Cisco launches SME initiative

Cisco Systems has launched a drive to attract SMEs, with offerings that include all-in-one product bundles, simplified setup...

Cisco Systems has launched a drive to attract SMEs, with offerings that include all-in-one product bundles, simplified setup applications, financing, training and a $2bn budget.

"This is to some degree a repeat of the Cisco story in the enterprise, but delivered in an SMB size and scale of complexity," said Peter Alexander, vice-president of worldwide commercial marketing for Cisco.

Cisco's largest hurdle in penetrating the SME market is the complexity of its products, said IDC analyst Dan McLean. "I've heard companies say they'd love to use Cisco, but that it's too complicated," he said.

"There's a big chunk of the market that wants to just plug a networking product in and have all the configuration done and the features ready to go."

Cisco has recognised the need to make its products simpler to use for smaller business that do not have highly trained in-house IT talent, Alexander said.

An Express Setup application is designed to allow small outfits to get their network gear running quickly, while another application called SmartPorts will help customers turn on features such as virtual Lans and quality of service.

Cisco will complement the applications with online training. The company will also launch programmes that will let SMEs train their IT personnel in the basics of managing Cisco networking gear.

Another challenge Cisco will face in the SME market is that it does not have a lot of gear suitable for small businesses, McLean said.

"There's a bit of a gap, I think, in Cisco's product portfolio where the Linksys stuff probably isn't rich enough and on the other side I don't think Cisco has the price/competitiveness or the simplicity of function for the market. Cisco needs to do some work there to bridge that gap."

Some of that work will involve integrating multiple Cisco technologies into a single box suitable for an SME, said Peter Alexander, vice president of worldwide commercial marketing at Cisco. On the pricing front, Cisco has tailored financing plans to suit SMEs.

"As a general trend, we see more and more technologies, like enterprise resource planning software and CRM software, that were, traditionally, used by the enterprise being deployed in small and medium businesses," he added.

Michael Martin writes for Computerworld Canada

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