Indian SMBs to spend more on UC

September 18, 2008

Networking giant Cisco’s strategy for the SMB market is to eliminate complexity from the customers’ end

Cisco Systems, Inc. is one of the major vendors catering to the IT needs of the small and medium businesses (SMBs) with a focus on networking products, unified communications, integrated services router (ISR), smart business communications system and the like.
Over the years, the SMB market has assumed greater importance for this networking giant, and the company has planned release of a range of new products for the segment.

R. Dhamodaran, senior vice president, Channel Operations and Commercial Strategy, Cisco India & SAARC, talks about how Cisco is helping SMBs adopt communications products.

Excerpts:

Q: With SMB being a high growth segment for Cisco in India, how do you plan to address the communication needs of Indian SMBs? 

R. Dhamodaran: In addressing the communication needs of Indian SMBs, Cisco has played a leading role in redefining the network and its capabilities through its Smart Business Communications architecture. With the integration of the Cisco Smart Business Communication architecture and portfolio of Cisco Unified Communications products and applications that are designed to work better together, companies of all sizes can realize possibilities that simply did not exist before.

Cisco’s Smart Business Communications provides a holistic, network-based approach to business and technology integration for Indian SMBs. Cisco developed this framework to create an enhanced business process and communications experience based on the network as a platform.

CIOL: What is your projection for Unified Communication Systems among SMBs? Do you foresee an increase in spending?

Dhamodaran: Yes, we are definitely seeing an increase in UC spending by Indian SMBs and the market is set to grow even more. However, in order to effectively tap this segment, it is important that vendors develop customized solutions, which offer a cost-effective and easy to deploy alternative.

The Cisco Unified Communications system strengthens connections to securely provide better, more natural collaboration; quicker decision making; reduced communications bottlenecks; and improved overall efficiency. With more informed, responsive customer service, organizations can improve customer loyalty, sales, and profitability.

Q: In your view, are Indian SMBs robust enough in their communications network (including telecom products) that helps in business growth?

Dhamaodaran: Over the past couple of years, SMBs have begun to realize the strategic value of investing in robust networking and communication infrastructure. However, they do have unique challenges whether it’s decreasing costs, increasing efficiency or boosting customer satisfaction.

Cisco’s strategy for the SMB market is to eliminate complexity from the customers’ end. This includes design of products that provide plug and play capabilities and providing services such as remote management that will be provided by our partners. This will ensure that customers are oblivious to the complexity of the technology and they can focus on their core business, rather than technology, which is an enabler. These products and services will also ensure that customers can avoid investing in costly manpower to manage these systems at their end.

In addition, as mentioned above, Cisco provides customers with leasing and financing options that simplify the process of technology acquisition and also protects customers from technology obsolescence.

Also, we focus extensively on training our partners so that they in turn can communicate the business benefits of our products to our SMB and mid-market customers such as better ROI and ease of use.

Q: Cisco has launched a number of products like Smart Business Communications System (SBCS) etc. What new products can SMBs expect from Cisco?

Dhamaodaran: Yes, there are various products that are planned for the SMB segment and will continue innovating. Cisco recently launched a Smart Care Service designed to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in India to simplify network maintenance through regular, proactive network assessments, remote software repairs and technical support. Based upon a collaborative approach to delivering services, Cisco Smart Care Service combines the complementary strengths of Cisco and its channel partners to proactively verify that a customer’s network is secure, reliable and functioning optimally at all times. Cisco Smart Care Service improves the long-term competitiveness of SMBs by helping them address the business challenges of today while maximizing the future potential of their technology investments.

Q: Which are the verticals where you see SMBs are liberal in spending on IT/communication products/telecom? Which are the new verticals Cisco is aiming to tap?

