Cisco and John Chambers: In Search of a Solution: Page 2

Posted December 13, 2007

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

(Page 2 of 2)

What is a Communication Solution?

One of the differences between a good and a bad salesperson is the ability to communicate with their potential buyer and fit their product into the real or imagined needs that the potential buyer has. To do this they have to communicate at a deep level because, if they guess wrong, the buyer won’t see the purchase as valuable to them and the sale will be lost.

Large vendors, particularly at events like this, position themselves as solutions providers but spend little or no time trying to understand what the audience’s needs might be. Here Cisco had a room full of analysts and reporters who, for a living, are paid to communicate and should have a tremendous affinity to the tools Cisco has to offer. But Cisco didn’t think of them as customers, only attendees, and lost a huge opportunity.

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In addition, people don’t communicate with machines, networks, or software, they communicate with each other and often rather poorly. You would think part of a “solution” from Cisco would be to improve the accuracy of the communication and not just the speed of the data or the sharpness of the picture (both contribute to accuracy but unless positioned properly aren’t seen as addressing that specific problem).

Staying off planes is important but that doesn’t speak to communications accuracy and implies the firm is in the transportation business. Yet that was the only memorable proof point provided for Cisco’s video conferencing solution.

The Importance Of A True Solution: the iPod Lesson

I’ll stop picking on Cisco now because they actually did a much better job than most at their event. But I think we all need to step back for a moment and look at both our companies and our vendors to ask whether we, or they, really understand what a solution is.

With the iPod, Apple stepped outside the view that an MP3 player was just hardware for music and thought through a solution designed for folks who wanted to listen to music. The end result was a mix of software, hardware, and on-line services which, in its time, went so far beyond anything else in the market that Apple both dramatically expanded that market and emerged as dominant in it.

That’s what a solution truly looks like. And the measurement is the market reaction which can, when done right, be incredibly powerful. Few, even Apple with other products like the iPhone, think through what a complete solution is and instead focus only on the part they provide, believing it to be complete.

We truly need solutions providers, and one that could truly provide a complete communications solution would probably be the most valuable of all. I left the Cisco event still wondering who that will likely be.

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