Open Source And Other Tech Solutions For Small Businesses
SMBs must stay agile and creative to take advantage of the latest technologies and avoid IT failures.
As far as I'm aware, there's no universal definition of what constitutes a small and midsize business, but a good rule is businesses that have less than 1,000 employees or revenue of less than $500 million fall into the category. Mind you, that's a far cry from even the smallest of the U.S. Fortune 500 companies, which has revenue well over $4 billion.
SMBs are different from large companies in many ways, but here's one way to look at them: Small and midsize businesses don't just have smaller IT budgets, they're also less able to afford major IT projects failures. Whereas a large company can--and, regrettably, often does--shrug off millions of dollars in failed IT initiatives, a small one can stagger, and possibly even go under, if a critical IT project goes awry.
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That's not to say that smaller businesses are lagging in the application of technology. Quite the contrary: SMBs are quite innovative in using technology to accomplish their goals. In a recent study on the SMB software market--Demand Insights: The SMB Software Market 2011--Forrester Research analyst and lead author Tim Harmon notes three reasons for this:
>> The "millennialization" of SMBs: IT workers belong to the younger generation that's savvy in the use of (especially newer) technology;
>> The "enterprization" of SMBs: Seasoned managers and information workers have learned lessons elsewhere over the years and bring much-needed maturity;
>> The availability of inexpensive but high-performance hardware and new delivery models for software, including open source and software as a service.
[ For more on what small businesses can expect this year, see 4 Tech Trends For SMBs In 2012. ]
Smaller business are focusing their limited IT budgets on improving content management, applying business intelligence and better (and cheaper) communication and conferencing, Harmon and his colleagues find. All of this essentially converges into a laser-like focus on customer intelligence, including customer experience, analytics, and communications.
Forrester has uncovered what the Small Business Administration also happens to be advocating: a focus on e-commerce, which the SBA calls "a significant business leveler" (a now-trite phrase that came into being years ago, but holds no less true today).
As we embark on a very eventful 2012 (and I'm not talking U.S. Presidential elections), there's no doubt that the technology options available to SMBs are unprecedented in their depth and breadth.