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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Cisco Webex democratizing collaboration regardless of the workplace, work environment, and workspace

As the world turned to Zoom, I switched to Webex. I have been using Webex for the last ten months. I have experienced nothing but delight with the Webex collaboration application suite, including Webex Teams, Webex Desk Pro, and Cisco Webex headset.

I first met the founders of Webex in 2001, one year after its IPO and six years before its acquisition by Cisco. As quickly as Webex became the default web-conferencing software offering, its popularity started eroding with an onslaught of solutions, especially Go-to-meeting and Skype. In the intervening years, Microsoft Teams took off, primarily because of its integration with M365, further pushing Webex into the background. However, years spanning 2019-2020 has been an inflection point for Webex. After yielding the everyday video conferencing lexicon to Zoom, Cisco Webex has just begun its steep rise in its innovation curve and has no intention of pausing and letting the curve slope down into the trough of disillusionment. The triumvirate leaders - Jeetu Patel (Senior Vice President and General Manager of Security and Collaboration), Javed Khan (Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Collaboration), and Aruna Ravichandran (CMO & VP, Cisco Webex Collaboration) - are on a mission to deliver collaboration experiences that are 10X better than in-person. Perhaps naively, I have yet to understand its enormity. Still, so far, new releases and enhancements are continuing to blend physical and virtual workspaces to deliver similar immersive and authentic experiences: the latest being gesture-recognition, white-boarding, and the pending integration of Slido for polling. The next steps in delivering similar experiences are ad-hoc conversations and serendipitous interactions. Since September, Cisco Webex has released 400 enhancements with AI and security as the Cisco collaboration strategy foundations. IMImobile acquisition will enable Cisco to incorporate expanded digital channels and flow builder capabilities for contact center and customer engagement.

The future of work has become very complex. Collaboration is more important in complex, interconnected digital transformation work environments. 58% of SMB and midmarket employees (1 to 5000 employee size firms) expect to continue to work from home post-pandemic. As a result, mobility, cloud, and collaboration are important trends in today's market, and they are tightly interconnected. This interconnection empowers collaboration. Collaboration is most potent when connected, intuitive and pervasive, so deeply ingrained in the employee's infrastructure fabric that its use is a natural extension of their work environment. At the heart of Cisco's collaboration strategy is its collaboration application suite bookended by its platform, devices, and specialized experiences. The vertical integration from platform to devices promises to be a one-stop collaboration shop for mainstream businesses.

Collaboration represents a significant investment for most mainstream businesses, and collaboration platforms become a central, everyday resource touching all users within an organization. Collaboration is pervasive and critical to SMBs (1-5000 employees). Our most recent SMB survey looked at collaboration as a discrete category and found that it is the second-most prominent SMB solution area, behind cloud and security. There is a wide-ranging trend towards seeing collaboration as part of the fabric of business activity, rather than merely a means of enabling connections between discrete tasks. It is a core component for digital transformation, and innovative businesses embed it in their organizational DNA. Collaboration is a top IT priority for 96% of SMBs, 79% of innovative SMBs are using collaboration organization-wide, and 74% of digitally transformed leaders are using collaboration solutions. Therefore, it is natural for these businesses to invest in agile, adaptive, transformative, magical, and empowering collaboration solutions. Cisco is getting there. Perhaps, this is what Cisco leaders mean by delivering experiences that are 10X better than in-person.

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Cisco makes enterprise-grade small business solutions affordable and easily deployable

Post-pandemic, as small businesses look ahead to focus on getting back to growth, Cisco has identified the small business segment as a key priority and one of its most significant opportunities. Cisco is committing more resources than ever before to energize and activate Cisco partners' prospects in this space. Cisco identifies its addressable opportunity to be US$30 billion. It is no doubt less than Techaisle's global IT spend forecast of US$230 billion in 2021. But then, Cisco's product portfolio is not all-encompassing, and its definition of small business is on wallet share, any company that spends US$200K or less on Cisco products and services. However, Cisco's is sharpening its focus on the sub-$50K wallet-size small business segment, where Cisco's market share is minimal.

Let us analyze how Cisco is planning to address the small market.

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Cisco Small business portfolio has landed at a good place - finally

It is no secret that Cisco has made several attempts and investments to address the needs of small businesses. It would not be out of place to quote an English proverb that states: "A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays". This time I believe that Cisco will stay. Cisco has landed at a good place.

Today at Cisco Live 2020, Cisco unveiled latest updates to its Cisco Designed portfolio of small business solutions that are aligned with top five problems that Cisco is solving for small businesses.

