An unlikely competitive advantage?

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”
Mark Van Doren

When your larger competitors are out there spruiking, promoting, marketing and advertising, could teaching be your competitive advantage?

I have a firm belief that Cisco’s training programs (ie CCNA, etc) are a strategic advantage compared with other networking vendors. Not only do they sell the training / accreditation but they also effectively extend their sales force without hiring. The new trainees will put their skills to good use by selling what they know (ie the Cisco product set) to their customers.

Cisco also prospers from freely publishing huge amounts of content, allowing people to self-serve / self-learn in many cases. If I am to choose between vendor A and vendor B for an upcoming tender and vendor A has lots of information readily available, whereas vendor B has little, it becomes an easy decision for me to include vendor A in my tender submission. And perhaps the same is true if I’m a buyer rather than an on-seller?

To date, I haven’t noticed any OSS vendors following Cisco’s approach on a large scale with training or documentation. Do you share this belief that it could be a strong competitive advantage to the OSS vendor that does?

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Ryan – quite an interesting comment, and re existing vendors possibly surprising given the amount of material that could be generated relatively easily (compared to starting from zero), especially for those that have their architecture based in the TMF? (Perhaps easier said than done πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Evan,

    I get the sense that it is a “Commercial in Confidence” mindset, being not willing to let other vendors gain insights into their solutions, rather than how much effort it would take to generate and publish the collateral. This mindset is perfectly warranted… although I feel there is more to gain from opening the doors to a free sales force and an inquisitive potential customer than there is to lose, as the Cisco model demonstrates.

    But then again, I don’t subscribe to the commonly held theory that the vendor with the most features wins, so I don’t believe in the need to shield competitors from seeing your unique features. Most customers won’t use a majority of a product’s features anyway, so I believe a vendor is better off creating a solution that moulds to a customer’s needs and being You-niversal (ie


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