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Cisco mounts SMB push

Cisco ANZ vice president Ken Boal Cisco ANZ vice president Ken Boal

Cisco ANZ vice-president Ken Boal says he was previously unsure about the company's ability to serve small and medium businesses, but now he has an "absolute passion" for the SMB market.

In order to help Australia become a more efficient and productive nation, Cisco needs to address at least half of the country in terms of economic activity, and at least two thirds of its employees, said Boal. Doing that means paying attention to small businesses.

The company's efforts to reach SMBs are already paying off, as the sector now accounts for 13% of its local business, up from 9% 18 months ago. But Boal's not satisfied with that: he's aiming for at least 20%.

When it comes to actual numbers, Cisco already has around 50,000 SMB customers and wants to reach two million.

Cisco has the right technology and products for this market, for example through its acquisition of BroadSoft (cloud communication and collaboration) and Meraki (networking), but the company has also needed to focus on the right channels to reach SMBs.

Channels are particularly important because SMBs "might not even have an IT person" let alone an IT department, Boal said.

"We're going big on SMB by making it simple, smart and secure."

Cisco ANZ head of SMB Nykaj Nair explained the strategy in terms of simplicity, affordability, trustworthiness and scalability.

The company has created a portfolio of purpose-built enterprise-class products for SMBs — including such brands as Start, Meraki, Umbrella and WebEx — and is now developing channels to reach those customers.

Thanks to its Cisco Capital operation, Cisco can provide SMBs with a variety of options to the usual upfront capital purchase. These include leasing, lease to own, and hire purchase arrangements, he said. As Cisco can borrow cheaply, it is even able to offer 0% financing in some circumstances.

SMBs like to buy from trusted sources, said Nair, so the company is taking a four-pronged approach.

It has already trained 1000 SMB-focused systems integrators and resellers, and is working with service providers such as telcos and managed service providers who he said are uniquely placed to deliver technology as a service.

On the non-traditional side, Cisco is developing what it calls "alternate channels", including JB Hi-Fi, as small businesses often purchase hardware from such retailers.

It is also working to exploit digital marketplaces including Amazon and Telstra's marketplace, as well as Cisco's own Start Marketplace, which is currently being piloted in Australia. The latter is "a partner-led marketplace," Nair said. Seven partners are initially involved, but that number will grow after the pilot phase is completed.

Until 27 July, Cisco is offering a bonus $100 Visa debit card to the first 20 customers to purchase over $500 worth of hardware via the Start Marketplace.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

 

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