Collaboration Commitment? Cisco SMB Partners Not Feeling The Love


Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide collaboration channel sales at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, said the company decided to end-of-life the UC500 and BE3000 products to simplify the Cisco collaboration portfolio and to better meet SMB customers' demand for more advanced feature sets.

"Cisco made the decision to end-of-life the small-business UC and voice platforms because our partners and customers were asking for simplicity, features and scalability, and not multiple product lines," McLeod said.

McLeod declined to give sales figures for the UC500 and BE3000 prior to them being discontinued. But he said many Cisco partners are finding success selling the BE6000 as an alternative, and that Cisco in the coming weeks will be unveiling more collaboration options for the lower end of the SMB segment. 

Cisco's end-of-life announcements for the UC500 and BE3000 came just months after the networking giant revealed plans to sell its Linksys business, which included wireless networking products for the SOHO and SMB space, to Belkin.

But despite doing away with some of its bread-and-butter SMB products, Cisco said it's more bullish than ever on the small-business space. 

"The investment Cisco is making in this segment is significant," said John Donovan, vice president of global midmarket acceleration at Cisco. "I think we see that we have a lot of room to grow here. We have a long heritage of partnering and [SMB] is very much a partner business. We want to make sure our partners can make money."

Cisco, which defines "small business" as an organization with 100 or fewer seats, formally began its SMB push in 2008, when it pledged to invest $100 million into building out resources and products specific to that space. Cisco since then has unveiled similar initiatives, such as its commitment last year to invest $150 million into Partner Plus, the Cisco partner program for solution providers targeting the midmarket and SMB segments.

Meanwhile, Cisco said the number of its partners holding the Cisco SMB Specialization -- something required for partners to reach Cisco Select certification status -- was up 24 percent year over year from 11,000 in February 2013 to 14,000 in February 2014.

Cisco declined to say what percentage of its overall revenue came from the SMB market in 2013, or what its total SMB sales were for the year.

Dan Schwab, co-president of D&H Distributing, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based distributor, said he definitely sees Cisco continuing to invest in the SMB market and that D&H's Cisco SMB business was up in the "high single digits" last year.

D&H recently rolled out an Enablement Training Series for Cisco partners, providing free, on-demand training to help them prepare for the Cisco SMB Specialization exam. D&H, as part of the program, also is offering solution providers up to two testing vouchers so that they can take the exam for free.

Schwab said he has reason to believe Cisco is readying a replacement for the UC500 and BE3000. "We think very, very highly of them," Schwab said of Cisco. "And we have high expectations."

NEXT: All Eyes On Meraki