News Release

Cisco Small & Medium Business Partners Continue to Accelerate

Cisco announces huge growth in partner numbers and 5,000 days of free instructor led training for SMB focussed partners
Nov 23, 2006

MILAN, Italy, November 23, 2006 - Cisco® demonstrated the continued success of its SMB Select Partner program today by announcing at the Cisco European Channel and SMB Press Forum in Milan that it had doubled its number of partners in Europe to more than 2,300 members this year. Cisco also announced two new initiatives, the Unified Communications Accelerator Program and SMB University, which will deliver 5,000 days of free instructor-led training to Cisco partners. The improved program has been introduced to address the increasing need for skilled partners specialising in providing security, wireless and especially voice solutions to small and medium-sized businesses.

Launched in 2004, the Cisco SMB Select Partner program offers incentives and resources specifically geared to support partners who provide a valuable service to organisations of between 20 and 249 employees. SMB University is being launched across all of Europe to provide free instructor-led training, and the Unified Communications Accelerator Program has been developed to address a growing demand for Unified Communications technologies.

"The lack of skilled staff for partners and even at their customers is a major issue today, and Cisco has gone a long way in helping its SMB Select Partners train their staffs in addressing technologies such as wireless, security and Unified Communications," says Keith Humphries, managing consultant for EuroLan. "SMB customers look for solutions and not products, and Cisco's SMB Select Partner program allows partners to become skilled in selling more solutions, becoming their trusted advisor and relieving them of their pain points."

SMB University has been running in Latin America for the past eight months, developing a breadth of skills among SMB-focussed partners. As a result of its success, the expert training is rolling out across 21 countries in Europe. Primarily an instructor-led initiative with updates and refresher training provided online, it offers daylong courses with both foundation and technology-focussed sessions on security, wireless and Unified Communications. All training is free of charge to SMB Select Partners. Cisco's SMB University also help partners by providing training in the general sales skills needed to sell technology to SMBs.

As small and medium-sized businesses continue to demand integrated voice and data networks, which enable the deployment of smart, simple and highly secure solutions that help improve customer responsiveness, the Unified Communications Accelerator Program will provide comprehensive free training focussed on voice. The program offers SMB Select Partners four days of instructor-led training focussed exclusively on Unified Communications technologies. Two days of the program focus on training in sales, and the remaining two provide hands-on technical training.

Cisco also announced details of its first global SMB Select Partner survey. More than 1,200 European partners participated in the research that highlights the considerable value of Cisco's SMB-focussed partner program. Eighty nine per cent of the European respondents stated that the SMB Select Partner Program was either important or very important to them. The research also highlighted that Cisco's partners believe that quality support services and a strong knowledge of a customer's business are the two main factors in ensuring customer loyalty among small businesses.

"The adoption of the SMB Select Partner program by our partners has been incredible, and it continues to flourish. This is an increasing part of our business and we need to ensure that our customers can easily address their technology needs. As we see demand for wireless, security and especially voice solutions flourish, our aim is to ensure that the SMB Select Partner program continues to evolve alongside this growing trend," said Andreas Dohmen, vice president of European Channels, Cisco.

The Unified Communications Accelerator Program is available now in UK and the Netherlands and will be introduced across the rest of Europe in the coming six months. SMB University will start providing training to partners this December.