Faster Delivery = Happy Users
Automated Process = Fewer Errors
Standards = Cost Reduction
Order Visibility = Confidence
Linking Systems = Efficiency
Cisco Enterprise Agreements (EAs) can be great for Cisco customers. No, scratch that, they can be amazing. Without one, you’re buying everything piecemeal, which is a hassle and can lead to constant stress about managing a sprawling variety of tools. With an EA, you’ve got a unified package that’s elegant, easy to manage, and often more economical due to volume discounts.
However, not all EAs are made equal. There are a few stumbling blocks that enterprises often run into when purchasing or utilizing their EAs. In the interest of helping you and your company avoid these issues, we spoke to Linda Goddard, the Cisco Pre-Sales Manager at Softchoice. She gave us an expert’s perspective on what the most common mistakes are, and how to avoid them.
Often, as it turns out, customers buy EAs without knowing exactly how good their deal is. As a result, they miss out on some core functionality that they’re actually paying for. “They buy into agreements because of the promise of flexibility, value, and simplicity,” Goddard says, “but don’t realize how versatile the tools are.” Often, for example, customers will purchase Cisco’s Unified Communications suite, to get Dialtone. But they don’t implement Emergency Responder, which comes with it. Responder is a crucial tool that can totally change the course of a crisis situation.
“It’s like buying a Happy Meal because the fries come free and then not eating the fries,” Goddard says. So, how can this situation be avoided? Goddard suggests that customers should work closely with Softchoice to make sure every facet of their purchased services is being taken advantage of. With thorough consultation, we’re able to help customers solve many of their business challenges, with resources they’ve already bought. However, that depends on picking the right reseller. Which brings us to the second point.
An enterprise agreement isn’t just a treaty between Cisco and a given company. Its terms have a great deal to do with the reseller that provides it. One of the most important manifestations of this is that some resellers offer agreements that come with service vouchers, and some don’t. Service vouchers are essentially free labor: they’re guarantees of complimentary professional services, provided by the reseller, funded by Cisco. “When they don’t go with a reseller who has adoption specialization, they’re missing out on that money,” Goddard says.
Furthermore, different resellers have different levels of relevant experience. Softchoice, for example, isn’t just a Cisco reseller—it’s a veteran company in terms of EAs more generally. “We utilize our twenty plus years of experience in managing enterprise agreements across multiple vendors,” Goddard says. “Not all Cisco resellers have that.”
Also, paradoxically, Goddard says one of the things companies should look for in an EA provider is a reseller that doesn’t insist on EAs as the only solution.
How does this benefit Cisco? According to Rebecca Leach, the General Manager of Canada Sales at Cisco: “A partner who understands and can deliver on all elements of the software lifecycle is tremendously important to our value chain. At Cisco, we want to work with a partner who can … offer our customer an amazing post-sales experience, which ensures they experience all the associated business benefits of their investment. It’s imperative that customers utilize and adopt the technology. This way they realize the value of that investment to their business. A partner who can drive this adoption is of the greatest value to Cisco.”
Even though EAs are great, they’re not always appropriate. Goddard elaborates, extending her meal analogy: “Sometimes you’re hungry, but you’re not all-you-can-eat buffet hungry.” Your vendor should engage you in an upfront cost analysis, and see what your potential Cisco spend could be over three to five years. Only then should they recommend an EA if there are demonstrable savings. While there frequently are savings, it’s not always a slam dunk, especially for organizations that aren’t experiencing a lot of growth. “The issue of an EA should be approached as a question, not a statement,” Goddard says.
Ultimately, investing in an EA at the wrong time could sabotage future investment. Naturally, spending money on unnecessary Cisco services now could mean missing out on a crucial Cisco package later. Which would be a shame.