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The Importance of Broadening Your Definition of ROI in Partnering from the Perspective of Cisco and Dimension Data

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, February 8, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Steve McGarr, senior director of the Cisco global partner organization, for the article “Saving Endangered Species, One Gigabyte at a Time,” which appears as a case study in the cover story on out-of-the-box thinking in the Q4 2017issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine. McGarr is also quoted in the same issue’s The Close column, “The Magic in Finding the Right Partner,” where he talks about the dynamic relationship between the two companies. Cisco and Dimension Data have partnered for the past 26 years, and their Connected Conservation technology to save endangered species is part of a series of projects the companies conceived that involve connected technology for societal good.

To celebrate their 25th anniversary of collaboration, the alliance partners kicked off 25 projects for creating social good, which landed them a spot as a finalist for an ASAP Alliance Excellence Award. Four awards will be presented at the upcoming 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Propelling Partnering for the On-Demand World: New Perspectives + Proven Practices for Collaborative Business,” March 26-28 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA (see the official awards announcement at The following continues our conversation with McGarr beyond what appears in the Strategic Alliance Magazine article.

Your case study that appears in the 2017 Q4 Strategic Alliance Magazine describes your alliance to protect rhinos and other endangered species. What was the impetus for the project?

It’s important to me to care about the things that our partners and customers care about. It’s a guiding principle of Cisco. When considering the need for connected technology projects around the world, we asked “What are some of the problems that are plaguing South Africa?” Illegal poaching is one of them. As an American, we don’t see that every day. The more I understood the problem, the more it seemed like an opportunity to get Cisco involved. So Doc Watson of Dimension Data, myself, and local conservationists—people that lived in the bush country—discussed the possibility of creating a Cloud technology solution for the poaching problem near South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The system is now in place and replicable for other endangered species. Are there similar applications for this type of security system?


This project emerged as a great use case opportunity for Cisco and Dimension Data to demonstrate the use of our technologies, architectures, solutions, and capabilities and demonstrate the applicability of this use case in industrial practice. The same methodology—the same idea using network architectures, sensors, Internet of Things software—has industry applications in border security, mining, and a variety of other industries. It was our idea to demonstrate these emerging technologies and have applicability in industry while doing good.

What other connected technology projects have you collaborated on recently?

Another project Cisco did with Dimension Data helps breast cancer patients in the United Kingdom stay connected. These women were talking about feeling isolated and wanted to be part of the community. So we created the Cisco Spark App to help them always be there for each other. When you are feeling powerless, technology that connects helps. The partnership allows us to imagine, build, deliver, and to help people while we demonstrate our technology.

What role did collaboration play in helping these out-of-the-box solutions become reality?

There are so many great individual siloed technology projects and creators that are in need of a platform. It reminds me of that commercial with a bank robbery in progress: If you are not connected to a platform, you are a car alarm going off in the night without any ability to analyze or act. Cisco and Dimension Data have been so wonderful to me and my teams—they allowed us to invest in projects like this to demo our technology. The supportive attitude was one of “Let’s demo it while we see societal value.” The companies have been partners now for 26 years. They have delivered in so many industries—too many to count. They see projects like this as an opportunity to really be immersive in the world. It’s so much fun, it really is. And sometimes magic happens—the right individuals, environment, capability, and you dare to speak and share your imagination. And we’ve been fortunate that our leadership rallied to our imagination. So I would encourage any reader to take a broad definition of ROI—that’s what we did. If you broaden your definition to include opportunities for societal value, replicability of technology, and solution standards—you will find that organizations want to invest. It’s going to pay off in ways you couldn’t even imagine. A broader interpretation will require a broader analysis of the benefit.

The 2018 Alliance Excellence Award Winners will be announced on March 27, 2018 at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Learn more about and register for the 2018 Summit—ASAP’s flagship event and the world’s largest annual gathering of partnering executives—at Read more about all of the finalists for the 2018 ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards in the January 2018 edition of eSAM Plus. See the official ASAP announcement of the 2018 finalists at

Tags:  ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards  Cisco  Cisco Spark App  Dimension Data  IoT  partners  ROI  societal value  Steve McGarr 

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