Both firms have named executives within their corporate strategy departments to spearhead their collaboration. Rima Qureshi, Ericsson’s chief strategy officer is working with Hilton Romanski, Cisco’s chief strategy officer.
“They meet on a weekly basis with a one-hour phone call,” says Martin Zander, VP of group strategy at Ericsson.
That doesn’t sound like much time to spend for two huge companies to integrate their businesses. But Doug Webster, VP of service provider marketing with Cisco, says there are senior management teams at both companies that worth together “much more frequently.”
These business teams include sales, legal, technology, and marketing.
“It all wraps up to a monthly CEO meeting as well,” says Webster.
Cisco and Ericsson: Phase 1
When the companies announced their partnership last November they said Ericsson would begin reselling Cisco products right away. Now, the sales teams have a deal-desk. They communicate on a daily basis to decide how they should approach each deal and to agree on who is taking the lead.
In addition, Ericsson has been training and accrediting its engineers with Cisco certifications as a part of their qualification to resell Cisco products. Today, about 1,100 Ericsson engineers are certified with over 2,500 Cisco certifications, says Zander.
Ericsson has also been adding Cisco products into its catalogs. At Mobile World Congress in February, the two companies announced their first joint solution – the Dynamic Service Manager. The product is based on Ericsson’s OSS. It targets real-time management of services that are being run on multivendor networks. It includes some software built by Cisco.
At Mobile World Congress, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said Cisco and Ericsson had more than 200 joint customer engagements under their belts. Updating on that, Webster says, “We’re well over 200 service provider opportunities and now have additional enterprise opportunities.” But the companies declined to name or number their enterprise deals.
Getting Ericsson engineers Cisco-certified, setting up collaboration teams, and announcing their first joint product was all part of phase one. Phase two will include a focus on 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) and will be more project-based. The companies have two teams doing IoT sales.
“Our value propositions are aligned,” says Zander. “We have seen good traction here in terms of blending the portfolios.” Cisco is moving forward on IoT with its recent acquisition of Jasper. But that makes its work with Ericsson a bit tricky because Jasper and Ericsson are competitors.
Macario Namie, head of IoT Strategy with Cisco’s Jasper group, says, “In our piece, for what we were doing before [being acquired], we have overlap with Ericsson, and we’ll compete.”
When asked if the two companies had experienced any culture clashes, Zander says, “Our first challenge is we have different fiscal years. It’s important to make sure the numbers sync.”
There’s also a nine-hour time-zone difference between Ericsson’s offices in Sweden and Cisco’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. But Webster says that can be an advantage because “someone is always working.”
Ericsson does have a sizable Silicon Valley presence and recently built a new office in Santa Clara next to Levi’s stadium.
According to Zander and Webster, the partners are benefitting from their differences as well as their similarities.
“We are in a sense similar companies with strong R&D cultures,” says Zander. “But the nature of our businesses originated a bit differently.”
While Ericsson is accustomed to working with service providers and creating complex, and sometimes customized technology for them, Cisco has a strong enterprise business and focuses on building products with profitable margins.
“Cisco is focused on more replicable things,” says Webster.