It’s a Small World
Well, it’s about time—I’m taking my first leap into the blogosphere.
It took a good-natured push from my new colleagues at Hurwitz & Associates, who helped overcome my concern that the last thing the world needs is another blog and reassured me that I’ll add something useful to this big bowl of talk soup.
Let me start with a quick introduction. I’ve been in the IT industry for over 20 year, both at analyst firms (past firms are Summit Strategies and AMI-Partners) and now at my new position as Partner at Hurwitz & Associates (www.hurwitz.com). I’ve also worked in different marketing and channel roles on the IT vendor side.
As an analyst, I’ve always found the small and medium business (SMB) market the most interesting. It also tends to be the most challenging for IT vendors fully grasp and succeed in. I’m frequently approached by vendors that look at the sheer size of SMB space and see dollar signs, but just don’t comprehend how complicated it really is. I also talk to vendors that offer great technology and interesting solutions, but fail to make a clear-cut case for how their solutions help smaller businesses tackle real world challenges. As a result, most IT vendors have just begun to scratch the surface of the SMB market opportunity.
The good news is that over the past couple of years, more vendors have come to realize that they can’t just force-feed watered down enterprise solutions to SMB customers; they must build solutions for SMBs from the ground up. The bad news is that many still don’t understand the diversity and nuances in this market, and fall short when it comes to targeting the right groups with the right messages and solutions. SMBs do not have the resources or time to sift through jargon or opaque information; vendors must get to the point quickly and clearly just to get in the game, and deliver pragmatic, compelling solutions to stay in.
If this weren’t challenging enough, the current economic downturn adds some new twists and turns. Of course, many SMBs will hunker down, targeting IT for deep cost cuts as they try to ride out the recession. However, others will calculate that technology investments will yield better business returns than physical investments. This group wants to find ways to automate labor-intensive processes, cut costs, generate new business, and boost customer satisfaction and repeat business. Many newly minted entrepreneurs will be in this category. Whether fresh from corporate layoffs, or fresh from campus, these startups will look for solutions that help them create a bigger, more professional company persona right out the gate.
In this blog, I’m going to discuss the key trends, characteristics, requirements and nuances and other factors that vendors need to put top of mind in an SMB market quest. I’ll explain what works and what doesn’t and why; and examine vendors that are hitting the mark in SMB, and those that are missing it.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS), Web 2.0 and social networking, collaboration and managed services are sweet spots for me, and I will also start looking at green IT initiatives that relate to SMBs. I’m sure I’ll roam into other areas as well. Whatever the area, I try to take a common sense approach and connect the dots: how well do the message and the offering match up with the expectations and realities of the market?
This blog will be much richer as a discussion than a monologue, so let me know what you think is important. If you’re a vendor, what are your most pressing concerns as you plan, enter or build your presence in the SMB market? If you’re a small or medium business customer, let me know your views about IT and your business, and how you think IT vendors are doing in delivering on their promises. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and keeping a pulse on the always vibrant SMB market.