Wednesday, April 4, 2007
This is a large scale, slickly-produced operation. Feels as much like a concert as it does a conference. With a few thousand channel partners here in the room, you have to hope someone is minding the store for all these people back home!
Charlie Giancarlo is always great to watch. He opened things up with one of his video productions, which are really funny and well done. He plays himself 20 years in the future, and is talking to his grandson about the history of Cisco and how technology has evolved. Nobody drives or flies any more - everything is done via Telepresence - of course! At this point in time, Cisco owns everything, and the grandson asks whatever happened to Microsoft? Grandpa Charlie wistfully looks into the distance and says "we didn't acquire them - they were too small". Too funny. Sorry Mr. Gates - all in good fun.
Very nice demo here about a health care application for UC500 - Cisco's new solution in a box for SMBs.
Talking about Cisco's unified communications platform along with a Telepresence demo.
Best of both worlds. A real time video call done using Cisco between a Mac and a PC. Very effective.
John Chambers during the press/analyst Q&A session.
Technorati tags: Cisco Partner Summit 2007, Jon Arnold
One of the key items from this session was the fact that 100% of the Canadian business goes through channels. It's about 80% in the U.S., so channel partners are even more important in Canada.
Another important point is that SMB is more prominent in Canada than the U.S., making Cisco's focus on this segment particularly relevant. Canada has a higher concentration of large enterprises, and a lower incidence of large companies with nation-wide office locations. Conversely, Canada has a higher proportion of businesses that are either small or medium - especially small. Some 90% of all businesses in Canada have under 5 employees, so up here, small is really small.
Later on, there was an awards event to recognize the leading channel partners in Canada. Titled the 2006 Channel Partner Awards, 11 companies were recogized, and really showcased the variety of business environments that Cisco Canada is serving. It's especially interesting to note the presence of major service providers in this mix, including cable - Bell, Telus, Rogers and Sasktel.
The press release isn't posted yet, but here's an excerpt listing out the winners:
o Top Advanced Technology Partner: Longview Systems
o Top Security Partner: Rogers Communications Inc.
o Top Wireless Partner: HP Canada
o Top Innovation Partner: SaskTel
o Top Foundation Partner: Compugen Inc.
o Top Enterprise Partner: IBM Canada Ltd.
o Top Public Sector Partner: Bell Canada
o Top Commercial Partner: TELUS
o Top Services Partner: UNIS LUMIN Inc.
o Top Customer Satisfaction: CCSI Technology Solutions Corp. (CCSI)
o Top Unified Communications Partner: IBM Canada Ltd.
Technorati tags: Cisco Partner Summit 2007, Jon Arnold, Cisco Canada
I've got a few posts coming, and this one just focuses on the SMB sessions from yesterday. We saw a number of presentations about the SMB market opportunity and how Cisco plans to attack it in concert with their channel partners. They pointed out that it only generates $1.5 billion for them today, but longer term, they think it will surpass their enterprise sales, which is a pretty bold statement. Their view is that SMBs are now ready to be "transformed" by IT the way enterprises have already been transformed.
To make this happen, they've announced a number of SMB initiatives. First and foremost is the "Cisco Smart Business Communications System". That's a mouthful, but it's basically a complete SMB solution in a box (UC 500) that brings the whole unified commmunications experience to this market - voice, video, data, mobility, security, VPN, etc.
As Rick Moran explained, this solution "leverages the best of Cisco's enterprise business" down to the SMB level, and most importantly, it's easy to use. It was often pointed out how this can be up and running, out of the box, in 15 minutes. That's pretty impressive, and as Rick said - the best line I've heard here so far - "it's plug and play - not plug and pray". Great point - that really resonated with the audience.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of this Cisco-in-a-box solution is its support of third party apps. They cited big name examples like Microsoft CRM 3.0 Connector, Salesforce.com and Outlook integration, but I think the fun stuff will be in their support of lesser-known specialized apps, especially those targeted at vertical markets. Richard MacLeod and Vikas Butaney gave a great example of this with IPcelerate, and their demo for a health care solution.
