Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

June 10, 2012

NetSuite SuiteCommerce: Transforming Commerce Solutions and User Experience

 Last week I had the opportunity to attend NetSuite

SuiteWorld 2102 in San Francisco. One of the most notable announcements was the launch of NetSuite’s new SuiteCommerce Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform for B2B and B2C businesses.

The SuiteCommerce offering is designed for e-tailers, retailers and other companies that sell online and provides these businesses with multi-channel platform which is integrated with NetSuite’s core ERP system. This gives companies a unified front-end to manage their various digital sites and brick-and-mortar stores, connected to their ERP to provide a single system of record for history of customers across channels. According to NetSuite, SuiteCommerce will help businesses to:

  • More easily customize web page content and integrate information into back-end financial systems
  • Tailor eCommerce solutions to the requirements of mobile, machine-to-machine (M2M) and social networking platforms
  • Enhanced social networking solutions through integrations that augment the platform with social functionality such as social ratings, reviews, personalized product recommendations and conversations

NetSuite will offer two SuiteCommerce options:

  • The Mid-market version targets businesses with smaller product catalog of products and services. The Mid-market suite starts at $1,999 per month and is available now.
  • The Enterprise version is aimed at larger companies and is designed to handle a more extensive product catalog of products and services. The Enterprise version at $3,999 per month and will be available in August 2012.

The vendor also announced a roster of SuiteCommerce partners, including Square, Stripe, Acquia, Bazaarvoice, MyBuys, Velaro and Shotfarm that have developed apps that integrate with the platform. In addition, it announced partnerships with the creative agencies that can help companies design their sites to optimize SuiteCommerce capabilities. These partners, agencies and VARs can extend the SuiteCommerce platform using NetSuite’s SuiteCloud development platforms and SuiteApps.

Perspective

The timing of this announcement couldn’t be better.

Technology trends are converging to create a perfect storm in the world of commerce—one that empowers customers and raises the bar for companies to meet new, more demanding customer expectations. Social media empowers customers with information from friends and other unfiltered sources. Mobile devices are
facilitating this trend, making it possible to research and shop for products and services anytime and anywhere. Cloud computing and ecommerce are blurring the boundaries between brick-and-mortar and online commerce stores, creating an imperative for merchants to provide consistency and visibility across channels.

This has created an environment where customers expect more from businesses throughout the commerce cycle. They want anywhere, anytime, any-device access to multiple sources for information gathering, product and service evaluation, selection, purchasing and customer service. As a result, merchants need to anticipate what the customer wants, automate and personalize customer interactions, and enable the customer to do business where, when and how he or she wants.

NetSuite’s introduction of SuiteCommerce is designed to help businesses meet these elevated customer expectations. NetSuite has had an integrated eCommerce offering for years, an almost 2,800 of its customers run their web sites and storefronts on NetSuite. However, SuiteCommerce is intended to go beyond the commerce experience to integrate social, mobile and other customer touch points.

As NetSuite’s CEO Zach Nelson noted in his remarks at the event, “Over the past decade, NetSuite has transformed how our customers operate their businesses internally. Over the next decade, NetSuite will transform how businesses operate with other businesses and with their customers through NetSuite Commerce as a Service.”

In addition, SuiteCommerce strengthens NetSuite’s “one system of record” integrated suite story, which is a good one in the mid-market. SMB Group’s research finds that “integrating different applications” is a significant challenge (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Top Technology Challenges in Medium Businesses


Source: SMB Group 2011 SMB Routes to Market Study

The SuiteCommerce offering also aligns with the direction NetSuite announced at last year’s SuiteWorld event, when it unveiled plans to move up from its SMB lineage (that harkens back to its NetLedger days) to pursue the upper end of midsize business, a two-tier strategy in the large enterprise space, and select industry markets.

SMBs increasingly see that customer-facing mobile applications can help them grow revenue, attract and retain customers, and keep up with the competition. SMBs are using both mobile-friendly web sites and mobile apps to offer functionality to foster this interaction, as shown on Figure 2. Regardless of whether SMBs are employing a mobile-friendly web site, mobile apps, or both, what are the top capabilities that they are providing to external audiences? And what do they plan to add in the next 12 months?

