Cisco Intros ‘Killer’ Midmarket Collaboration Product, Programs

Cisco, intent on capturing more business from organizations with 100-1,000 employees (because this sector represents a $7.1 billion opportunity), on Tuesday took the wraps off a new product and programs.

The tech bellwether already has beefed up its focus on small businesses and now is turning to the midmarket’s collaboration needs, selling through its Partner Led initiative.

To help accomplish that, Cisco unveiled Business Edition 6000, which uses the same software code, and has the same features, as the familiar Communications Manager for enterprises. However, said Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide collaboration channel sales, Business Edition 6000 is “not a slimmed-down version” of Communications Manager. Instead, it contains all the applications including voice, instant messaging, paging, presence and telepresence in a virtualized package, on one server for up to 1,000 users and 50 sites. Partners just turn on the product, which comes in 25- and 50-user bundles, when it arrives and add servers to accommodate more employees as needed, McLeod said.

“This is a killer solution, from our point of view,” said McLeod.

But what may really speak to partners’ midmarket customers is the video federation capabilities built into Business Edition 6000. In other words, these organizations do not necessarily have to buy new video hardware, because Business Edition 6000 accommodates interoperability SIP-based phones can talk to legacy phones, Cisco phones can talk to Polycom phones, and so on. The functionality comes thanks to Cisco’s Video Communication Server, a $20,000 capability provided at no incremental charge, McLeod said.

All in all, McLeod said, Cisco is helping its partners bring enterprise-quality collaboration platforms to smaller companies with smaller budgets. These midmarket firms are “not looking at IT for IT’s sake,” he said. “They’re judicious in their spend and they’re looking for technology solutions that can make a difference in their business.”

Besides, targeting the midmarket “opens a whole new wave of partners for us to bring on board,” said McLeod. And, to entice those partners, Cisco has created an “Express” collaboration certification that serves as a new entry point into the company’s collaboration partner programs. The Express specialization requires 50 percent less partner training and investment, which fits well for partners with constrained budgets. Plus, earning the Express Collaboration designation leads partners with UC and video backgrounds into the Premier Certification. 

Of note is that the Express Collaboration Specialization is not limited to certain partner types. Cisco said enterprise partners wanting to go down-market may participate, as may networking and SMB partners, who may want to move up. Cisco also is hoping to attract other vendors’ partners.

Meantime, Cisco has simplified its Advanced Technology Provider requirements for partners who just want to focus on Cisco TelePresence for the midmarket. Demo mandates are reduced because Cisco now has centralized demo centers and partners only need a video device to access them. Further, TelePresence roles and training hours are streamlined for midmarket partners, the company said.

On the whole, Cisco is taking aim at a sector worth billions of dollars, through channel partners. That doesn’t mean, though, that the company wants thousands of new resellers, integrators and agents. Rather, it wants “the best of the best of those who would want to come into this market,” McLeod said. “We think there’s opportunity here for hundreds of partners to participate in the North America region.”

To that point, the company is running a midmarket collaboration partner promotion that includes discounts, financing offers and deal registration. The promotion ends July 31.

“We are looking to gain our fair share of the midmarket space and earn it as we have in the enterprise space,” said McLeod.

Cisco will release its second-quarter earnings Wednesday after the bell.

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