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Cisco IoT strategy for partners: Sell to line-of-business buyers

Cisco executives speaking at the company's partner summit advised channel companies to get familiar with enterprise operational technology buyers when selling IoT offerings.

SAN FRANCISCO -- If Cisco partners want to tap the internet of things opportunity, they need to target an enterprise's line-of-business buyers.

That's the word from Cisco executives speaking at this week's Cisco Partner Summit. The company made a case for Cisco's role as a player in the IoT arena, where a range of firms from IT companies, such as Cisco and Microsoft, to industrial heavyweights, such as GE, vie for customers.

Rowan Trollope, Cisco's senior vice president and general manager of IoT and applications, acknowledged that the company told partners attending the company's February/March 2016 partner summit to "stay tuned" for details on the Cisco IoT strategy. That was just before Cisco closed its acquisition of Jasper, which now provides Cisco with a cloud-based IoT service platform and thousands of customers.

Cisco partners that want to take advantage of that market must look to line-of-business (LOB) and operational technology (OT) customers, Trollope explained. He estimated that 60% of IoT spend is in LOB as opposed to the IT department.

If [partners] want to lean into IoT, we will support them.
Wendy Bahrsenior vice president, Cisco's Global Partner Organization

"It's a new opportunity for [partners]," Trollope said of IoT. "This is the biggest thing to happen to Cisco's business ... in 20 years."

An important step for partners is to "get to know your OT buyers" within industries, Trollope said. OT encompasses technology-infused industrial control systems used in fields like manufacturing. CIOs, as well as channel partners, face the challenge of bridging the gap between IT and OT as they pursue the internet of things.

Wendy Bahr, senior vice president at Cisco's Global Partner Organization, said she encourages partners interested in IoT to rely on their vertical market practices or vertical expertise to get started. "[Partners] can start with industrial switching on the manufacturing floor," Bahr said, identifying one potential entry point into IoT.

Part of the Cisco IoT strategy is to help partners move into the IoT space, company executives noted. Trollope suggested Cisco's Digital Transformation Group as one resource.

"If [partners] want to lean into IoT, we will support them," Bahr added.

Leslie Rosesnberg, research director at IDC's Network Life-Cycle Services, said the networking company's leadership did a fairly good job of setting forth the Cisco IoT strategy for partners. But she said partners "still really need to understand a little bit more in depth" about the specific IoT opportunities they can pursue.

Next Steps

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