The Evolution of the IT channel
Tags: Architecture Selling, Cisco Certification
For the past 18 months we have heard various sources such as Channel web and Cisco talking about the changes to the way the channel is working. It is being called architecture selling. Some will say this is nothing new as the channel has worked this way for years. This is true, however we are now seeing this pushed by Cisco as part of their education to the IT sector.
Cisco have already been talking to end users and channel partners about Borderless Networks, Collaboration and Data Centre for a while now, with more and more of the jigsaw pieces falling into place over time. Since April, we have seen the requirements that are now expected of Cisco’s Channel community. They mainly affect Gold and Silver partners in the community, but what are the big tremors that will be felt?
First one, Data Centre. Data Centre effects everyone. A traditional Gold partner around Routing and Switching, Voice, Security and Wireless will have the largest hole. As Data Centre is required for Gold partner status from 2012 there is a lot of work to do. Each Gold partner need to hold accreditations surrounding the Data Centre Infrastructure, Storage, UCS and Unified Fabric (new). This will mean additional head count needs to be allocated. More importantly, channel partners will need to re-evaluate their business. If you have not played in this space before then the question is not do we want to? But can you afford not to? Potentially it will mean diversifying resources to a new business area, investing in establishing yourself in a new market and repositioning your business. But the upside is the increased sales opportunity within existing clients, new clients and an increase in the value and services that you can offer. Though the above is never a 5 minute discussion over a coffee, it is one to be had sooner rather than later.
Gold partners would hold ATP’s in DCNI, DCSN, DNCI & DCSN and UCS have a slightly easier journey. The business is ready for Data Centre but a quick health check will be needed to make sure that allocating the right individuals is met. I have been engaged in these conversations for a few months now and the new unified Fabric roles seem to be the sticking point. It is a much easier hurdle to get over and with enough planning; there is plenty of time to get through it.
Secondly, Collaboration. Fortunately, (in my opinion), is the easiest one from those accredited. All Gold partners will have the advanced voice specialisations which sets them up well. It means that there is only some e-learning to be completed. It sounds easy, but we all know 12 hours online can actually take longer, especially when you are trying to fit it around day-to-day activities.
Finally there is Borderless Networks. This is where Routing and Switching, Security and Wireless have found their home. Fortunately Routing and Switching and Security have both been updated. (They have been cleaned up). The lifecycle courses and legacy FE & SE specific courses are gone. Replacing them though are more people to have career certifications. The Channel needs to understand Ironport and Web Security as this has been overlooked by people who are coming up to a renewal. We see a larger change in Wireless. In my opinion, it is for the better. The current version, wireless specialisation is out-of-date. The courses and demonstrable skills are quite a few versions old and the question is whether there is a true real world value. With the changes we are seeing the introduction of the CCNA Wireless and 2 of the 4 CCNP wireless. This is good news as we see voice, rather than data plant a stake in the ground.
So what can we take from the above? I have a few points as a checklist, which will apply to some partners. The list isn’t exhaustive but it will at least start the discussions within your team and help you to be proactive about these changes and how they impact your organisation.
- A full Cisco business review — can you afford to not do Data Centre?
- How will the addition of Data Centre affect your head count — do you need more?
- Complete two health checks — where are you now? What is the gap to attaining the architectures?
- Build an achievable timeline taking into account customer facing projects
- Get a second opinion!
- Pay attention to Wireless
- Finally.… Career Certifications — they play a more important role and underpin 80% of the architecture roles