Figure 2 Business Functions Available/Planned Via a Mobile-Friendly Web Site/Mobile App.


Source: SMB Group,
2012 Small and Medium Mobile Business Solutions Study

Mid-market businesses are increasingly enabling mobile apps to access line-of-business functions to conduct business with customers, prospects, partners and suppliers. Mobile support in SuiteCommerce will enable significant new revenue opportunities for NetSuite SuiteCommerce VARs and service providers.

Quick Take

The large number of customers and partners in attendance at SuiteWorld 2012 seemed excited about SuiteCommerce and NetSuite’s direction to help transform from the core internally-focused business application into an integrated, commerce-aware business platform. I talked to several NetSuite VARs at the event, most of them were very excited about the comprehensive easy-to-use solution multi-channel commerce solution.

NetSuite’s ability to get both developer and creative partners for the SuiteCommerce launch bodes well, as these are the applications and services that will bridge the last mile for many customers.

SuiteCommerce currently offers good mobile capabilities to mid-market businesses. However, SMBs increasingly see that customer-facing mobile applications can help them grow revenue, attract and retain customers, and keep up with the competition. NetSuite should look at developing some core mobile apps that integrate with SuiteSommerce, these apps can me customized by the VARs and offered to mid-market business providing significant competitive advantage to the SuiteCommerce platform.

There has been a significant rise in demand for social networking capabilities in mid-market businesses. On the social side NetSuite has already enabled the platform for social networking. Several of the social solutions partners help complete the solution to provide a comprehensive social solution.

One question that remains unanswered, however (although asked by analyst Brian Sommer and explored in NetSuite SuiteWorld Part 1: The Big Points | ZDNet), is how NetSuite will help companies crunch through, manage and make sense the massive amounts of new, external and transactional data that they will be bringing in. While big data, HANA, Hadoop and in memory databases are still fuzzy concepts for many, major players (IBM, Oracle, SAP, etc.) will get better at articulating what it means–and their solutions. And as NetSuite turns further upmarket, the pressure will build for it to have a solid and well-crafted big data strategy.

April 2, 2012

IBM Smarter Commerce for Midsize Businesses – Future Trends

—by Laurie McCabe, SMB Group, in partnership with Brent Leary, CRM Essentials  

To help companies understand IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative, the SMB Group and CRM Essentials are working on a series of posts discussing how technology is empowering today’s customer, and why companies have to change their approach in order to build strong relationships with them. This is the final post in the series.

Empowered customers are reshaping business today. They want a consistent experience between all channels.

They compare notes and instantly share. And they can champion a brand or sully a reputation with the click of a mouse. In response to these trends, IBM Smarter Commerce helps companies manage and adapt their commerce processes, putting the customer at the center of their operations.

For this post, we had the opportunity to talk to Alisa Maclin, Vice President, IBM Smarter Commerce Marketing. We asked her about IBM’s views on some of the more nascent trends in this area that may not yet be on the radar for most midsize businesses–but have the potential to create significant shifts in how companies conduct commerce.

Q. While it may have been difficult to predict how radically social media or the rise of smartphones and tablets would affect commerce a few years ago, what are some of the technology trends likely to have a dramatic impact on commerce in the next 5 years or so?

A: We believe that the speed of technological innovation and consumer adoption will continue to accelerate for the next five years and beyond. This acceleration is driving entirely new business models that are changing the landscape between buyers and sellers. The traditional models of B2B and B2C will need to leverage technology to continue to improve efficiencies, while adapting to new models such as Social and Facebook Commerce. The empowered and connected consumer is driving the “consumerization” of business and the empowered citizen is increasingly digitally engaged and networked. For small and medium sized businesses, the opportunity to embrace technology and the connected consumer is now.

Q: Is there a difference in what B2B and B2C businesses need to think about and do?

