Because of their size, small-to-medium-sized businesses have different IT requirements and face different IT challenge than larger enterprises. Yet despite their differences, they represent a large and growing market for IT services.
SMBs understand that technology is critical to their business success, but most have minimal dedicated IT staff and often turn to service providers and custom software engineers who understand their challenges and specific industry needs.
A recent IDC survey which was referenced in TechTarget showed that a majority of SMBs that have implemented digital applications said they have met or exceeded expectations in a number of areas, such as better access to information, improved worker productivity; increased sales or decreased costs; and increased competitive advantage or market share. However, the survey also suggested that overall, SMBs are just getting started with digital business transformation projects.
Given their differences from larger enterprises, we’re often asked if SMBs have different software needs, and the answer really is no. All companies require the same basic capabilities – whether its word processing, spreadsheet development, or database creation and analytics. The real difference amounts to scale – the larger the enterprise, the more advanced features and scalability are required.
Custom or Off-the-Shelf?
Another question we are often asked is if SMBs should go the custom software or off-the-shelf route. As with any company, what is the best route is whatever helps you achieve your goals as quickly and efficiently as possible. There are certainly many advantages to custom solutions in terms of differentiation within a competitive marketplace, less vendor lock-in and a solution that better meets your unique needs. Yet, many times, a best-of-breed solution is just enough to meet your needs and it sometime could be impossible to build a better solution.
It’s clear that there are many options when it comes to addressing application needs among SMBs, but what are some of the key things they should consider before beginning any IT transformation project?
Scalability: Any solution an SMB implements must be able to adapt and grow to meet their changing requirements. And one of the easiest routes to scalability is through cloud-based solutions, which allow them to scale up or down depending on needs, such as the addition of staff or new customers, which demand more computing resources. Another reason could be seasonal demand for greater computing power, such as what could be experienced by e-commerce businesses.
In-House or Outsourced: As mentioned, many SMBs have few dedicated IT resources and find that partnering with software engineering services firms helps them leave their IT development and management to the experts, so they can focus on their core business. When considering a software services partner, consider their proximity, costs, expertise in new technologies and their understanding of your core business.
Smart Technologies: Many SMBs may think they are too small to focus on cutting-edge technologies like machine learning tools or chatbots, but they’re actually a prime market for these smart apps. Many times staff resources are limited, and automated chatbots, for example, give them a great way to engage with customers or answer customer questions without requiring added resources. It also enables them to provide 24/7 customer support. Further, machine learning solutions are becoming easier and less costly to implement thanks to new cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Azure or AWS.
Cost-of Ownership: When purchasing a specific business application, SMBs need to understand that it isn’t just the initial cost they should consider (which can have recurring licensing fees for many years), but also the cost of maintenance, upgrades, and IT support. Cloud-based solutions have no upfront cost but usually lower monthly subscription fee than on-premise solutions.
Things like cloud-based solutions and machine learning applications are opening up endless possibilities for SMBs to leverage technology to stand out and succeed in their marketplace. It’s a question of tapping the right experts and solutions to send them on their path to digital transformation.