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Richard Roberts looks at the changing landscape of the partner community

Better business: The power of relationships

Cisco’s Richard Roberts examines some of the key business trends affecting the partner community, from mobility to social media.

The partner community is experiencing pressure like never before – from the market, from an increasingly changing business landscape, and from competitors who think that simply offering money to buy loyalty and wallet share is enough.

The changing landscape around them is coloured by four key trends. Mobility, Cloud, Social Media and Video are buzzwords that have been used heavily in the last 12 to 18 months. They now form part of our everyday working lives and the typical 9 to 5, office-based traditional paradigms are moving far beyond the desktop.

Let’s see how these defining themes relate to the channel:

Mobility: Across the globe, mobility is becoming essential to many customers’ everyday experiences. Many IT departments are contending with BYOD, or bring your own device, and the consumerisation of IT. Channel partners are having to adjust to the broad desire for mobile access to data across multiple devices, while ensuring the security and reliability of that data.

Cloud: According to the Gartner Group, 20 percent of all businesses will own no IT assets in 2012. This is a major departure from the past, and speaks to the ways that technology is having a fundamental impact on partner business models. Technologies such as cloud computing and virtualisation now enable organisations to shift resources to more strategic projects.

Social Media: Forrester Research has predicted that B2B companies will spend $54 million on social media marketing in 2014. This trend is truly changing the way that partners and their customers are interacting. The push to access social media on mobile devices is also changing the way that business is being conducted.

Video: Video is bringing people together and changing how organisations communicate, collaborate, educate and protect. Video is also creating massive IP traffic. The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast indicates that by 2014, the various forms of video will exceed 91 per cent of global consumer traffic.

Because of changing customer needs, partners have had to adjust their business models to align to industry trends. They have to develop critical relationships and work with ecosystems to deliver the solutions that their customers are asking for. Partners are also looking to solutions and services as the key factors in driving profitability. As partners adjust to the new landscape, they want to work with a vendor that can help.

Resellers are looking for technology innovation from products that satisfy cutting-edge demands, and partners need to be able to meet those needs whilst staying abreast of the rapidly- changing technology landscape.

Driving demand and creating markets will continue to be vitally important, especially in time of austerity when partners need to find dynamic ways of differentiating their business propositions and sustaining profitability. Our partners want to work with a vendor that can drive demand and create new markets through technology innovation and a strong global brand.

Set against the current tough economic outlook, partnership commitment is a fundamental element of the vendor–partner relationship. Partners want to work with a vendor that is committed to trust and predictability, and to proactive partner enablement.

In light of these pressures, vendors must work harder to earn partner loyalty. A true partner-centric sales and services model should be the cornerstone of your commitment and value proposition to partners.

For the relationship to prosper, vendors should also help partners to differentiate in the market, solve customer business problems and build a services practice through: technology innovation, practice enablement and a commitment to partner profitability.

Richard Roberts was appointed as the new head of Cisco’s UK & Ireland (UKI) Partner organisation in July 2011. Richard was formerly head of Cisco UK’s Distributed Government Sales Operation.

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