Webex Partner Ecosystem With Justin Ramirez
Justin Ramirez is the Systems Engineering Director and Leader of the Worldwide Collaboration Center of Excellence at Cisco.
You may know Justin from previous business development roles where he has been responsible for building and growing the Webex integration partner ecosystem.
As his new role takes the program established over the past decade to new levels, Mio caught up with Justin to find out exactly what’s in store for him, for partners, and for Webex.
Webex’s Worldwide Collaboration Center of Excellence
Justin says the center of excellence is a technically focussed organization made up of four unique groups:
- ISV Ecosystem/Integration Partnerships
- Cloud Calling
- Video Devices/Workspaces
- Developer Platform API/SDK Custom Prototypes
The goal of these groups, and as a collective, is to empower the hundreds of technical salespeople and partners to be successful when deeper domain knowledge is required.
“At times, there will be a very complex or competitive deal. We’re here as that lifeline to deliver what they need.”
Justin says that the entire DNA of a collaboration sale has changed (and is still changing). Many years ago, the approach was to displace the competition and get what you’re given with XYZ product.
Today, it’s about going the extra mile to make sure the customer’s needs are met. And this is where Webex stands out from the crowd. With partners for every eventuality in the meeting room, on the desktop, and on the road, you’ll struggle to find something that doesn’t bolt onto the core solution.
In some cases, this can be intimidating for salespeople. There’s a lot to learn about platform integration and custom development.
“The core competency is switching from telephony and networking to SaaS and integration.”
Justin’s teams are tasked with making sure everyone becomes comfortable discussing and presenting what can be coupled with Webex—rather than just the standalone solution.
Cisco partner ecosystem
Having spent nearly a decade working with Cisco partners, Justin says his partner origins stem from a previous role as a product manager.
“I was brought into Cisco to be a product manager for calling, having done similar work for a distributor. I was making these phones work with gateways and video devices. It was inherently connecting third-party products together to build a solution.”
On joining Cisco, Justin says he needed to take this role even deeper. By moving a subset of partners’ products onto the Cisco price list, it required tight relationships and even tighter integration.
Justin says it was natural for him and moving from a standalone team to a partner network was a great opportunity for him.
“We built a new ecosystem framework which is how we’ve broken away from legacy ways of doing things. We’re now focused on cloud and speed. All the things you’ve seen from Webex in the last few years.”
Rather than responding to what the market is talking about now, Justin says his teams are tasked with extracting what customers will be asking for in 12 months’ time.
Webex staying ahead of the market
With the backing of specific teams for different areas of collaboration and partner enablement, Webex partners are able to deliver what were blue sky requirements only a few years ago.
Justin uses Mio as one example.
“People are always looking for the next partner to futureproof their business. With Mio, Cisco was very open and acknowledged message interoperability would be very much needed.”
Often, with new technologies, the need and the ability to execute produce quite a gap. But, this is where Justin has seen Webex stay ahead of the curve.
“With some vendors, it’s catch and release. But we take pride in providing a true partnership journey.”
The custom development and dedicated training speaks volumes for both the Webex product and sales teams.
Another example Justin uses to demonstrate the success of the partnerships Webex has fostered is Appspace.
“A few years ago, few internal people had heard of them. Now it’s a household name with Cisco sellers and partners.”
On probing how this has happened, Justin introduces the concept of the Webex portfolio Venn diagram.
“Appspace touches our meetings, calling, messaging, and even devices.”
On Webex as an app staying ahead of the curve, Justin says a lot has changed since the days of on-premises phone systems.
“From annual major releases to feature velocity on a monthly cadence, it’s a very different world.”
This brings unique challenges. And Justin’s team is the single voice representing field sales, partners, and customers. Everything gets funneled back into the business unit and prioritized.
The future of Webex
Justin says Webex is in a transformational state. He draws on the analogy of Cisco being a ship—a very large ship. It takes time to move a large ship. But, inevitably it will get to its destination.
“We’re not at the point where folks are judging us as ‘Where is Webex going?’ but at the same time we are delivering some real futuristic features.”
There is still time for Webex to deliver on blue sky requirements and features that are forward-thinking. Rushing a new technology never did anyone any good.
The simplification of the portfolio is a factor Justin sees as key for current and future Webex.
“Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed the look and feel of our product is consumerized and slick.”
Not cutting corners on security, everything an enterprise would scrutinize remains a key focus with the Webex app and throughout its devices.
Justin concludes that Webex will look (physically) different in the next few years. There is a huge investment across engineering, marketing, and sales. Webex also added 300+ staff over the last six months.
The Cisco ship is on a journey. And its recruitment for new crew members signifies considerable growth for years to come.