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AI-Powered Voice Assistant to Provide New Opportunities for Cisco Partners

Artificial intelligence - meeting

Cisco this week unveiled its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered enterprise-ready voice assistant for meetings and its new Spark Room 70, which replaces its MX800 video system.

Cisco's Wendy Bahr

Cisco’s Wendy Bahr

The announcements were made Thursday during Cisco’s Partner Summit 2017 in Dallas. Also, Wendy Bahr, senior vice president of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization, talked about the process of enhancing its channel programs, also announced during the conference.

(Editor’s note: read more of what Bahr had to say on our sister site, Channel Futures, live from the Cisco Partner Summit.)

Cisco Spark Assistant is the latest innovation on the Cisco Spark Platform. It will be released in phases, starting early next year with the first phase being a small group of customers that will use select features.

Cisco's Rowan Trollope

Cisco’s Rowan Trollope

“During the next few years, AI meeting bots will be joining our work teams,” said Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s applications group. “When they do, people will be able to ditch the drudgery of meeting setup and other logistics to become more creative than ever. The future of great meetings is Spark with AI and our partners have an incredible opportunity to help customers take advantage of this game-changing technology,”

Just as Spark Assistant will take on more tasks over time, Spark Room 70 also will be available across all Cisco Spark clients and hardware devices over time.

As for the partner program updates, Bahr said she started by taking “brutal and honest inventory” of all of Cisco’s portfolio programs and immediately killing redundancies. She merged similar programs together and tweaked them to suit the needs of different partner plays within each offering. If someone had an idea for a new program, that was great—but they’d better be able to fit it into something Cisco already offered so the partner wouldn’t have to spend even more time and resources learning something new. Cisco’s portfolio is so broad and the requirements of the customer are so business critical, she needed to make the programs as simple as possible.

As a result, Cisco reduced the number of specializations it offers from 27 to 11.

Bahr also simplified deal registration, reducing the 15 different programs and incentives down to two, and added a new VIP Annuity program that gives upfront rebates to partners when they secure, expand or renew a SaaS deal for a security, collaboration, data center, or enterprise networking sale.

In an effort to get partners to not just land a deal but to get the software turned on, Cisco announced a new VIP Activation giving additional back-end rebates on Cisco ONE, Digital Network Architecture (DNA), Identity Services Engines (ISE), and Stealthwatch deployments.

Finally, there’s the new Cisco Migration Incentive Program (MIP) that gives an incremental discount on qualifying hardware, software and services migration opportunities. The goal is to incentivize Cisco’s existing install base to begin integrating emerging technologies into the solutions they sell.

(Channel Futures goes in depth on Cisco’s goals, live from the Cisco Partner Summit, here.)


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