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New Cisco collaboration solutions target $7B SMB market

The introduction of Business Edition 6000S, the Cisco TelePresence IX5000 series and Project Squared offers Cisco partners opportunities to grow their collaboration practices.

Cisco today at its Collaboration Summit 2014, being held Nov. 17-19 in Los Angeles, introduced the Business Edition 6000S (BE6000S), an all-in-one collaboration solution that's designed to be easy for partners to deliver to their small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers.

Yesterday, Cisco introduced the three-screen Cisco TelePresence IX5000 series, a video collaboration solution for six to 18 people, and Project Squared, a cloud-based collaboration app. Project Squared is built on the Cisco Collaboration Cloud, a new platform built and delivered by Cisco to enable best-in-class collaboration experiences. All three product announcements offer Cisco partners opportunities to grow their collaboration practices, according to Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide channels, collaboration sales at Cisco.

The BE6000S is an "office in a box" platform, built on the Cisco 2921 Integrated Services Router (ISR), for companies with 25-150 employees that can scale to 300 devices. It delivers voice, video, instant messaging, presence and paging.

"For partners, this is going to let them take the amazing growth that we've had in the midmarket and move down to entry-level customers," McLeod said. The SMB market for collaboration solutions is a $7 billion opportunity, he added.

While the BE6000S Cisco collaboration solution, scheduled for delivery in January, represents a new business opportunity for partners, the IX5000 boasts a 50% reduction in power, bandwidth and installation time compared with previous products in Cisco’s TelePresence portfolio and is expected to fuel new conversations between partners and existing customers for possible refresh opportunities.

"[The IX5000] will also break down the cost and expense barriers to video adoption," McLeod said. The channel executive also noted that the company offers a smooth migration path from the BE6000S to the midmarket BE6000, making it easy for partners to scale customer solutions.

The BE6000S utilizes Cisco's communication manager technology platform of the BE6000, the flagship product in Cisco's midmarket portfolio, was introduced in 2011.

Cisco also announced two new pre-configuration options for partners on all BE6000 models. One of the options allows distributors such as Comstor, Ingram Micro, KBZ and ScanSource to offer the Cisco Config to Order Portal, for implementation services. And Cisco is offering an option for preconfigured settings prior to shipping, which is expected to simplify deployments for the partner.

Tina Jennings, director of business development and head of the collaboration practice at CompuNet Inc., a Cisco Gold and Master UC partner based in Grangeville, Idaho, said that the new BE6000S and pre-configuration tools will allow her company to reach new customers while helping the company grow its managed services.

"Smaller customers say they want to go to the cloud, but what they're really saying is that they don't want to manage anything," she said. The one-box BE6000S will give CompuNet customers an easy-to-use solution and allows the partner to layer on managed services for monitoring and annual upgrades. Customers also get a full-blown collaboration solution for a low cost, she added.

"Smaller customers say they want to go to the cloud, but what they're really saying is that they don't want to manage anything."

Tina Jennings,
Director of business development and head of the collaboration practice, CompuNet

The collaboration practice is core to CompuNet, which has been in business since 1998. The partner has a strong SMB customer base as well as mature enterprise accounts. Still, Jennings said that CompuNet tried to compete with solutions from vendors such Shoretel and Mitel in the UC space but struggled in smaller customer accounts mostly around implementation services.

"The new automated pre-configuration tools will help us to be more efficient, and it's going to give us a competitive edge to get our managed services in these smaller accounts," she said. Once the box is shipped to a customer, CompuNet could send field engineers to get it running while CompuNet's remote managed services group can take care of the final items, Jennings explained.

What about Project Squared?

"It's a unique approach if Cisco can hit the social software out of the box, particularly when it comes to usability," she said. "We're hurting on the cloud side for the midmarket/small-market cloud collaboration solution. I see other folks innovating on the social software side but not on the UC side."

According to Cisco's McLeod, Cisco has been offering instructor-led training workshops and to date has trained 250 individuals across 150 partner organizations. Cisco is also providing incentives to drive new behavior with partners, such as rebates for conducting activities geared toward changing and creating repeatable behavior. The incentives are focused on activation of the Cisco collaboration solutions suite as well as on applying methodologies to drive adoption and usage of technology.

In early 2015, Cisco will introduce an e-learning module to complement the workshop training. These training methodologies reflect a new way of selling in the collaboration software space. While collaboration is the first area to benefit from these enablement methodologies, Cisco plans to extend them across other Cisco architectures in the future.

Next Steps

Learn more about Cisco's Project Squared

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Does an all-in-one collaboration system make sense for your SMB customers?
I see the all-in-one collaborations as being a fantastic way for SMBs to get benefits without breaking their budgets, since the systems piggyback off current tech.