To support the channels for selling to SMBs, they've announced a new program for them, called Select Certification. This shows their understanding that selling to SMBs requires a distinct set of competencies and resources. A big part of this, actually, is finding skilled people who can support SMBs. It was often mentioned that this type of talent is in short supply, and Cisco will be focused on helping channel partners find and support this pool of people. I think is a great example of why Cisco is so effective in supporting it channel partners.
I'm just hitting the high points here, and yesterday's press release provides more detail about these iniatives, availability and pricing.
So, the big question is this - can Cisco pull this off? Can they conquer the SMB market? We all know how different this is from the enterprise market, where Cisco has elevated things to a high art. They certainly seem to have all the pieces in place, and I think their approach to productize their offering with the UC 500 is the right way to go. To me, the plan is sound if SMBs grow over time, and they graduate to larger scale solutions. My sense is that many SMBs remain SMBs, and if they don't scale up, I'm not sure how attractive this space will be for both Cisco and the channel partners.
Cisco is keen to invest in their channels to properly support this market, and we'll just have to see how ready SMBs are for Cisco and this type of solution. There's a lot of educating that needs to happen here, and for SMBs that get it, and can see that this is a better way to do things, Cisco will do well. They won't get 'em all, but certainly for SMBs who see what's possible today - and want it - this event is time well spent for the channel partners.
With all that said, I keep asking myself - what does the Blue Man Group have to do with this? It's hard not to miss them here at the Ventian Hotel, and now I know why. If you've seen them, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't - you really should - it's a great experience.
In a lot of ways, Cisco selling to SMBs is like selling to the Blue Man Group. You can see them, but you don't know what they're thinking. You think you've got something they're really going to like, but they just look back at you with a blank stare! Maybe they get it, and maybe they don't. Time will tell...
I'll leave it at that for now, and will pass on some photos of the event - as usual, courtesy of my Nokia N93 uber-phone. More posts coming later.
Peter Alexander, Keith Goodwin
Richard MacLeod and Vikas Butaney, Rick Moran
View from hotel room - like Cisco's vision, the view is expansive...
Technorati tags: Cisco Partner Summit 2007, Jon Arnold, Cisco blog
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Lots of ominous signs for sure, and I really hope this isn't a sign of things to come....
- no offence to speak of - but they do get off to a promising start, scoring in the first inning
- Ortiz drives in the only run
- Manny comes up empty
- JD Drew gets a hit, but no damage
- Coco Crisp is invisible down at the bottom of the order
- Varitek doesn't produce much either
- Schilling has his shortest outing in 10 years
We saw a lot of this last year, and the patterns are repeating already. Ughhh. They produced no offense during Spring Training, and you have to wonder why. No way they'll be able to keep pace with the Yankees and the Jays hitting like that. The pitching will be fine, but you need offense to win games. And Lugo/Pedroia is not an upgrade defensively over Gonzalez and Loretta, and that will catch up to them sooner or later.
Anyhow, it's a day off to regroup, and see how Beckett does tomorrow.
I'm away at a Cisco channel summit this week, so blogging will be light the next few days. I'll leave you with one more source to mine if you're still dwelling on the Opening Day letdown. Curt Schilling has a blog, and it's widely/wildly followed by the Nation, so be my guest if you want to read his blow-by-blow account. And if that doesn't sate your anxiety, you can just keep going and read the 200+ fan comments about his post. How's that for tying in the Red Sox and the world of IP?
Technorati tags: Boston Red Sox, Jon Arnold, Curt Schilling, baseball
Monday, April 2, 2007
We focused in particular on a contest run by the Royal Bank, which is Canada's #1 bank, and if they're ready to embrace new media, you know it's arrived. Delvinia created a program for them called The Next Great Innovator Challenge, where college/university students submit ideas for getting the youth market more in touch with financial services. It's largely a web-based contest, which included a blog that served as a useful resource for the contestants. Steve spoke about how the program was put together and how it's delivering value for their client.
You can download the podcast here, as well as read more about Steve.
Technorati tags: Delvinia Interactive, Jon Arnold, VoIP podcasts, Steve Mast