The New Cisco Partner Program
At Partner Summit 2020, Cisco announced the most significant change to our programs in over a decade. The new Cisco Partner Program. Our focus is to be future ready and the program changes we’re making create a foundation to build on for years to come.
Transformation begins and ends with our amazing partners. Together, we are in the midst of a new inflection point in the market. Our customers are increasingly moving to SaaS, managed services, and cloud solutions, as they look for flexible consumption models and reduced time to maximized value. To take advantage of this shift, we are dedicated to ensuring that our partners have the right support from Cisco to drive business agility, relevance, and profitability. The new Cisco Partner Program is a unified program that’s structured around the roles you play with customers instead of how you transact with Cisco. It combines the more than a dozen different siloed partner programs into a single, simpler framework.
The program is based on four key roles that we primarily see partners playing: Integrator, Provider, Developer, and Advisor. You can choose to focus on one role, or all four—whatever makes the most sense for your business. Our Gold brand remains the cornerstone of the new program, but we are enhancing Premier and Select certifications as well to make sure all partners who invest in Cisco have the degrees of freedom they need to differentiate with the customers they serve.
The program is built with your existing investments in mind. If you are a current Cisco partner, you will not be asked to start over with Cisco. Your Cisco practice is as valuable as ever and we are not straying from our value-based program philosophy. The new Cisco Partner Program:
Supports your agility by being designed to accommodate the role(s) you play with your customer. Cisco is not putting you in a box or limiting your ability to showcase your unique value.
Increases relevance in the market by elevating roles outside of the traditional resale motion and allowing new opportunities for you to differentiate. Matching the power of the Gold brand with the expertise of Providers, Developers, and Advisors. With this change, Cisco is making a clear statement to the industry that our partners are second to none.
Positions you for new opportunities to increase profitability by shifting focus from the product lifecycle to the customer lifecycle. This framework is built on the existing investments in your Cisco practice and is designed to drive more synergy across roles. Common skills will be rewarded across multiple roles allowing you to maximize your ROI and focus your investments on core business areas.
This ebook explains each role, provides a general implementation roadmap, and answers some frequently asked questions.
The New Cisco Partner Program General FAQs
1. How are the four new primary roles defined?
Integrator: This role is about building end-to-end solutions for our customers. Integrators primarily transact in a resale motion, but bring their own unique expertise to solve customer business problems.
Provider: Providers are experts at delivering managed and cloud solutions and will be central to our strategy moving forward. This role is an evolution of the Cloud and Managed Services program and will continue to be supported with a robust end-to-end value exchange.
Developer: An essential piece of the complete customer solution often incorporates partners developing and delivering complementary products, software, and services that drive customer-specific outcomes. Developers often leverage our APIs to drive more automation in the network or even build custom applications that work on Cisco platforms to solve unique customer business challenges.
Advisor: The advisor is a critical role in the partner ecosystem. This role helps customers understand their business challenges and how a Cisco offer or solution may be integral to solving that challenge. Typically involved during a pre-sales conversation, this role often kickstarts the customer lifecycle engagement.
2. Under the new Cisco Partner Program structure, can I hold more than one role?
Yes, under the new structure, you may hold more than one role if you meet the requirements for that role. For example, a partner may hold the Gold Integrator role, the Gold Provider role, and the Select Advisor role.
3. Will I lose my differentiation with these changes?
The program is designed to create more opportunities for differentiation. You can still differentiate based on your certification or any other competency designation that your company has achieved. This structure will allow you to showcase your skillset in a more nuanced way.
4. When Cisco announced a “unified partner program”, does that mean all Cisco partners will now only be recognized with one designated brand? What does this mean in practical terms?
Individual partner designations will continue to be part of the program. Each will be designed to identify in simpler and more relevant terms the role a partner plays and their relationship with Cisco as well as their customers. In practical terms, you may find you are recognized in more ways than in the past for your unique business model and skills. For example, one partner may be a Gold Provider and a Premier Integrator at the same time.
5. When you say there are new roles as part of the new Partner Program framework, how do those relate to the roles required today in the programs we have like Specializations?
The new roles are completely different from the job role often referenced as requirements for Specializations or Certifications. Job roles are specific individuals within a company with validated knowledge and skills on a particular topic. From a Cisco Partner Program perspective, we’re referring to the fact that the program is comprised of four roles your company is playing with customers: Integrator, Provider, Developer, and Advisor. You have the flexibility to join the role(s) that are right for you based on your relationship with customers and the way you interact with Cisco.
6. Will Cisco provide a roadmap of changes and time allowed to meet them?
Yes, we will share details and timelines as soon as they are finalized and will give you appropriate time to make any needed changes to remain compliant.
7. Will I lose my investment in meeting program criteria with these changes?
It is Cisco’s intention to support investments already made by partners whenever possible. As business evolves, there will always be the need to invest in new ways, however. Additionally, such evolution means the natural aging and lessened relevance of previous investments over time. This happens today when specializations are refreshed, and new training or exams replace older material. As always, any changes will include plenty of time for partners to meet any new requirements.
