Archive for September, 2011

Back to the Future

Cisco’s Partner-Led SMB Model Promises New Customer and Partner Value

Beth Vanni – Vice President, Amazon Consulting

Whenever Cisco talks about new investments in partnering programs or support, it’s always a déjà vu experience for me. They invest so much already and have so many sales and marketing tools for partners, it’s a bit of a brain teaser to remember what’s new. But, there are a few gems of support announced in their enhanced SMB Partner-Led sales strategy that remind me of the infamous “flux capacitor” scene from the movie Back to the Future.

Andrew Sage, the company’s newly promoted VP of Worldwide Partner-Led Sales, brings a great legacy to his new position. He’s been studying how to make Cisco successful with small (really, truly small <100 user) companies for several years. That’s made him a bit akin to Back to the Future’s Doc Brown within Cisco. He’s pioneered new coverage models (Road Warrior), new product sets (Small Business Communication System) and a new way to look at the value of the channel in owning SMB customer relationships within his legacy enterprise-selling organization. Having at one time been a part of the SMB market development team at Cisco, I know personally that’s a tough job.

But, there are two things Cisco announced that could be that secret sauce, their flux capacitor (the device that made time travel in a Delorean possible) in this Partner-Led model.  The first is their plans to build a global partner-led marketing engine. Now, they’ve built some great marketing assets and gotten very grass-roots in the past with their larger VARs and Service Providers on marketing campaigns and automation (for example the Velocity conference). If they can bring that level of lead qualification and passing and field marketing assistance to the more regional partners catering to SMB, that will be a big deal.  

The second thing we think is a Cisco game-changer in SMB is their newly announced Technology Solutions Network. This is a team of inside sales engineers uniquely focused on SMB product sets and the SMB-focused partner. The ability for this team to be highly accessible (albeit on the phone) to help partners’ sales engineers with quotes, architectures and customer presentations could be huge. Many other vendors have tried this, most often in the field. Cisco will start with 300 partners who will have access to this team – that focused approach will be good. But, Cisco’s ability to help prepare partner for the all important prospecting proof-of-concept and pre-sales work will be the lynch-pin of them realizing the returns they want in this partner-led approach.

So, what’s new about SMB partnering at Cisco? The unique focus on enabling partners to do most of the pre-sales and prospecting work, in line with their larger peers. A fire-in-the-belly SMB-centric leader with a strong track record of success. An enhanced set of investments in people, automation and new economic incentives for partners to win deals with/for Cisco in SMB. And, a Wall Street community who’s watching this market-leader and their big-bet investments very closely these days.   

Doc Brown says to Marty McFly when prompted to back up the Delorean in order to accelerate to 88 mph before jumping to time travel, “Roads? We don’t need roads where we’re going!” Cisco’s got an unbelievable set of assets, partnering DNA and passion to take their SMB success to the next level. Their partners’ belief and trust that Cisco can cut through its own complexity and focus outside their enterprise investments to make this a reality is perhaps the networking giant’s real flux capacitor.

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September 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm Leave a comment

Gifts from Dragons

By Chris Smith, Director of Technology

I’ve known for a long time that we have a fabulous development team here at Amazon Consulting. Recently, I decided to put us to the test by creating a development challenge. How would the team respond when given a tight deadline, and faced with a coding challenge that they had no previous experience with? Sometimes it’s just really fun to kick the anthill and see what happens. As they say, “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” I wanted to push the developers beyond their comfort zone so they would be forced to embrace great coding practices, and pull together as a team.

We upped the stakes of the challenge with some strict requirements – our development challenge had to:

■ Add a significant and demonstrable business benefit to our web application

■ Involve the learning of a new technology

■ Require a complete team effort

We also agreed no code could be written prior to the day of the event. With the requirements set, we publicized the challenge internally. Failure would not be an option. With all eyes within the company on us, it was crunch time. What follows is a video summary of the events as they transpired.

Watch the Video!

September 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm Leave a comment

ISVs Still the Strategic Channel Segment at Salesforce.com

Strong Growth and Enhanced Toolset for SaaS Developers Announced

Beth Vanni  –  Vice President, Amazon Consulting  

When Denzil Samuels, Salesforce.com’s new Channel Chief, asked how many people in the partner keynote session of last week’s Dreamforce event were developing applications using the company’s Force.com platform, about 75% of the audience’s hands shot up.   This response reflects the very development-centric make-up of the SaaS leader’s current channel ecosystem.  And, with stats like 97% growth of software OEM partners, 90% increase in ISV revenues and 210% increase in the number of ISV orders, it’s hard to argue this ongoing developer focus. (more…)

September 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm Leave a comment

$50 Million Man

by Diane Krakora, CEO

If you had $50 million to invest, what would you do with it? Buy a company? Spend it on product research? Create your dream campus and throw a party for the employees? I’d bolster my partner ecosystem – and surprisingly, so would Salesforce.com. They are investing $50 million to help consulting partners grow. (more…)

September 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

Gone are the Days of the Generalist Partner – Even in the Cloud

Salesforce.com Gets Serious about Partner Certification

Beth Vanni – Vice President, Amazon Consulting

When you’re moving fast, sometimes you miss the obvious. The meteoric growth and rapid market support for Salesforce.com’s leading SaaS solutions are a great example.  The company’s rise within 10 years to a $2+ billion dollar organization has allowed them to cut some corners on how they’ve supported and engaged consulting partners.   But, at this year’s Dreamforce conference, we saw a renewed commitment and sense of urgency around helping partners (mostly of the consulting variety) develop one of the most basic value-based attributes — well defined technical and sales competency, in the form of certifications.

Once nearly exclusively focused on ISVs building to their “sales cloud” CRM platform, the SaaS giant now realizes their glaring gap — how to scale their sales and professional services capabilities to meet their growth targets to $5b, $10b and beyond.  They’ve always competed with on-premise software giants much larger and better resourced than they around partnering (think Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SAP).  But as the darlings of the cloud applications market, Salesforce now realizes how seriously these competitors are retooling their platforms and partnering efforts to come after them….. and their built-on-the-cloud partners.  With a 36% year over year increase in the number of partners overall, Salesforce clearly still has the consulting and ISV partners’ attention.  However, in order to meet their existing sales and deployment projections, the SaaS leader estimates they need just under 3,000 professional services partners globally with well defined sales, service and/or platform capabilities in order to sustain their market leading position. (more…)

September 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

Both Pitchers and Catchers Required on the Cloud Ball field

by Beth Vanni, Vice President

Telecom service providers used to be customers in the tech world. Now they’re channel partners — in fact, really strategic partners, in the wake of cloud computing.  And, like with any emerging channel type, developing and nurturing a partner development team to help these major players get up to bat and hit some home runs in the cloud services space will take some well-orchestrated staffing support and dugout coordination by vendors. (more…)

September 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment


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