• September 20, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Cisco's Play For Smaller Wins

Cisco Systems is strengthening its push into smaller organizations with a family of integrated products that includes switching, routing, and IP-telephony solutions, in conjunction with services, support, and financing options. The variety of offerings, packaged under Cisco Business Communications Solution, is geared in particular toward the SMB space and the midmarket. For SMB customers with 20 to 250 employees, the company is rolling out Cisco CallManager Express 3.3, offering embedded conferencing for 20 users to 96 users, and Cisco Unity Express 2.2, which features new Auto Attendant integration with basic ACD functionality and support for five new languages, including Brazilian-Portuguese, Danish, Italian, and Latin-American Spanish. Both are available immediately and are free upgrades to customers with Cisco SMARTnet support contracts. Two new phones are joining Cisco's IP portfolio later this month, the 7941G and the 7961G, both of which offer higher resolution displays for XML applications. Cisco is also delivering Cisco Communications Connector v2.1 for converged Microsoft CRM, which features integration with IPCC Express, Cisco's contact center solution. To ease configuration, deployment, and management, Cisco is introducing Catalyst Express 500 Series switches, along with a companion product, Cisco Network Assistant 3.0. On the channel partner side, Cisco is unveiling a set of tools and programs including the Cisco IP Communications Express Quick Configuration Tool, which is available now. As part of its midmarket offering, designed for organizations with 250 to 1,500 employees, the company is launching Cisco MeetingPlace Express, available in December 2005, a voice and Web-conferencing tool that can be extended to Cisco IP phones, allowing users to initiate, join, and manage meetings. Another solution, Cisco Mobile Connect, available in October 2005, is a new product available for CallManager users that passes calls between devices, providing single number reach functionality. This capability, says Julie O'Brien, senior manager of product and technology marketing for Cisco IP Communications, allows the customer to have a single number to access an employee wherever he or she may be, delivering a transparent experience. "The Mobile Connect solution is great for teleworkers or a really mobile sales force to make them look and feel like a seamless piece of the organization." Another midmarket offering is Cisco Unity Connection v1.1, a Web browser-based voice-messaging system with integrated messaging, speech recognition, and call routing rules, available in October 2005. The company also is unveiling its new video phone, Cisco IP Phone 7985G, and announced the availability of the Cisco Catalyst 2960 Switch Series. From an ease of configuration standpoint the company is delivering three new provisioning and managing tools, CiscoWorks IP Communications Operations Manager 1.0, CiscoWorks IP Communications Service Monitor 1.0, and Cisco Voice Provisioning Tool, available later this month. IPCC Express 4.0, originally announced in June, allows for scalability of up to 300 agents. According to O'Brien, however, one of the most notable functionality enhancements for contact centers is the Microsoft CRM capability. "Before, Cisco CRM Communications Connector could only be used with either CallManager Express or CallManager in conjunction with CRM from Microsoft, so what we've added is now the ability to also integrate with Cisco IPCC," she says. "Now you've got this nice integration that starts to deliver those intelligent screen pops, the click to dial type of functionality, and having more information available at the fingertips of the contact center agent so that they can make more informed decisions." Cisco Business Communications Solution is not the company's first push into these spaces. "They know, and they've known for quite some time, that they've been strong in terms of routers and switches, but need to strengthen their position in terms of security, mobility, [and] convergence--and solutions in general--for this marketplace," says Mika Krammer, SMB research vice president at Gartner. "They've done a few partner enablement-type activities...to try to strengthen their position in SMB, but they realize that they need some relevant technologies to sell into this space, so this is their push to do so." Related articles: Cisco Targets CRM Integration
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