Given that Cisco's acquisition of BroadSoft completed only a little over a year ago, it is early days for Webex Calling; however, the vendor faces the potential to alienate its existing Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) partners in the highly competitive midmarket segment. Unfortunately, Cisco currently falls short of its burgeoning cloud-based competitors.
Cisco's BroadSoft-powered UCaaS offering
In a recent Cisco blog (see Further Reading), Cisco highlights "strong market momentum with major unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) enterprise wins." Despite omitting details of its UCaaS customers, it does highlight that its multitenant cloud-based private branch exchange (PBX) offering (launched in March, 2019) is currently available in 55 countries through 99 channel partners, actively selling Cisco's cloud-based phone system optimized for midsize businesses.
Many midmarket customers wish to procure their communications services as a single, consolidated suite, and Cisco faces many competitors in this segment with services from 8x8, RingCentral, Zoom, and of course, Microsoft. Consequently, it is disappointing to find Cisco selling its Webex Calling service without native PSTN calling (instead relying on partners to fulfil that capability), particularly as Cisco's Tropo acquisition could have provided customers with phone numbers and SIP calling around the world. Indeed, Cisco may be including partners to avoid upsetting those service providers who want to offer their own PSTN dialing, or those that have deployed Cisco HCS.
Customers are also faced with an overly complex Flex Plan subscription model (when compared to Cisco's competitors), and while Flex Plan supports a mix of on-premises and cloud system deployments (and further access to meetings, team collaboration, and customer care capabilities), it seems best suited for existing customers rather than providing an alternative to competitors such as RingCentral. To attract more attention from midmarket organizations, Cisco should simplify its subscription model, add its own SIP trunking service, and sell direct as it currently does with its Webex Meeting plans.
"Arrested development: Revisions to new services open opportunities for UCaaS leaders," ENS001-000012 (January 2018)
"Webex Calling – Strong Market Momentum with Major UCaaS Enterprise Wins,'' https://blogs.cisco.com/collaboration/the-path-to-offering-customers-the-most-complete-next-gen-collaboration-solution
Tim Banting, Principal Analyst, Workspace Services