A: Yes and no, the lines separating B2B and B2C models are blurring. The empowered consumer looks for the same benefits of mobile and social technologies whether they are at work or at home or on the go. The result is a connected ‘consumer’ that has access to information looking to engage in new ways and do business both locally and globally to meet their needs.

B2B companies need to optimize their digital operations and transform how products and services are created, marketed, sold, delivered and serviced. For example, the influence of ‘self service’ is universal in both B2C and B2B, with 56% of customers demanding increased self service when they do business with a company, according to Forrester Research in 2011. And, B2C companies need to really look at mobile and social as a ‘must have’ to compete and win their customers and keep them coming back.

Q: In addition to the impact of emerging technology, what other trends–economic, social, regulatory, etc.– do you see happening in the future that will impact how companies buy, market, sell and service?

A: Economic realities affect how companies operate, especially across the value chain. As the number of supply chain partners increases, the need for accurate, time-sensitive information becomes more acute. Many companies will turn to business intelligence and analytics on key control point indicators, such as orders versus forecasts and inventory in transit versus in stock, to move from “sense-and-respond” to “predict-and-act” organizations.

From a regulatory perspective, product lifecycle traceability in consumer products and other industries is a growing requirement. As product lifecycle traceability in many industries is becoming a major concern, the use of smart devices is likely to become more prevalent for tagging products wherever they are, as well as the containers and modes that are transporting them.

Q: How do you envision these changes affecting midsize businesses? What should they do to prepare and take advantage of them?

A: These changes will impact businesses of all sizes. No business is immune, and those that think they are will find themselves at a disadvantage. Midsize businesses can start to put the customer – the empowered customer – at the center of their commerce processes by taking these steps toward Smarter Commerce:

  • Listen to their clients to better understand and anticipate customer behavior and turn insight into action.
  • Adapt their sourcing of goods and services with a focus on customer demand, and orchestrate seamlessly among their trading partners and suppliers to serve that demand.
  • Personalize marketing and selling to your customers as much as possible and keep them coming back for more.
  • Evaluate service processes and learn from customers’ behavior to predict and take action.

Q. Do you think Smarter Commerce provides midsize companies a way to level the playing field–by helping them to establish a “virtual presence” in other countries without the physical infrastructure or physical presence?

A: Yes, in a flat world and global access at our fingertips – companies of any size can compete to win. But, just putting a virtual presence out there will not be enough. The key is customer satisfaction, which is tied directly to profitability. Data shows that for every customer who complains of poor service a company loses 10. And, it costs 6 to 7 times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one.

The way to stand out will be to incorporate customer-centricity into all your commerce processes. This is not a new concept… but in today’s marketplace it is the difference between thriving and going out of business.

Q: What are some of the things IBM is doing to help midsize companies stay ahead of the curve?

A: You’ll find that much of what we’re doing with our Smarter Commerce initiative is designed to help companies of all sizes to address these market changes. It focuses on three areas organizations need to address – customer insight, strategy and engagement. Companies need deep insight into customer behavior and needs – and the ability to anticipate and predict behavior to take immediate action. This insight, in turn, should drive the development and refinement of their customer value strategy – how to enhance, extend – and redefine value as viewed by the customer – and, the key here, is to do it profitably. And, finally, using that strategy to build customer engagement.

IBM works closely with its Business Partner network to drive this kind of change in the midmarket. For example, working with IBM Business Partner ExactTarget, Skymall was able to deliver more targeted e-mails using analytics-driven behavioral insights. This resulted in recapturing 3-5% of potentially lost revenue from abandoned carts, and helped Skymall to grow email-generated sales by 34%. Another example is RiverPoint, a systems integration consulting firm and IBM Business Partner. They helped The Society of Critical Care run more effective marketing campaigns. Combining IBM’s enterprise marketing management (EMM) software platform with RiverPoint’s best practices EMM consulting has enabled the client to experience a 2.4% positive change in membership attrition in the first year.

