The recent marketing push to integrate both small and medium sized businesses by large IT hardware and software vendors makes strategic sense. Both business groups are plagued with similar issues including small IT budgets and limited technical resources. Frequently SMBs target their IT acquisitions either in the hope of lowering costs or solving problems. These ad hoc solutions are often strained to capacity as companies increase in sales and in size and the marketplace places larger expectations on the organization and in turn that is reflected upon the IT departments infrastucture. In the SMB IT marketplace IT managers often times wear many hats they are usually involved in Strategic Planning, Acquisition and Decommissioning of both hardware and software, troubleshooting existing applications, running the standard company applications which can be everything that an operation needs to serve their customers and run thoperation. There's no question that the job of an IT professional in a small firm is a world apart from that of his colleague in a big corporation. But small business IT can be just as rewarding, if not more so, since you're likely to have more responsibility and the opportunity to handle a wide range of tasks.
Types of Challenges In the SMB Business
• Short Time to Market Product and serve customers
• Reorganizations, Globalization Price Cutting
• Attracting and Retaining Personnel
• Budget Limitations
Types of SMB IT Department Challenges
Lack of a Stable Environment
• Network Security
• Data Storage
• System Architecture Obsolescent
• Database Management
• Budget Constraints
• Limited Technical Resources
• Limited Strategic IT Planning
• Limited Understanding IT Applications
To counter some of the challenges at the SMB level IT managers have seen that both hardware and software vendors have made an aggressive attempt to enter SMB marketplace. Below are some of the concerns that IT Managers in the SMB marketplace are experiencing.
IT Vendors Embracing SMB Marketplace
Recently IBM introduced an entire product group specifically designed for the SMB world and marketed it under the banner Express. Another vendor Symantec in attempt to address the IT security issues plagued by SMB introduced a division to just develop products for the SMB marketplace. Whether it is due to rumors of an impending economic slowdown or a general saturation of the IT marketplace, many of the traditional ERP software vendors like SAP and Oracle are increasing their service offerings to include the SMB marketplace. As software vendors realize the SMB marketplace is reluctant to embrace the cost of integration , they have designed their service offerings with this in mind. Oracle’s E-Business Suite (SENA) contains many of the same business applications that it’s higher-end ERP suite offers .Those applications were pre-configured across Oracle Financials, Oracle Inventory, Oracle Discrete Manufacturing, Oracle Order Management, Oracle Purchasing, Oracle Field Sales and Oracle Daily Business Intelligence applications. Recently I attended a demonstration of Fujitsu Glovia ERP system which was developed for high volume manufacturing operations such as Avery Dennison, Xerox in order to allow SMB users flexibility and limit integration costs. Does the rare thing of providing the Vendor Source Code to the customer. One of the issues to examine when deploying Enterprise Wide Software is scalability of the software and what may be a cost effective solution at the outset may become costly to support and maintain if it is not scalable
SMB IT Options
Many IT departments in the SMB marketplace have looked to hosted or outsourced solutions as a way to acquire resources and technical expertise that they otherwise would be unable to afford. In a recent survey Gartner Group estimated 90% of new businesses created were in the SMB category .In the same survey it was noted that there is a small but growing number of SMB venturing into outsourcing as a way of supporting their IT department. Although the current method to deploy software is still to use in-house resources in the SMB marketplace There are many factors which govern why a SMB would choose to support an outsourcing model
1. The fear of losing critical support should an in-house SME become unavailable
2. TCO (Total Cost of Ownership ) Model determines it is cost effective to outsource IT applications
3. Technical Support and Subject Expertise
4. Ability to expense this as opposed to finance as capital purchase.
The SMB IT manager and Business Owners and Management have now a wide variety of choices on how they wish to manage their IT infrastructure Outsourcing may be an option or not but in closing it is always to consider your IT department alongside of your business growth and acquisition strategy.