  1. Work from home: how to meet and collaborate with employees and customers securely
  2. Cybercrime protection: how to safeguard from identity theft, hackers and internet attacks
  3. Always-on business: how to provide easy installation and reliable IT services using cloud technology
  4. Workplace monitoring: how to enable safe social distancing and real time monitoring
  5. New office: how to improve productivity and security at shared physical workspaces

The announcements

  1. Cisco Business Switches and Dashboard - easy to set up, secure connectivity for small businesses which are powering connections across remote and in-office workforce. The two new series of switches – CBS 250 Smart Switch and CBS 350 Managed Switch - provide essential functionality along with advanced security options and are priced right – starting at US$200 - for small businesses. Both switches support PoE+ and have integrated DoS protection and time-based ACLs. The switches are stackable and come with limited lifetime warranty (usually unheard of). Techaisle small business research on buyer care-abouts for technology solution selection supplier shows that price (67%), reliability (66%) and support (54%) are ranked top 3 criteria. Cisco switches are purpose-built to appeal to the care-abouts. The dashboard, which directly integrates with the switches, is a network management tool with a streamlined user interface (a “single pane of glass” for all Cisco devices that eliminates the need to work with Cisco’s command line interface) to manage entire network with integrated lifecycle management and automated alerting. With zero-touch plug and play deployment, and hosted in the cloud or on premises, it allows small businesses to set-up, monitor and operate network devices from a simple interface on any device.
  1. Tools to manage network in the Cloud – Cisco Meraki Health and Meraki Insight allows small business customers to monitor all aspects of their network and applications from Meraki Dashboard and API as well as detect and fix issues in minutes. As per Techaisle’s managed services research only 4% of small businesses have internal full-time IT staff and even within the 20-249 employee size segment, less than half are staffed with internal IT. Regardless of the size of IT staff, 79% of their time is spent on support and maintenance, majority in troubleshooting which creates not only IT efficiency deficit but also negatively impacts organizational productivity. Meraki Health’s objective is to make troubleshooting simple for the lean and almost non-existent and over-burdened small business IT staff.
  1. Cloud Mailbox Defense for Office 365 – enhanced email security solution, designed for use with Office 365, with no changes to mail flow or DNS and can be made operational with 5 minutes. O365 (renamed to M365) adoption is on a meteoric increase. For example, Techaisle research shows that 48% of US small businesses are planning to use M365 within the next year. However, a vast majority of small businesses worry about malware and phishing attacks, password compromise and account hijack. Only 3% of very small businesses and 27% of small businesses have internal full-time IT security staff. These small businesses usually fail to add a secure email gateway, because they are unable to manage operational overhead and lack expertise to change mail flows and operate complex policies. They prefer a solution that can be easily deployed and managed. Powered by Cisco Talos threat intelligence, Cloud Mailbox Defense, runs natively in MS Azure, can be plugged into O365 with minimal policy configuration and does not require any specialized training to manage. Minimum seat count to get started is 25.
  1. Webex Work bundle - a complete cloud collaboration solution that combines Webex Calling, Meeting and Messaging services in a single subscription, with attractive flexible monthly pricing for small businesses - per user/per month Webex licenses starting at $19.95/month. Techaisle research shows that within small businesses collaboration adoption efforts are being driven by demands for decision agility, speed of innovation, customer intimacy and faster time to market. 47% of small businesses are increasing investments in collaboration solutions because a lack of teamwork is impacting productivity. While the creation of a central information repository was the most important business driver for collaboration solutions initially, new adopters want to address the needs of increased employee mobility, dispersed team members and ad hoc scheduling.

Techaisle Take

To understand the profundity of Cisco’s small business solutions let us harken back to three of the top 10 SMB predictions I had written in 2015:

  • Collaboration becomes a much bigger concept. In years past, “collaboration” was a big-company issue in which IT professionals used something called “presence” to connect staff to each other. What a quaint time that was! In 2015, I had said that this concept of collaboration will be swept into the dustbin of history. and it will become clear that collaboration spans files and people, staff and customers. It includes file exchange and multi-point editing; it extends beyond the corporate staff (and as a result, beyond large enterprises) to include customers; it has broken through the corporate walls, and demands support for mobility. In fact…
  • Collabmobilicloud becomes an SMB management reality. There is a tendency in the press and in vendor product literature to treat collaboration, mobility and cloud as separate solutions. There is a tendency from the user perspective to treat them as aspects of a single approach to accessing, working with and sharing information. The users pay the bills, and in 2015, their perspective will predominate. Collaboration initiatives are part of mobility strategies, mobility is at the core of collaboration initiatives, and both are dependent on the cloud. This will have a major impact on application development and…
  • Connected security becomes “security”. At one point, there was a debate in the security world - what was better – unified threat management (UTM) systems that ensured that there are no cracks between security products, or best-of-breed (BoB) products that could evolve as quickly as the threat landscape itself? BoB won that debate decisively; in fact, what used to be called “UTM” is now referred to as “next-generation firewalls,” one of many important “shields” around enterprise data, applications and users. However, with the expanding threat perimeter (caused in no small part by the trends towards hybrid and collabmobilicloud), 2015 is time to take a fresh look at how to ensure that all of the aspects of security infrastructure are integrated to protect against intrusion.

