28 Apr Partnership ecosystems: Cisco
The large IT & C companies have developed, since the opening of their own representative offices on the Romanian market, extremely complex partnership and certification programs. Both partner companies and their specialists with various certifications and specializations have evolved remarkably in a relatively short time and have built up ecosystems with significant effects on the local IT & C market. Starting with this issue, we are launching a series of articles to address the partnership systems developed by the big names in the local IT landscape: Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, HP, SAP.
Cisco’s partnership strategy is value-based and centered around partner’s ability to deliver business solutions. Cisco has developed three certification programs, Resale, Managed Services and Cloud Computing, the latter being recently launched.
In Romania, the total number of registered partners in a commercial form with Cisco is about 400. They vary according to specializations and certifications. Currently, there are 82 Cisco certified partners, the remaining up to 400 partners having partner status, not having a certain level of certification.
“The IT industry has a high dynamics and requires continuous adaptation of business models to meet customer requirements. To capture the new opportunities resulting from this dynamics, our strategy is to develop and reward Cisco partners for the value of business they create for their common clients. We focus on partner competence and their ability to integrate complex communications solutions, and Cisco certification is based on partner competency, with no minimum business volume required for any of Cisco’s certifications,” says Dragos Josanu, Cisco Partner Organization Manager Romania.
The Resale program is designed for partners who integrate Cisco solutions and resell them to customers. This program includes Gold, Silver, Premier, and Select certifications. The Managed Services Program is particularly targeted at communications service providers or partners who sell to the end-customer services based on a communications infrastructure they develop across companies. In the Cloud program, there are three levels – Cloud Provider, Cloud Builder, Cloud Reseller.
“Through Cloud Provider we understand companies that sell infrastructure and software as a virtualized communications service to the end customer, Cloud Builder is the partner who has the knowledge and business and technology capability to build such cloud, and through Cloud Reseller we refer to companies that resell the services of a Cloud Provider,” explains Josanu. The Cloud Computing program was announced a month ago in the US and is not yet available for certification. “Probably a year from now, introducing this new program and in Romania we will already have a number of certified partners at Provider and Buider level,” says Cisco Romania representative.
Conditions fulfilled by partners
Each certification level has a set of requirements that are the same for all partners and means a number of individual certifications of a particular type or combination of them, a number of examinations that the company needs to pass, and an audit that an independent Cisco company can make it to a partner.
“The requirements underlying the certifications are the individual competence of some specialists that the partner has employees and the business processes of the company. They endorse the quality of the integrated solutions and services of the partner in an architectural approach that takes into account not only the solving of some momentary problems but also the medium and long term evolution of the client”, adds Dragos Josanu.
Certifications are reassessed annually. Decertification, that is, switching from a larger certification to a smaller partnership is made according to the partner’s evolution in terms of the respective certification requirements.
“The dynamics of certifications is higher at the base of the pyramid. At the top of the pyramid, it is more of a strategic intention on our part and partners to maintain and develop that partnership relationship. We ask our partners to invest in competence and value added to the client and reward them with better profitability in incentive and rebate programs,” says Dragos Josanu.
700 certified Cisco specialists
The Cisco Partner Community currently registered in Romania has about 700 certified Cisco specialists, of which about 15% are women. These individual certifications are based on three levels of competence: Associate, Professional and Expert. The Cisco Networking Academy program, which is very well developed in Romania, is the basis for individual certifications. 14,000 students enter each year in this program. The program covers half the complexity of Cisco (Associate and partially Professional certifications).
“The partnership program is supported by strong Cisco investment. One example is Cisco Networking Academy program, which provides virtually the human resource base that goes further to build partner competencies. Cisco provides its partners with a whole series of courses that are run locally or on the web in an e-learning system that further provides the basis for specialization or certification exams. When it comes to cost-plus courses, with an instructor, Cisco often co-invests with its partners.
“Once a partner is certified at a certain level, the most important thing is that the partner succeeds in using that certification to differentiate it into the market and create that value for the client for which it is prepared. The resources we allocate in this area are primarily joint selling activities, ranging from the development of projects to co-marketing campaigns. When our partners need greater competence than they have internally available, we can help them with this Cisco competency in the form of advanced services or common approaches,” Josanu says.
Certified Gold, Silver and Premier Partners
S&T Romania is Cisco Gold Certified Partner. At present, S&T Romania has 7 people who hold CISCO certifications. “As a Cisco partner, S&T Romania has trained and certified personnel in many areas such as routing and switching, voice, communications and security solutions, which enables us to offer our clients complete solutions from consulting, design and architecture, implementation, and support. Our development on various technological specializations has enabled us access to cutting-edge technical information, on-line training and trainers, configuration tools, the right to sell and maintain Cisco products and solutions,” says Valentin Prodan, Infrastructure Solutions Presales Manager S&T Romania.
