Partner accreditations - are they worth the time and investment?

By Kate Hammett, Head of Partnerships at O2, Telefόnica UK

Vendors pushing their own accreditation objectives onto their partners reminds me of the education system. Building up reservoirs of knowledge, behaving in the same way, learning the same things and sitting many exams, but the information learned is not necessarily what you need or would like to have at your fingertips. Having the vast reservoir of knowledge isn’t helpful if it’s not being used.

Why measure partners as equals, when in fact we are all different? We all have our own strategy and ambitions and sometimes we may lack the right resource or capability to meet specific vendor demands. But does this mean that we are not credible and that the partnership between vendors and partners needs to be viewed differently?

Despite our individuality, customers rely on partner accreditations, not only to understand the skills acquired, but also to benchmark organisations that claim they do the same thing. The speed in which the digital world is transforming highlights the importance of doing what’s right for our own organisation whilst aligning properly to our partners. We can comply but with a difference, to ensure that the knowledge we’ve accumulated from the accreditation works for our strategy to be customer led and enable mobile first businesses.

Not many partners allow for this alignment within their accreditation programs, but Cisco do with their Gold Accreditation. With their technology truly integrated into our solutions, we specialise in the areas that align Cisco Advanced Architectures and our propositions, leading with O2 Wifi, O2 Gateway, O2 Enterprise Mobility and O2 Unified Communications (UC). We use the vast reservoirs of our knowledge in advanced networking, collaboration, security, wifi and datacentres to turn theory into practice. This enables our engineers to feel empowered and confident so they serve as trusted advisors, delivering excellent customer service.

Our joint success is built upon the partnership design between Cisco and O2. O2 is the only organisation in the UK to hold the Cisco Service Provider WiFi certification, proving our strength in capability and supporting us in delivering our Cisco powered wifi service that has over 15,000 hotspots.

Cisco Gold accreditation enables us to lead by example, showcase our skills and expertise, whilst using processes that emphasise competence and industry leading capabilities.  This certification is not just about knowledge and exams, it proves we have a true partnership that takes both organisations into account with mutual benefits allowing us to deliver, and often exceed, the quality of service our customers expect. It’s a thorough program that only a few embark on, one that we at O2 have had the pleasure to have lived through, learnt from and come out the other side with a huge sense of pride

After eighteen months of hard work, including 130+ certifications, I asked myself the question, “Was it worth it”?  For me the answer is yes, but don’t be fooled by the complexity that comes with some of the partner programs. Embarking on the accreditation path can lead to sleepless nights and hours of capturing evidence but, if done properly, opens the door for new opportunities. Before you start the long journey, ask yourself the questions:

  • Does it align to your strategy and business outcomes?
  • Does it provide you with clear differentiation?
  • Does it improve your customer service?
  • Does it have a positive impact on sales?

If the answers are ‘yes’, then I believe it’s truly worth dedicating your time and effort.

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