Opinion

Tech firms targeting SMEs need to be sensitive to their needs

6 min read

29 July 2013

The SME technology market brings a lot of potential, but firms must be mindful of their customer.

The UK’s technology market has hit an all-time high, reaching a net worth of £81bn. However, despite this market swell, technology vendors are feeling the pinch of competition. Innovation is moving at lightning speed, traditional purchasing methods are changing – and new entrants to the market are fighting traditional and established vendors for market share.

With the Government recently reporting that “today’s small businesses are tomorrow’s big businesses,” and with smaller organisations ring-fencing funds to invest in technology which can support this growth ambition, the SME space is an obvious hunting ground for tech vendors. Gartner recently confirmed that the international SME market spent £508bn on IT last year and spending is set to increase further this year.

But not every firm targeting SMEs will succeed. Technology will need to meet the specific needs of this market, and SMEs will have to think strategically about how and why a purchase is made. Their budgets are tight, and products will have to work hard from them – delivering real business benefits, and quick ROI.

Software and services will reign but hardware will remain

The need to regulate IT costs is fuelling the adoption of services like cloud computing, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and online business applications. Small and mid-sized businesses are also embracing ‘bring your own device’ policies, which empower employees to use their own laptops and phones for business use – saving money, while allowing employees to use the equipment they prefer.

On the surface, it seems that cloud and BYOD policies are overtaking the purchasing of traditional hardware and software, but at Lenovo we believe there will always be a need to invest in physical computing products that can support and grow with a business. Even cloud adoption requires adequate physical support – in the form of infrastructure and computers.

Technology needs to become hybrid serve SME needs

Therefore, technology vendors should be offering ‘hybrid’ products that can meet a range of needs and serve a variety of business goals – while saving money and minimising the need to invest in multiple products that do a similar job.

‘Hybrid’ refers to devices – laptops, tablets and PC – which can address multiple needs, and which mirror the agile nature of SMEs.

When it comes to BYOD, hybrid devices can improve work efficiency of employees who seek to work in a flexible way. For instance, a company director, by nature, rarely stays in one place for long, but needs to keep control of the business at all times – accessing files remotely and creating and sharing sensitive and confidential documents while on the move.

So a hybrid laptop, that securely allows remote access to company files, while being flexible and portable, is vital. If that laptop can turn into a tablet, which can be used as a personal device, to watch movies and surf the web after work, then so much the better.

Hybrid products can also help companies address the pressures of BYOD – switching from PC to tablet work modes easily mitigates the need for employees to carry multiple devices. Light enough to move from one place to another with ease, but also robust enough to carry out the most complex of tasks, our own hybrid products serve a variety of needs and are proving popular amongst SME decision makers and employees alike.

Be mindful of the purchasing decision maker

IT expenditure is becoming a strategic business decision for SMEs, with company directors taking ownership of decision making, instead of the traditional IT manager. With IDC predicting that 90 per cent of all IT purchases will be aligned to a company’s wider business priorities by 2015, the technology industry needs to realign how they can meet business leadership objectives.

The key to success is selling hybrid products that mirror the flexible nature of these companies and their workforce, from top to bottom.

The success of the UK technology industry is reliant on the effective adoption of solutions and services across the whole of the SME base. Additionally, as SMEs attempt to compete with the large IT budgets of their enterprise counterparts, it is vital that they are equipped with cost-effective and robust solutions that fit the most flexible of workforces.

Where cloud and BYOD has the ability to transform business processes and improve efficiency, traditional hardware can provide a stable backbone, delivering a sense of reliability and robustness.

To remain competitive hardware technology vendors need to listen to market demands and react with hybrid solutions.

Darren Phelps is Director for SMB and Channel of Lenovo UK.