SMBs Take the Tech Route (The Week Series VII)
Pramodh Menon, Managing Director, Partner Business Group, Cisco India & SAARC
Small and medium businesses (SMBs) play a crucial role in India's burgeoning economy, contributing a third of the country's overall GDP. Revenues from this sector are expected to touch $15 billion by 2015 (Zinnov). Technology and the mobile revolution are expected to quicken the growth in the SMB sector in the coming years. However SMBs face two key challenges when it comes to technology adoption and management: Access to capital and the lack of in-house IT expertise. Therefore, they want 'easy to use' products and solutions available at attractive price points, which will help manage the business, compete effectively and grow the bottom line.
SMBs have unique needs that are different from enterprise customers and these are not uniform across the sector. Within the SMB segment, the needs of businesses are different depending on geography or nature of business. For example, a small company in a remote area is likely to face problems of power cuts and bad network connectivity, which may not be a challenge for city-based organisations that have their own set of issues. Given the above, individualized suites of services and products are required to enable SMBs realize the full potential of their investments.
In addition, SMBs require 24x7 IT support, real time monitoring and instant trouble-shooting to help overcome any likely challenges during the course of business operations. Managed services solutions that proactively monitor and trouble shoot problematic areas in the network and take care of potential issues even before they arise are most preferred.
Despite the above mentioned challenges, Indian SMBs are pro-actively adopting technology, and the past few years have seen SMBs move into:
Data Consolidation and Management: Businesses are recognizing the need to move away from older, legacy architectures to newer solutions which offer more tactical and comprehensive tools that are better aligned with their business needs.
Virtualization: As a technology that allows customers to maximise the installed computer capacity in a location without the use of additional physical machines, virtualization enables SMBs lower their capital cost outlay while at the same time, increasing the efficiency of the machines.
Unified Communications: SMBs are increasingly looking to get off traditional telephony systems to transition into true collaboration services leveraging pervasive presence of mobile clients and the immersive experience afforded by integrated video. This is especially useful for SMBs with branches spread across multiple locations and employees who log in remotely and who are connected to global supply chains to support their customers
Cloud Computing: Cloud computing allows SMBs to outsource their technology requirements to a third party provider so that they can focus on running their core business. For example, consider a small business provider that procures a new order and needs to significantly up the available storage capacity. A cloud storage provider can lease storage space, giving the flexibility to either lower or increase capacity as and when required, without any significant capital outlay.
As SMBs evolve to adopt technology solutions in the areas of storage, datacenters, servers & routers, security becomes a concern. Comprehensive security solutions are required to protect the business against interruption, be they network downtimes, virus outbreak or application abuse. The solutions need to be cost effective and easy to use/manage.
Clearly technology enables SMBs to grow and compete at a global level. SMBs are increasingly becoming aware that they need to map their requirements carefully so that technology solutions are aligned to business goals and aggressively adopt technologies that help achieve profitability. This is because the future holds promise for those SMBs who can connect IT investments to improved business performance.