendy became head of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization in July. She’s been extremely busy in her first few months, travelling across the globe to spend time with partners, hear their stories, and see first-hand how Cisco partners are driving innovation with customers. We got a chance to catch up with Wendy this week to chat about her new role, what she’s been hearing from partners, and what she’s most excited about as she prepares to host her first Partner Summit on February 29.

Darek Rensing: Wendy, thanks so much for your time. I know you’ve been quite busy since day one in your new role. Most of that time has been dedicated to partners, as you’ve travelled all around meeting with them and listening to what’s top of mind for them. What are your personal takeaways from these experiences, and what are the top asks of Cisco coming from partners?

Wendy Bahr: Well, to answer the first part of your question: we have, without a doubt, the best partner ecosystem in the world. I spent nine years in the channel before coming into this role, and this has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the challenges that our partners face. It has also given me the opportunity to meet face to face with hundreds of partners – most recently during my listening tour in Asia Pacific, U.S. and EMEAR. I am – as always – impressed with the versatility, the innovation, and breadth of expertise that exists within our partner ecosystem.

Many of the conversations I’ve had with our partners over the past few months have been about the challenges around the breadth of Cisco’s portfolio, our sometimes complex processes, and the transformation of our business to a more software-centric, ‘as a service’ model. It’s clear that we need greater simplicity across our entire portfolio and better alignment between our partners and our field sales organization.

DR: Cisco has had quite a few announcements in the last few months – from acquisitions to major strategic partnerships announced with Apple and Ericsson. What do these moves mean for partners, both in the near future and over the long term?

WB: Cisco and our partners know first-hand that finding the right partner (or partners) is critical to deliver business outcomes to our customers. Our partners also know that Cisco is always looking ahead and moving fast as a company in order to capture market transitions and stay out in front of the competition. This is nothing new – we’ve been doing this for years.

What is new, and what these partnerships mean, is that we’re investing in Cisco’s market leadership for the next decade and beyond. A changing market means new opportunity, and we want to continue to foster growth, profitability, and customer success across our partner ecosystem. That means being bold and innovative and taking risks, but also positioning ourselves – and ultimately our partners – to be able to act quickly and adapt when new opportunities arise.

DR: There has also been a decent amount of change within Cisco and also within the Global Partner Organization. What’s your message to partners about why these moves had been made?

WB: As you’ve heard Chuck and members of our new leadership team discuss, every country, city and business is becoming digital. Cisco continues to evolve our business in the digital era to bring even greater value to our customers. As we do this, we must ensure that our partners are making this transformation along with us, capturing market trends and delivering what our customers need most, all while driving growth and profit.

Chuck’s vision for Cisco, our partners and customers in this digital era, along with what I’ve heard from partners globally, created a perfect opportunity to look at what we are doing in GPO and ensure we are focusing on the right priorities.

Based on all of the conversations that I’ve had with partners over the past several months – as well as my previous experience working with our channel partners – I’ve created a set of guiding principles designed to help provide the best resources, programs and experience for partners. These are centered around simplicity, alignment, and evolving our value exchange.

DR: Can you tell us more about these principles? Specifically, what do they mean for partners?

WB: Simplicity is about taking complexity out of the system; simplifying how we do business so we can spend more time helping our partners address market changes and capture new opportunities.

When I talk about alignment what I mean is increasing alignment between partners and the Cisco field to help them move faster, drive greater agility, and increase growth. I’ve heard from our partners that one of their main objectives is to be in sync with our sales teams. We need to facilitate this alignment, as well as provide growth opportunities specific to our partners’ respective regions. We also need to expand our connected partner ecosystem so that partners are prepared to capture unprecedented opportunities that will arise as we capture new market transitions.

Finally, the foundation of any good partnership is a mutual exchange of value where both sides feel rewarded. As our technology landscape continues to change, we need to revisit our incentives and how we reward partners. What has worked previously is not necessarily what will work today or in the future. Our value exchange needs to keep pace with the market dynamics and needs to accommodate different partner types and roles. It also needs to reflect, as I mentioned earlier, the transformation of our business to a more software-centric, ‘as a service’ model.

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Succeeding in the Age of Digital Disruption & Complexity

This year, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), 3rd Platform technologies (i.e. cloud, analytics, mobility, social) have been responsible for one-third of all IT spending and account for virtually 100% of all IT spending growth.

As more enterprises engage in digitally collaborative partnerships, we’ll see more dollars being allocated to ensure companies can keep up with the diverse and ever-changing technology of the day. With greater collaboration comes greater complexity.

Think about it. Every time an enterprise adds a new service provider or the service provider adds new partners the dynamics of the support ecosystem changes. The ability to actively track provider performance for service level agreement (SLA) adherence and vendor management becomes more and more difficult. But, enterprises can’t be expected to manage this multiparty dance alone.

December 2015_photo

Service Providers Are Part of the Equation

That’s why today enterprises are looking at IT differently and rightfully so. In this age of 3rd Platform technologies, enterprises want and need their IT departments and service partners to operate seamlessly while supporting overall business goals. This requires an effective service integration and management (SIAM) system that, at a minimum does three things:

  • Remove silos. The infrastructures of today and tomorrow are interconnected. Therefore, it is vital for support processes to be holistic to achieve end-to-end visibility.
  • Automate. Given the speed (e.g., cloud provisioning, deprovisioning of compute power) and scale (212 billion devices connected by 2020, according to IDC’s latest Internet of Things research) of change, the SP has no choice but to automate processes to ensure service-level agreement (SLA) consistency at scale.
  • Facilitate decision making. Next-generation IT infrastructure should make it simpler for managers to make informed business decisions in real time.

According to an IDC technology spotlight report, Automated Service Management: Accelerating Enterprise Insight, Efficiency, and Action for Service Providers, there is opportunity for service providers to become strategic partners and trusted advisors to enterprises by leveraging these three pillars. Furthermore, research has found that service providers who are integrated with their customers enjoy loyalty ratings 25% higher than those that are not.1

Case in Point: ServiceGrid in Action

December 2015_photo3Swissgrid, a service provider of Switzerland’s energy company, was in search of a solution that would allow automated and accelerated service management processes. They wanted to integrate their internal service management, CRM systems, and service partners on one central platform to ensure efficient collaboration across the service chain.

The use of Cisco ServiceGrid enabled Swissgrid to automate processing of service requests, which improved the service quality and the efficiency of troubleshooting. But the benefits didn’t stop there. They were also able to:

  • Automate complex and manual provider relationships
  • Enable end- to-end SLA governance and automated reporting across the ecosystem
  • Drive faster incident resolution

“We recovered our investment within the first year and we will continue to benefit from Cisco ServiceGrid capabilities in our current ecosystem and will look to ways to expand,” said Hans Roth, Head of Service Management, Swissgrid.

Where could you see improved results in the integration of your support services? Let’s talk about it. You can reach out and learn more about ServiceGrid via email or by visiting our ServiceGrid website.

1Source: The Outsourcing Institute

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