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The services end of Cisco's small-business focus has similarly evolved. It's structured differently than any other services organization within the company, and services packages in small business are not the same as SMARtnet, Cisco's principal tech support service.
"The services business inside Cisco exists to scale the technology," said Sherri Liebo, vice president of segment marketing for Cisco Services. "We really rely on our partner network to do the scaling. SMB is adopting a services strategy a lot faster than those in the enterprise."
Along with sales and training resources such as the Small Business Service Center, VARs point to Cisco's fixed pricing -- a range of $19 to $999 depending on the depth and speed of the service package needed -- as a major benefit.
"Simplicity trumps flexibility," Liebo said. "It eliminates the back-and-forth around pricing between the partners and Cisco. It's predictable pricing, with not a lot of deviations. If partners are going through a long deviation process, it's costing them money and they don't want to deal with it."
Cisco executives also pointed to the November rollout of Fast Track 2. Based on Cisco's original Fast Track program, Fast Track 2 smoothes out sales of certain products for the 100- to 1,000-seat market segment using a partner-suggested price list and extra stock so distributors can better meet next-day delivery demands.
Part of this, according to Cisco, is fine-tuning the supply chain following last year's product shortage headaches, but overall, said Liebo and other Cisco executives, it gets SMB-targeted product to customers, and through the supply chain, faster and more efficiently.
"Time is money for the partner, so if they have to hassle with a protracted ordering system, they're losing money," Liebo said. "We needed to make it painless."
Cisco puts a lot of stock in its technology and market segment group councils, and Pennell is co-chair of the Small Business Council alongside Keith Goodwin, Cisco's senior vice president, worldwide partner organization.
Created four years ago, the council sets strategy and direction for Cisco's small-business products, services and partnering efforts and coordinates those efforts with the other Cisco councils. The council consists of 10 members, all vice president-level or higher, and has a full meeting once per quarter, with periodic meetings for long-range planning, and directors' meetings among council chairs.
Pennell, for example, actively coordinates with Ned Hooper, chief strategy officer and senior vice president of Cisco's consumer business, on the not-always-clear lines between consumer and small-business products and services. Logistics are also a recent focus, Pennell said, and there's a new group forming at Cisco focused on supply chain management that will come under Angel Mendez, senior vice president of customer value chain management.
NEXT: Cisco's SMB Financing Push