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Cisco targeting SME segment

Cisco identifies shifting customer demands that will create more opportunities for its channel partners

Cisco has signalled that the SME market continues to be a major target for the channel, with the vendor increasing investment to smooth sales to that customer segment.

The networking and security player already generates significant revenues from small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) customers, but it is looking to work with partners to increase that further as more users look for help with their cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) needs.

Cisco has identified shifting market dynamics that make targeting the segment one of its key priorities for its latest fiscal year, which started last month.

“These customers are stampeding to the cloud and SaaS to do digital transformation,” said Andrew Sage, vice-president global distribution and SMB sales at Cisco.

“Digital transformation isn’t something that we’ve always associated with the SME customer, we kind of think of them as hanging on as best they can. And the truth is that SME customers are doing things they could never do before with technology – they used to have to buy servers and licences, or they had to do custom programming that was complex and difficult.

“Now with cloud and SaaS, that is no longer the case. They’ve got access to applications to automate every part of their business and to differentiate against their competitors. These customers need technology outcomes. The way that they get the technology outcomes that are critical to their business is through our partners,” he added.

To make sure Cisco’s channel is in a position to meet those customer needs, the firm is making sure it has technology that can be pitched at SMEs with clear positioning to that customer segment.

There are also plans to invest in marketing support for the channel to drive further demand and adding more market coverage, with additional field support to make sure partners are able to generate fresh business. 

Sage said that SME’s were looking for help with business outcomes, largely around four areas: hybrid working, security, remote access, and using smart technologies to increase efficiencies.

“Our customers in this segment do not want to talk to us about zero-trust network access or SD-WAN or wireless networking. They want to talk to us about outcomes, how to get to their applications, how to make their businesses run better,” he said.

From a partner perspective, Bob Schroeder, vice-president of project management at Spectrum Enterprise, said SME customers were looking for support from the channel more than ever as they grappled with numerous challenges.

“There’s an explosion of raw data and associated network traffic. I think this is a result of just multiple applications running on the network today. There’s employees that are bringing all kinds of devices and screens into the network, users are jumping on the corporate network from untrusted sources and untrusted networks, employees are hitting multiple clouds throughout the day. We’re seeing IoT sensors pop up on these networks, everywhere. And so these items are generating significant network traffic and they need to be reliable,” he said.

“Cloud computing, storage, SaaS – these have all emerged as mission critical, and yet smaller businesses lack the talent and the expertise to design and operate hybrid productivity platforms,” he added.

Sage appointed out that the SME segment offered significant revenues for both Cisco and its partners, and FY24 would see the firm go for more of that opportunity.

“The SME business at Cisco is a multibillion-dollar global business. It is growing in double digits and is one of the consistently fastest growing segments at the company contributing a lot to Cisco’s growth,” he added.

“We think there’s almost a $30bn opportunity for us, being focused on those customers that we know are transitioning to the cloud and SaaS and really trying to use technology to transform their business.”

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