Dhamaodaran: Financial services and IT/ITeS industries have been the early adopters of networking technology, which could be attributed primarily to their unique regulatory requirements and quality of service (QoS) needs. Cisco is aggressively tapping industry verticals such as Banking, Retail, Healthcare, and Manufacturing apart from IT sector. We leverage our networking expertise to combine UC solutions along with wireless and security applications for enhanced productivity and business benefits.

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Web 2.0 helping businesses become Agile

August 28, 2008

Web 2.0 is the hot trend on the Internet. Web designs based around Web 2.0 has revolutionized the whole way of sharing information and using the Internet as an exciting and more interactive experience.

 Today, Web 2.0 has changed the way modern businesses are conducting, using the Internet as a platform. Shankar Krishnamoorthy, CTO and Co-founder of Aspire Systems shared his experiences with me Web 2.0 in an interview.

Excerpts:
Q: How far has Web 2.0 influenced modern businesses?
SHANKAR KRISHNAMOORTY: Web 2.0 brings in more customer participation in doing the business. If you are in product development, customers can take part in building the product they want much ahead in the development cycle. If you look at classical engineering methodologies, you talk to the customer, get their input, build the product and release it to them. In this mode, customer gets the chances either at the beginning or at the end of the cycle. However, with Web 2.0, you involve the customers throughout the development cycle and shape the product according to their needs. Your customers will get an opportunity to give feedback and also test the waters on newer features.
This can be done through wikis, collaboration tools, surveys, online broadcasts/podcasts, etc. These Web 2.0 tools help the modern business to collaborate and participate more.

Q:  Your company is involved in product lifecycle services. Can you explain your own experiences with Web 2.0?
SK: Our experience involves on two folds:
a) Building Web 2.0 features into the products that we build. Several products that we have built in the past two years have Ajax incorporated. Users get very good desktop-like experience while using Ajax.
b) Using Web 2.0 for our project execution and marketing communication. We use Web 2.0 extensively for collaboration. In fact, http://www.producteering.org is a site built and promoted for producteers by producteers. This site has lot of Web 2.0 features. Aspire has built and promoted this site.

Q: Knowledge sharing becomes easy with Web 2.0. However, some companies might not want to share their internal knowledge for reasons of competition, not even within the whole company. Do you see a change happening?
SK: Knowledge sharing is governed by ‘how the sharing helps in fostering knowledge and also how it helps each other’s work’. If knowledge is just shared for the sake of educating each other, that initiative will not last long. When knowledge sharing is really beneficial from solving problems perspective, it gets different dimension. More people would like to share and re-use knowledge.
While Web 2.0 makes it easy to share knowledge, ‘what can be shared’ purely depends on the nature of business. We have built two knowledge-sharing platforms inside our company – Seventh Sense and Aspireforge. The first one is used for sharing knowledge on the lessons learnt, case studies, training materials, etc. AspireForge is for reusable components.
Both platforms help our people in sharing knowledge. However, we do not allow our people to put customer specific materials in these platforms. This measure is to protect our customer IPs.

Q: What does Web 2.0 mean for SMBs? Is it an affordable technology?
SK: Absolutely. I would answer it in two ways:
It is affordable by SMBs. There is no major cost involved other than whatever they are currently spending. Two, there are lot of open source tools available to board onto Web 2.0 – wordpress, mediawiki, pbwiki, etc. Putting together a Web 2.0 platform is actually an easy one. It is an affordable technology.
The major requirement in putting this Web 2.0 platform is the ability to drive the cultural change. This goes all the way from handling customer complaints, listening to customer feedback and responding back quickly, etc.
Q: Do you anticipate a major shift in corporate culture by adopting Web 2.0?
SK: Yes. There will be a shift in corporate culture. Corporates tend to become more agile and faster in responding compared to classical ways of execution. Again, let us take an example of product development.
The entire world is moving towards shorter development life cycle, more involvement of customers, etc., That means, you start with a feature development, complete it in two weeks, and release it to the end users to get their feedback. This two-week development brings in a different approach and makes the teams more agile.