In order to maintain its Cisco partner quality, S&T has invested in continuous staff training as well as in demo or training equipment, participation in conferences with CISCO, workshops and events dedicated to its own customers. “Cisco’s partner status as well as its specialization are two important factors when analyzing and comparing offers on the market, indicating both the ability to deliver certain products and how they can be integrated, installed and maintained over the period” said Valentin Prodan, adding that the company’s main differentiators from competing companies, in their Cisco partners, are “technical expertise to deliver complex solutions and added value through the full range of services we can offer.”
One of the projects recently implemented by S&T Romania was “InfoScreen Project”, based on the digital media and video content delivery solution – Cisco Digital Media Suite.
CRESCENDO is one of the three Cisco Silver Partner in Romania. “The status of Cisco Silver Partner helps us out of three points: in our relationship with our customers – it is an additional guarantee for the quality of the services delivered by our team; in relationship with Cisco – maintaining Cisco certification is the commitment of the entire CRESCENDO team, including Top Management, to promote Cisco solutions; for our team – our partnership with Cisco gives us permanent access to specialized know-how. In addition, it motivates us to always exceed our limits so as to offer the best quality services at the right price,” says Costel Cristea, Communications Solutions Business Unit Manager, CRESCENDO.
The partnership between CRESCENDO and Cisco dates back to 2001, when the company increased its number of competencies and customer portfolio year after year.
“At this time we are capable and offer all the services (qualitative and quantitative) that a Partner Gold offers to its clients. Until now, given the difficult times we are crossing, we preferred to stay as close as possible to our customers, postponing the approach to become Formal Partner Gold for the near future. Our main differentiator in the market is our position of Integrator – IT & C solutions house. Our customers find in us a unique contact point for implementing new solutions and their integration into the already owned infrastructure,” adds Costel Cristea.
The latest Crescendo project, currently being finalized for a company operating in the enterprise environment, is the implementation of an integrated virtualization solution through Unified Computing. “This initiative, the first in Romania and the region, has requested the expertise and experience of our company in the implementation and integration of processing, storage, networking and data virtualization technologies,” says Costel Cristea.
ETA2U is a Premier Certified Partner, currently engaged in three joint programs with Cisco – VIP (Value Incentive Program), PDF (Partner Development Funds) and Avantgarde Plus. “For more than six years, ETA2U has been running a programmatic development plan that took into account the estimated market trends, following our position on the market as a proven technology provider. Cisco was one of our partners who not only believed in the ETA2U’s execution capability but also supported this development through concrete programs,” said Stelian Campianu, Executive Director, ETA2U. The company’s investments to obtain the desired Cisco certification have been channeled into three directions: staffing and competence development through qualified staff training for all types of Cisco certifications and specializations; the investment in their own ETA2U infrastructure in laboratory equipment, used both to demonstrate customers with the respective technologies, as well as to the related tests of the proposed solutions to the client prior to the implementation.
At the moment, the company has 6 certified engineers and plans to become a Silver Certified Partner. “This process requires time and a huge investment in staff (we must keep in mind that there are currently no Cisco Silver or Gold partners outside the capital). To become a Silver Certified Partner, we need at least two certified engineers at the highest level, namely CCIE – Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert. Clearly, this is the way we want to go, but it is also a matter of time and “dosing of effort” that we must take into account,” adds Stelian Campianu.
The company’s latest projects focused on the network infrastructure for the IBM-BlueGene supercomputer data center at the West University of Timisoara, based on the Cisco Nexus 7000 series and the complete migration to the new headquarters of one of the largest production companies in automotive industry and the significant development of their production lines (the infrastructure has been redesigned and completely rebuilt). “Our territorial presence is predominant in Banat and Transylvania. The main differentiators of ETA2U are our system integrator capability, a very good coverage of the mentioned territory, the experience gained in the 19 years of existence and the recommendations our clients and partners give us”, says Stelian Campianu.
What benefits do the partnership programs bring to the market?
Valentin Prodan believes that, first of all, it is the ability to meet the customers needs and requirements, regardless of the complexity of the project to be delivered.
Stelian Campianu says everyone has to win: “Customers, who, in addition to facilitating access to technology, benefit from the experience of a supplier certified by the manufacturer and have the certainty of a risk-free implementation; the producer, whose investment in partner is being used in a growing sales volume as well as in satisfied customers; local partner who has the motivation and confidence to move on.”
CRESCENDO’s representative believes that such partnership systems are beneficial because they provide access to specialized know-how, validated and tested in several markets and in diverse industries: “The process of evangelism by world industry leaders has driven the development of the entire IT & C market , which facilitates dialogue with our clients. Each partner enjoys support in the ongoing projects (since the analysis phase). There are also less beneficial situations where such partnerships can have negative effects: when the manufacturer decides to directly address the customer, neglecting / avoiding the partners, or when the manufacturer calls too many partners for a market that does not quantitatively and qualitatively is still ready”.
Cisco Certified Partners
- Gold 9
- Silver 3
- Premier 13
- Select 57
Managed Services Program
- Managed Services Master 7
- Managed Services Advanced 1
Cisco Certified Specialists
- Active certifications to Cisco ~ 700 partners
- On Associate / Proffesional / Expert levels ~ 50% Associate / 50% Professional & Expert
- On certified / uncertified partners ~ 70% / 30%