The above were true then and are even more poignant today. The Cisco Designed portfolio of small business-focused solutions directly addresses the needs and threat vectors for secure workplaces, better collaboration, simplified manageability and organizational productivity empowerment. Cisco has also made it easy for small businesses to buy the solutions, deploy and manage them either through their own internal staff or externally with the help of channel partners such as MSPs.

If the office of a small business is defined by devices, so too is the workplace defined by the ability to work from wherever those devices (and their users) are located. Small businesses are investing in mobility because it contributes to cost savings, increases market reach, improves productivity and establishes better ways of working. Security remains the top constraint for accelerating remote work adoption as small businesses struggle with data protection and mobile management. Techaisle global survey reveals that cloud, mobility, collaboration and security are among the top five technology priorities for over 60% of small businesses. 42% of small businesses are looking for solutions that are easy to buy, deploy, manage and support.

However, designing simplified products does not guarantee success in the small business segment. In an IT environment that is already very complex and likely to become more so, trusted advisors are very important to small businesses. Three quarters of small businesses rely on a trusted party – an internal employee with expertise in IT and/or external consultants – to provide advice on IT strategy. In most cases (over 60%), these advisors are trusted because they are viewed as unbiased and experienced, and able to provide the “right guidance” to the buyer. While the ‘unbiased’ observation would seem to rule out product vendors, small businesses exhibit a clear preference for advisors who can move seamlessly from advice to procurement and deployment. Cisco needs to invest in nurturing “super consultants”, both internally and externally (within channel partners) who can not only advise but also architect, deploy, manage and support Cisco Designed for Business portfolio solutions.

Regardless of the thoughtfully designed solutions, they are still discrete and transactional offerings. But we are increasingly immersed in a post-transactional market, where discrete sales of individual products or integrated systems are being replaced by agreements to provide IT functionality “as-a-Service.” Inexorably, the market is shifting from one defined by discrete purchase-and-deploy deals aligned with refresh cycles to one where businesses take a ‘hybrid IT’ approach that blends a limited number of on-premise assets with a growing range of on-demand services. To participate in this shift and stay relevant Cisco needs to create bundled solutions, including managed services with a recurring “as-a-service” offering.

Cisco should plan a larger product vision that aligns with digital transformation trends within small businesses. The vision should cover technologies such as HCI, SD-WAN, security, IoT, and workspaces. These integrated solutions will create reasons for small businesses to remain connected with Cisco.

Cisco has landed at a good place, finally. And it is ready to take off and soar within the small business segment. (Don’t muck it up)

Download the full pdf report here

 

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US SMB and Midmarket Video-collaboration adoption may increase by 184 percent

Techaisle data shows that the percent of US SMBs using web-video conferencing solutions is likely to increase from 38% to 89%, a change of 184%. It is common knowledge that cloud is being adopted by SMBs and midmarket businesses for business agility and video-conferencing is playing an increasing role in contributing to SMB agility - decision agility, productivity agility, customer agility and innovation agility - for high-growth and innovative businesses. Businesses without modern collaboration solutions are scrambling to catch up with those that are already capitalizing on the benefits video-conferencing solutions. As new adopters are learning from firms that have already made early investments in the technology, Techaisle is seeing reasons for launching collaboration initiatives rapidly evolve. A comparison of early adopters to firms that are just now embracing advanced collaboration systems finds that the pace set by early adopters is forcing other SMB firms to invest in collaboration solutions to address current and future market issues.

This next generation of SMBs & midmarket business collaboration solution adopters is responding to specific pain points, more than their predecessors and video-conferencing is figuring in their collaboration strategies, specifically because:

• They cannot coordinate meetings involving employees in multiple locations
• Customer satisfaction is declining
• The pace of decision making is too slow
• Email is not an adequate means of connecting staff with each other and with customers
• They are trailing competitors and want to catch up
• They have to keep pace with market uncertainty and want to find new avenues for business viability and growth

Survey data finds that these firms have begun using video-collaboration solutions as a reaction to business problems that are preventing them from achieving their business objectives of growth, productivity, time to market, customer retention and operating cost reduction.

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