Cisco focuses on WFH tech with small business push

Lissa Ricci, senior leader for small business at Cisco Canada

When Cisco announced its rollout of its Cisco Designed for Business push for small business last year, it clearly did not anticipate marketing solutions for small businesses trying to react to a global pandemic forcing physical distancing on all their employees. And yet, it’s 2020. So here we are.

Fortunately, many of the tools that fall into its Designed category already fit in well with the top needs of SMB customers in the current moment. Collaboration tools like Webex, for example, have in many ways become the defining technologies of 2020. And other offerings in the family are in place or can be adapted, to support a much more disparate and distributed workforce.

Lissa Ricci, head of Cisco Canada’s small business efforts, described the company as “pivoting” towards technology that enables or supports work-from-home.

“We narrowed it down to five categories in supporting small business, and delivering on those five messages and the product bundles that along with it,” Ricci said.

Those five categories including collaboration, wireless, networking, security, and connections.

As previously suggested, that first category has probably been the “hero” for the business in 2020, and it’s undoubtedly good timing for Cisco to get its SMB-focused Webex bundle out there for 2020. Ricci described its Webex Work bundle as “finally, full collaboration that’s very flexibility with monthly pricing for small business.”

“This is an enterprise product that we’re finally bringing to small business, and it starts at $26 per month,” Ricci said.

Collaboration, Ricci said, has become the key part of digitization for small business customers, and digital transformation, in turn, is key to their SMB customers.

“Digitization is the most important thing with our small business customers, and we’ll be helping them become more digital and thrive in this new normal,” she said.

If collaboration is leading the charge, then many of the other categories are supporting it. For example, the company has made its SMB switching offerings available on a subscription basis for small businesses, and it continues to add to its security story for the Designed By audience. That includes reaching out to more local MSPs with which it has not necessarily had connections in the past.

“We’re looking proactively at those kinds of MSPs,” Ricci said. “We want to get in front of them and figure out how we can come together to service the key smaller customers in their territory.”

There’s also a lot SMB-specific effort going into support and enablement, Ricci said. That includes the recent launch of the Small Business Resource Centre, a place where smaller customers “can come and click around and play,” as Ricci puts it, with the company’s SMB-targeting solutions. The site helps would-be customers figure out what solutions might be right for them, and introduces them to appropriate partners to help them build out the solution.

“We’re really focused on making it easy to procure, transact, implement and maintain our solutions,” Ricci said.

More locally, the Canadian team is running a Small Business Recovery Kit contest, wherein small business customers can tell Cisco a bit about how they use technology today and enter to win a stack of the company’s technology, as well as a free consultation with Cisco’s Canadian Chief Innovation Officer.

“They just have to get their stories in and win this first-class technology bundle,” Ricci said.

The contest will see up to 12 winners from across Canada and will run through the end of August. Ricci reported they currently have “well over 200” submissions in.

And the networking vendor is teaming with Women of Influence and the Business Development Bank of Canada to offer a series of webinars offering advice and experiences for entrepreneurs in dealing with “the new normal.”

Ricci said the overall strategy of Designed for Business is “meet you where you are,” to provide technology that meets the needs and requirements of its target audience. And it’s taking that same approach in working with partners to meet this new audience.

“We want to enable and empower our smallest partners and help them thrive, especially in remote territories across Canada,” Ricci said.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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