8. Will the New Partner Program implementation change my incentives this year?
None of the changes we are implementing this fiscal year will have a direct impact on partner incentives. We will continue to invest heavily in our partnerships and as you have seen, over time we continue to place more emphasis on the entire customer lifecycle.
The Integrator role is for partners that are selling Cisco technology and services and adding their own unique value to solve critical customer business challenges. Partners playing this role will find it is based on Cisco’s traditional Certifications and Specializations and the requirements are familiar. This remains a critical role for our customers and Cisco is determined to continue to support partners in this space while adding more flexibility and value.
Integrator Insights Guide (coming soon)
Impact and Timing
If you are already Cisco Certified, you will see more flexibility with the requirements needed to maintain your Certification. We’re not moving away from Architectures or Specializations, but we also know customers expect you to have new skill sets. With that in mind, we are recognizing the investment you are already making in your business. The inclusion of the Business Specializations as options within the Certification requirements is one example. We are making some immediate changes and there are others that will be implemented over FY21-FY22.
- Removal of the Hybrid IT requirement for Global Gold, Gold, and Premier Integrators
- Inclusion of business specializations as optional for achievement of all Integrator certification levels
- Consolidation of Authorizations and Specializations under the single Specialization brand umbrella
- Express brand renamed for specializations
Future Changes (FY21-FY22)
- Inclusion of performance metrics for Gold and Premier Integrators
- Rebalancing of the Premier and Select value exchange
- Customer Experience Specialization required for Gold Integrators (January 7, 2022)
- New competencies supporting partner’s software practice
- Refreshed CSAT
Frequently Asked Questions
1. While I can use Business specializations for certifications now, do I still have to have the Advanced Security and Advanced Enterprise Networks Architecture Specializations in place?
Yes, Advanced Security and Advanced Enterprise Networks will remain prerequisites for Gold Integrator, but if you have a business specialization you may use that in place of one of the other two Architecture Specializations you hold for Gold certification.
2. Cisco stated that Authorizations will be transitioning to Specializations. When will that happen, and what does that mean for me?
This will begin in November 2020. You don’t need to take any action different than that already expected for normal Authorization application, renewal, and compliance maintenance. Most partners will not see any immediate changes other than in the name of the competencies they hold. Any changes made to specific requirements will be communicated to partners holding that competency, with instructions for needed action and generous time allowances for meeting any new criteria.
3. How do I stay updated on the upcoming changes and timing? Is there a place where I can get more information?
We’re working on a new Cisco Partner Program landing page where you’ll be able to get all of the latest updates as they become available. More information coming soon.
4. I see that Customer Experience will be required for Gold Integrator role—what exactly will be required?
The Gold Integrator role will require you to attain the Customer Experience Specialization or the Advanced Customer Experience Specialization.
5. I am currently a Gold, Premier, or Select certified partner—will I still hold the same certification tomorrow in the Integrator role?
Yes, your current certification will carry over to the Integrator role. You will have the choice to remain in the new role and meet the new requirements by a certain date or have the option to move to a different role as desired.
6. Will Express, Advanced, and Master specializations still remain?
New specialization categories include Specialized, Advanced, and Master. We are renaming Express in competencies; we’re currently evaluating each track of the Express specialization and will share more details over the next couple months.
7. Under the new Cisco Partner Program, what happens to Global Gold?
Global Gold will remain a designation within the Integrator role. While there are no immediate changes being implemented in that Certification, we will continue to evaluate Global Gold and will make necessary modifications.
Partners playing the provider role are experts in cloud and managed services. Customers are looking for more flexibility in how they consume solutions and providers are becoming more and more critical in the market. Providers often operate a sophisticated service model that removes capital risk from customers operating in a recurring revenue paradigm.
Impact and Timing
Cisco will be retiring the Cloud and Managed Services Program (CMSP) brand and migrating existing partners over to the new Provider role. If you are a current CMSP partner, you will be moved over to either the Gold, Premier, or Select tier and given 12-18 months to meet any new program requirements. The new requirements are based on your existing investments and for the first year, no partner will lose access to any program benefits. We are taking all the best components of CMSP and delivering an even better experience.
Second Half Cisco FY21 (Feb—July 2021)
- CMSP branding retired and partners moved to Provider role
- New branding for Providers—Gold, Premier, Select
- Gold Provider requirements published
- CMSP Simplified Pricing rebranded to Provider Pricing
- Managed services deal protection based on Provider Pricing (Collaboration Flex 3.0)
- Enhanced value exchange
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When will the CMSP brand retire?
We are targeting 2HFY21. Stay tuned for details in early 2021.
2. I am currently a CMSP Master, Advanced, or Express partner—what level of Provider will I be granted when the CMSP brand is retired?
Current Master, Advanced, Express will be migrated to Provider Gold, Premier, Select tiers for 12-18 months. Requirements for the Provider role are being determined and further details will be made available after a field consultation process for feedback.
