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Fresh Thinking on IT Operations for 100,000 Industry Executives
Why do many small businesses spend more money on coffee and tea than on their information technology systems?  Working with Dell Computers, I recently moderated an expert Think Tank in Amsterdam covering how small and medium businesses invest in technology for growth. This was an incredibly insightful discussion from owners and managers in all types of small businesses and the challenges that they face.
The panel divided into two segments, on one side those that built their business on technology and a deep understanding of the strategic value of IT, the ways to leverage automation and an understanding of how to buy and operate these systems was a key differentiating advantage for them. On the other side of the discussion were a number of amazingly successful businesses who only used technology superficially within their business.
Undoubtably there are types of business where technology can have a disproportionate effect on the leverage of an SME. David Hatheramani of London based (but international focus) A Suit That Fits depends on technology to reach his clients, to leverage low cost manufacturing in Nepal and to help automate fitting. He is a CEO who understands technology and knows how to create leverage above and beyond his company size. A Suit That Fits now makes more suits than all of the tailors in Saville Row, London put together.  Stéphanie Cardot CEO of TO DO TODAY, a Paris based corporate concierge service is also growing her business at a quite incredible rate but with limited technology leverage. Plainly TO DO TODAY is a great business and Stéphanie recognises that leveraging technology is key to continued growth and increased reach as she is searching for a key new hire, a director of digital marketing.
My key takeaway from the Think Tank is that many small businesses are hamstrung by a lack of understanding of how to leverage IT and how to vision a new way of working that encompasses appropriate use of technology. Many small business owners see all of the technology marketing from vendors but fundamentally fail to understand how to apply these innovations to their business to drive value and leverage. Technology companies and technology consultants are too focussed on products and not focussed enough on solutions. Recent research shows that small and medium businesses are adopting Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions very rapidly. Perhaps this is happening as these have a defined outcome, tend to be business aligned and don’t require lots of scarce technology skills to integrate and exploit.
Small and medium businesses desperately need help and guidance from trusted technology advisors who can bridge the digital divide and deliver business leverage. SMEs will continue to treat technology investments as a cost of doing business rather than a fundamental point of leverage that enables automation, customer interaction and sustainable growth unless this digital divide can be bridged. There is a huge opportunity for smart systems integrators, innovative vendors and a new way of working with SMEs to really accelerate the creation of jobs and value in our communities.

 

There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. Hi Steve, just a quick note to say thanks for a great reminder that achieving trusted advisory status and then working with your customers in that role with the intent of helping them succeed is the best (and possibly only in the long run) for integrators, computer experts and MSPs.  Nice post!

  2. ~wrong entry~

  3. As a former network engineer supporting over 550 small and medium sized businesses as MSP clients, I would continually see customers who couldn’t appreciate that they could leverage even their existing infrastructure to save money – IT was only an unwelcome, if necessary business expense to them. It was frustrating to see companies spend thousands of dollars on unnegotiated copier and paper service contracts and not appreciate how they could implement no-cost workflow and paperless office practices to save money, which they could leverage to make substantive improvements to the reliability and efficiency of their IT infrastructure.

    When a customer would say “My business is selling windows and doors, not messing around with computers – I just need my system to keep working!” it is very difficult to open the door to the conversation that could show the customer that a change in how they leverage their systems with new invoicing software that supports email invoicing, or a CRM application could organize the sales funnel and shorten their sales cycle.

    My takeaway from those interactions, and this great article, is one and the same – the most challenging hurdle to overcome is guiding clients towards a shift in perspective, where they can see IT as an opportunity to reduce costs and improve productivity, not just as an unwelcome burden.

    By the way, I’m out of K-Cups – can I borrow one? ;)

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