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Staples Targets SMBs With IT Services

Vying to be a one-stop shop for business IT, Staples seeks to grab the SMB market with "high-touch" services that can extend in-house IT efforts or provide full-service IT outsourcing.

Vying to be a one-stop shop for business IT, Staples seeks to grab the SMB market with "high-touch" services that can extend in-house IT efforts or provide full-service IT outsourcing.The world's largest office products retailer is betting heavily on the IT services with the launch of Staples Technology Solutions. The new offering provides technology products and services, including:

  • Certified technology experts to advise customers on product and service selection
  • On-site and remote server and desktop support for Mac, Microsoft, and Linux platforms
  • Cisco, Citrix, and Linux-certified engineers
  • Printing solutions and printer fleet management
  • Data center assessment and solutions, including media equipment, supplies, and sub-floor cleaning
  • Vendor relationships that enable access to brands such as HP, IBM, and Sun

Staples Technology Solutions is part of the company's business-to-business division, Staples Advantage, and is built largely on two key VAR acquisitions. In 2006, the company bought IT outsourcing and managed services provider Thrive Networks and in 2008, it acquired Corporate Express including the Imaging and Computer Graphics Supplies business.

While discussing the announcement, Jim Lippie, vice president of Staples Network Services, said, "Staples isn't just the world largest supplier of office products, we also have robust technology services offerings for all segments."

"All segments" refers to a target market that extends from SMBs up to the Fortune 1000. That's a wide net, but Lippie made clear that smaller businesses (specifically in the 10-250 segment) are core to the Staples Technology Solutions' objectives, mentioning - more than once - the importance of understanding the "psychology of small business."

Lippie's background as president of Thrive Networks prior to the Staples acquisition may serve him well in understanding the so-called SMB psyche. Under his leadership, Thrive was a 60ish-employee managed services provider with approximately 250 clients in the Boston area. That local and regional clientele familiarized him with the high-touch, relationship intensive needs of smaller companies.

"Traditionally this market has been dominated by local and regional players," said Lippie. "We want to bring to bear and organization that gives SMBs the resources of Fortune 1000 corporations, but also services the SMB psychology of high touch. When customers call us they don't reach a national call center, they reach a team of engineers dedicated to their account."

Lippie noted that the primary competitor vying for the estimated 94 million potential seats in the SMB IT services market are MindSHIFT and AllCovered. Solid players, but hardly national brands. According to Lippie, Staples is now the SMB market leader with 5,000 seats under management.

Backing up the the relationships, rapport, and intimate customer experience Lippie believes crucial to SMBs, Staples strategy is be a one-stop IT shop that can function as an extension to in-house IT departments or literally run a businesses' entire IT infrastructure.

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