VARs will be able to configure Cisco products online and link that order to a distributor for fulfilment from early next year. Cisco's Web tool, Networking Products Marketplace for Resellers (NPMR), was launched in the US last week and is integrated with the e-commerce sites of Cisco's three US distributors: Tech Data, Ingram Micro and Comstor, part of the Westcon group. Richard Roberts, UK national reseller manager at Cisco, said all its UK distributors are participating in the scheme. By helping VARs pick configurations, NPMR will reduce errors and free distributor sales staff, he said. But the automated pre-sales element of the site is not a significant step towards the commoditisation of Cisco products, claimed Roberts. "There is a lot more to providing a networking system than just making sure the Cisco products are correctly ordered. A workable system is not the same thing as the best system," he said. NPMR, which can also recommend products to resellers, provides list prices and availability from any or all of Cisco's distributors. The first phase of the scheme will email configurations from the NPMR site to the resellers' chosen distributors for a quote. The second phase will see NPMR directly transfer orders into distributors' e-commerce systems, Roberts said. Cisco claimed the system would reduce the time taken to configure and order products down from 75 minutes to about 18 minutes. Joe Serra, product marketing director at Tech Data, said its 6,000 VAR pre-sales calls per month require a lot of consultation because Cisco products are complex. "We are hoping to reduce that number by 40 per cent with NPMR," he said.
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