Cisco Channel Chief Expands Virtual Expert Program
Channel Partners Use Collaborative Technology to Work With Expert Teams and Build Vertical Businesses.
Cisco has broadened its "virtual expert program" connecting channel partners with specialized technology experts from the prototype stage to full-fledged deployment in North America and is considering expanding it to international markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
Wendy Bahr, the company's recent appointed channel chief for North America, said Cisco has been able to triple the number of interactions company specialists have engaged in with channel partners by utilizing virtual meetings rather than more time-consuming and expensive face-to-face meetings.
"We have 275 partners participating with us in this so far," Bahr explained. "I'm very excited about it and the demand continuing to grow. It has been so successful that we are looking at expanding it outside the United States." Asia-Pacific is considered a likely area of expansion.
Under the virtual expert program, rolled out last year in prototype stage in the U.S. and Canada, Cisco aims to make channel companies more efficient by capitalizing on its available collaborative technologies such as WebEx and TelePresence, a video conferencing technology, to help with configurations or expertise in specific vertical markets and applications. Bahr said that so far, the virtual program has proved particularly successful in building Cisco's data center practice, unified communications practice, managed services practice and security practice.
In each of these areas, Cisco is building virtual expert communities of technology experts who are made available more quickly and widely to channel partners, improving the quality and timeliness of communications and allowing Cisco and its partners to spend more time with customers instead of each other.
"The challenge is how we scale our best-and-brightest technology resources across the magnitude of opportunities that exist," Bahr explained, adding that 70 percent of the "interfacing" Cisco does with channel partners now is occurring virtually. "It is a business process change as much as it is about using new technology."
Bahr was appointed to the North American channels post in January, replacing Chuck Robbins, who as promoted to senior vice president of Cisco's commercial business. Bahr, the first woman to hold the position of North American channels chief at Cisco, has emphasized using collaborative tools to get Cisco's channels and sales teams working more closely with channel partners.
Bahr is a seven-year Cisco veteran who previously led Cisco's SMB channel business. Before joining Cisco, she spent 10 years at Verizon as a director with the enterprise sales group.