3. How will Gold Integrator work with Provider (currently known as CMSP) role? Does CMSP become a prerequisite instead of Architecture or Business specializations?
The provider role is not a prerequisite for Gold Integrator role or vice-versa.
4. Does the rebranding of CMSP indicate that Cisco is no longer supporting a managed services strategy?
Cisco is recognizing and supporting the importance of a Provider’s role in delivering as-a-service and managed services even more.
5. What will happen with Cisco Powered service?
Cisco Powered service branding for qualified Cisco Provider offers will continue to be available and be part of the constructs for the Provider role as they were before in CMSP.
6. What will happen to the CMSP incentives?
The “Provider Investment Fund” and “Provider Market Development Funds” will continue to be available to eligible partners in the Provider role.
7. What will happen to CMSP Simplified Pricing?
We will rebrand “CMSP Simplified Pricing” to “Provider Pricing” for simplicity. We will continue to evolve the program pricing to offer competitive and predictable discounts, integrated with managed service deal protection.
The Developer role is for partners that primarily leverage our APIs to enhance Cisco solutions or build custom applications that sit on top of a Cisco platform. Partners playing the Developer role often go-to-market with a Cisco Integrator or Provider to solve complex customer needs and add new value and services to those solutions.
Impact and Timing
Partners who are currently in the Solution Partner Program will be migrated over to the Developer role in either the Gold, Premier or Select level. Partners will continue to have access to all the benefits of the Solution Partner Program under their current agreements until they expire when we transition to the new role requirements.
Developer Insights Guide (Coming soon)
Second Half Cisco FY21 (Feb—July 2021)
- Solution Partner Program retirement
- Expanded support for Developer practices
- New incentives
Frequently Asked Questions
1. I am a partner in the Solution Partner Program today. What new eligibility requirements will be introduced when we transition to the Developer role?
Today—requirements to joining this program are primarily based on Cisco approved business unit solutions. Partners with Cisco Compatible Certified solutions are eligible for the Preferred level of the program. In mid- to late-2021, Select, Premier and Gold levels will replace the previous Solution Partner Program tier levels—further details will be made available after a field consultation process for feedback.
2. As a Developer, will I still have access to Solutions Plus?
Solutions Plus is an independent program offer where your product is included on the Cisco global price list. Under the new program, Developers will continue to be eligible for Solutions Plus.
3. Can you provide an example of how Cisco is increasing co-marketing and co-selling with Developers?
One of Cisco’s primary ways of accelerating go-to-market is through Cisco sales plays and industry use cases—the Cisco Portfolio Explorer provides the link to all the partner ecosystem (resellers, developers/ISV, advisors, providers) needed to deliver on the use case, regionally aligned. We are also planning more marketing velocity resources and greater access to ecosystem exchange.
4. How is Cisco providing expanded support for Developer practices?
This is being done through the extensive resources being provided to all partners through DevNet and through comprehensive APIs being made available across the entire Cisco portfolio including DevNet individual certifications and DevNet Specialization.
5. When will the new program be available for Developers?
First release of the program is being planned for early second half of Cisco’s FY21 (February-March timeframe).
This role helps customers understand their business challenges and how a Cisco offer or solution may be integral to solving that challenge. Advisors are experts in the industry and Cisco technology and solutions. Typically involved during a pre-sales conversation, this role often kickstarts the customer lifecycle engagement.
Advisor Insights Guide (Coming soon)
Impact and Timing
Cisco is recognizing this role formally for the first time. Partners playing this role can expect more investment from Cisco and elevated visibility with the rest of the partner ecosystem and Cisco sellers.
Second Half Cisco FY21
- Early access to Cisco technology roadmaps
- New incentives and benefits for building out your Cisco Advisor practice
- Co-selling and marketing support
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How are Advisors being recognized under the new program?
In the past, Advisor partners, including all types of consultants did not have a way to recognize their Cisco partnership—and often simply registered as a Cisco reseller, which did not align to their business value. Advisors are now being included explicitly as a key role in Cisco’s new partner program and how we mutually deliver and sustain innovative business outcomes for our customers.
2. What are the new benefits for Advisors being considered?
A. New program benefits and options will range from branding, co-market development and business referral incentives.
B. Entry level will make it easier for Advisors to gain basic access to Cisco technology, training and roadmaps.
C. Higher levels will introduce predictable/programmatic business development and referral incentives.
D. For the first time, Advisors will be able to market their capabilities, business solutions, and services to customers and Cisco resellers through the Cisco Ecosystem Exchange.
3. What will be the requirements Advisors need to meet to gain access to these new benefits?
Higher program levels will reflect your higher-level capabilities, including both Cisco specializations and industry recognized certifications. Eligibility will also recognize your influence on Cisco co-selling growth opportunities. Further details will be released shortly.
4. When will the new program be available for Advisors?
First release of the program is being planned for early second half of Cisco’s FY21 (February-March timeframe). The current plan is to introduce the Select and Premier levels in the first release.