I recently attended and "Small Business Analyst" event hosted by Cisco in which the Company talked to us analyst types about their strategy in approaching the SB market on a worldwide basis. The conference lasted a day, the group of attending analysts was small but well represented including leading names in the IT analyst market such as Gartner, Forrester and Yankee Group.

New products were showcased and strategies outlined and while I won't go into detail about new products due to non-disclosure conditions on many of them and also because it wasn't the products that impressed me the most. Make no mistake the products did impress me and my colleague - enough for us to decide that we should evaluate them for our own business.

What impressed me the most was the focus and disciple Cisco has brought to bear. Too often we see companies that are leaders in the enterprise space take on the SB market opportunity under the rationale that what's good for enterprise is good for SBs - with a few changes. Wrong. Too often we have seen it doesn't work and when it doesn't these firm redefine "SB market" to simply mean companies that are a little bit smaller than their traditional market and calling it SB or worse "SMB". The latter often used as a catch all for all those firms that are currently not being sold to be the comapny's sales force which is too boxed in in their thinking of who their customers are and how they should be sold. Its organizational inertia at work.

Cisco, themselves a leader in the enterprise space is approaching the market as any company in it's position should - with a strategy, products and organization designed to address SB needs. Here are some of the key elements

Bottom line - I believe Cisco is off to a good start in the SB space exhibiting the focus and discipline required to gain share in this very difficult market.

Abhijeet Rane