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Customer experience is Cisco’s edge

by Jens Butler •
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With Chuck Robbins' ascendency to the Cisco crown in 2015, networking’s grande dame has made a wholesale evolution in its market engagement with the $51bn vendor forging a path from an hardware provider into a customer-driven managed software and services enabler.

Hiring the likes of Maria Martinez (from Salesforce to create a customer-centric capability), Gerri Elliot (as Chief Sales and Marketing Officer), Oliver Tuszik (previously CEO of a major Cisco partner to run the channel program) and Amy Chang (to run the Cisco Collaboration arm) highlights the level of investment and commitment the company has made in shifting to a customer-centric led organisation. By achieving this without abandoning its deep engineering and technical capabilities, Cisco has become an industry beacon of transformational change, with diversity being no small component (women making up over 50% of the senior leadership ranks).

However, such change doesn't just impact Cisco. Given that its partner ecosystem now represents 80% of its revenue stream, Cisco is aware that it needs to bring along its core route to market on this journey. The most recent Partner Summit (the 25th version and attended by 3000 of Cisco’s key channel providers) was the perfect forum to further solidify its CX evolution and showcase its expanded suite of offerings, including tools, incentives and accelerators for partners to enable delivery of these services.

The branding of the event was “Own Your Edge” – with Cisco’s programs aimed at providing its partners with the ability to unlock their own unique flavours, offerings, nuance and capabilities and allow them to extend into the wider value-components of the newly Cisco-defined Customer Lifecycle (or its affectionately titled, Racetrack).

A few key themes came to the fore during the event and included:

  • the maturing of the lifecycle model and points of engagement;
  • the evolution of the partner incentives around the new engagement models (especially customer renewals);
  • the integration of Cisco’s numerous collaboration offerings under a single platform;
  • DevNet (Cisco’s developer program) has become mainstream (with over 50,000 partner developers now); and
  • a re-invention of its small and medium-sized customer offerings.

The Intermedium perspective 

The network is increasingly critical to all technology interactions and a foundational layer for digital transformation. Any successful provider of the future will need to create the tools for users to “bridge the gap” across the islands of capability that exist within their environments.

Cisco’s strong technical and engineering background puts it in good stead to create the core components of this journey. Its well-developed and evolving ecosystem of partners will be key to facilitate and accelerate this adoption.

In a sign of the maturity of the Australian market and its importance to Cisco, Australian partner involvement has been key in the evolution of its CX strategy. During the conference, of the 19 global Cisco Awards announced at the event, Australian partners picked up four, including Data#3 (as network architecture partner of the year), Telstra (for security architecture), NTT Australia (software partner of the year) and Dicker Data (as the best Cisco distributor).

Partners remain crucial to Cisco’s success, especially in its key markets. Cisco has strong brand awareness and an enviable footprint in the Australian public sector and has successfully engaged with its partner ecosystem to deliver over the past thirty five years. However, as it can attest to, the CX revolution is a large program of work. Cisco is aware that its key delivery engine needs to be well supported (and incented) along this multi-year journey - and even though it is still early days, from feedback received from partners and customers over the past 18 months and during the event, this appears to be the case. 

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