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Cisco Reorganizes To Target Small Businesses

The networking giant has creates a new small business technology group (SBTG) to focus on the needs of companies with few than 100 employees.Ian Pennell, senior vice president of the new $100 million initiative, told me that the re-org is not about "shiny new objects," but is intended to create a "company within a company," pulling together products and people from across LinkSys and other parts of Cisco. The SBTG will include its own channel staff as well as dedicated people in the areas of supply chain, services and support. It includes a new worldwide call center just for small customers, and a dedicated support community modeled on the Cisco Learning Network.

More importantly to small businesses, Pennell acknowledged that Cisco's current equipment offerings were primarily designed for enterprise brand offices. But the new group will control technology strategy for this market, and be "singularly focused" on developing "purpose built" solutions for smaller companies, not "mini-me versions of enterprise products."

Traditionally, Cisco has been segmented by technology for an IT audience, Pennell said, but the SBTG will take a "fresh look" at making the technology "easier to understand, easier to acquire, and more cost effective."

One approach will be to use a service model, integrating premises-based and cloud products and adding up to a lower cost of entry and freedom from worries about version control. "We believe that will fuel market growth for small businesses," Pennell said.

Making all that work together "will be a journey" Pennell admitted, adding that integration is the big opportunity for attracting small businesses. "I believe we can do a much better job of integrating this stuff. We can do a much better job of explaining it. It's gotta be simple, it can't be difficult."

The first products under the new group -- including video surveillance, data storage, and wireless communications -- are due next month.