Cisco partners weigh up SMB announcements

Cisco partners weigh up SMB announcements

Local Cisco executives are talking up the new SMB certification and aggressive product play, claiming it has particular relevance to the Australian channel. But several of the vendor's top certified partners are not yet convinced the market is their best option.

Managing director, Ross Fowler, said Cisco had spent the past three years realigning the local business for an SMB assault. It has tripled its partner sales force during that time and SMB sales during the first half of its fiscal year grew by 50 per cent year-on-year.

"We have laid the foundations by aggressively recruiting account managers to work with tier-two partners and grow our customer base," he said. "We also brought on Ingram Micro [in May 2005] to extend our distribution base to target the SMB market.

"This announcement [at the Cisco Partner Summit] just puts the icing on the cake for what we have been doing. We are delighted and well prepared for it." During the launch of the new Smart Business Communications System, Cisco used third-party applications from IPcelerate to demonstrate how partners could address specific verticals within SMB. Channel manager, Jeff Sheard, said areas of opportunity included education, healthcare, media and manufacturing.

He was also keen to see more partners addressing regional areas. To assist Select partners develop tailored solutions, Cisco will give them access to its recently launched Solutions Development Centre in Sydney. "Enterprise has moved into the applications phase in unified communications.

They have been through the bypass functionality, then to cutting administration costs. SMBs haven't - they don't have these concerns and costs," Fowler said. "Applications are the sell; we have to invest in applications activity."

NetStar is a Cisco Gold partner predominantly focused on the enterprise space. General manager southern region, Justin Bock, said it was working through the raft of announcements. "While SMB is not our current focus, I understand that having dominated the enterprise and mid-market space, SMB is a natural choice for Cisco," he said.

"Many of the tools and programs announced by Cisco will help NetStar in addressing the commercial space and enhancing our profitability in a competitive market."

Touchbase local leader, Andrew Fisher, ruled out pursuing SMB sales in Australia. The communications integrator joined Cisco's partner program 12 months ago and is working towards a master level certification in unified communications. "Our strategy is focused on mid-market and enterprise unified communications in Australia. We don't do SMB at all," he said.

"We won't be looking at this in the short term."

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