This is the final post in a series examining the evolution of the smarter customer and smarter commerce, and IBM’s Smarter Commerce solutions. For more information about how IBM Smarter Commerce is transforming midsize companies’ approach to commerce, visit http://www-01.ibm.com/finder/businesscenter/us/en/its_commerce_topic.wss%5D

July 31, 2009

Prognosis on SAP’s Business ByDesign – SaaS based ERP solution for the core mid-market

I came across a good analysis on some aspects of SaaS vs. on-premise vendors and solutions in the smoothspan post Why Do SaaS Companies Lose Money Hand Over Fist?

After reading through the post and various responses, I have some comments that could shed more light on the SaaS vs. on-premise topic and how this relates to SAP’s continued focus on Business ByDesign.

  • The global ERP market opportunity driven by the large number of SMB/mid-market companies. In the U.S. there are 11 times more mid-market companies and on a worldwide basis the number is 13.5X.

     

    # of U.S. Companies

    # of Worldwide companies

    Enterprises (1000+ empl.)

    9,000

    52,000

    Mid-Market (100-1000 empl.)

    100,000

    700,000

    Ratio – Mid-market/Enterprise

    11X

    13.5X

     

     

  • The enterprise market is heavily penetrated by ERP type solutions, mostly on-premise solutions. The U.S. mid-market has less than 42% ERP penetration. This penetration of ERP solutions is much lower outside the U.S. Existing SaaS solution vendors until now have primarily focused on the U.S. market, with less than 15-20% international sales (other than Salesforce.com). SAP being a global company, has the potential of ramping up fast in the international markets which is very under penetrated, where SAP already has established relationships and market presence (significantly more than any of the SaaS vendors). This presents a significant upside revenue opportunity for SAP in the mid-market (especially in the 100-500 employee segment which is outside of the sweet spot of other SAP midmarket solutions – BusinessOne and Business All-in-One).
  • One also needs to look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of SaaS vs. on-premise solutions. A recent paper investigated details on this, The TCO of Cloud Computing in the SMB and Mid–Market Enterprises; A total cost of ownership comparison of cloud and on–premise business applications. Thee general conclusions are:
    • Considering a 4 year TCO, works in favor of the SaaS ERP solutions when the number of users is less than 400 users. Beyond these numbers of users, the on-premise TCO starts to become better (lower). These would be mostly enterprise companies, who favor on-premise solutions.
    • When considers a TCO beyond 4 years, on-premise solutions are better (lower). Again, these tend to be larger companies.
  • Most of the SaaS vendors like Salesforce.com and NetSuite have a much higher sales and marketing expenses ratio (~ 54% of revenue as shown in the smoothspan post Why Do SaaS Companies Lose Money Hand Over Fist?) primarily driven by their direct sales model. For Business ByDesign, for which SAP is promoting a channel driven model, this percentage should be lower.
  • R&D spending of 16% by SaaS companies – the strategy that needs to be explored by vendors looking to develop SaaS products, they need to seriously consider SaaS platforms like force.com (from Salesforce.com) and QuickBase (from Intuit). The developers that have used these platforms, have significantly reduced both their initial R&D spending and also their product development timeframe, brining SaaS solutions to market in some cases 1-2 years sooner. These SaaS/cloud platforms-as-a-service were not available when SAP embarked on development of ByD (or would they have used one, even if it was available…I am sure they have developed a significant internal expertise with this development experience). It is prudent for SAP to control the roll-out of Business-ByDesign until the product, delivery and channel kinks have been worked out. Prediction – Past experience with German engineering should alert the ERP market that in 2010, SAP will probably deliver a successful mid-market SaaS ERP solution for the core mid-market.

Reviewing the above, including good reviews from the current customers of Business ByDesign, it would be prudent for SAP not to scale back efforts on the roll-out of Business ByDesign – as strategy they have consistently communicating to the market.

March 19, 2009

Why are SMBs and Mid-Market Enterprises interested in Cloud Computing?

As SMBs and mid-market enterprises are looking at their IT budget and face the realities to cut them, they look at what is discretionary and what can be supported through innovative IT strategies. However, at the same time they need to adopt new technology solutions that will make them more competitive in the current economic environment and prepares them to grow when the economy improves. They following arguments shed light on why these companies are actively exploring various cloud computing initiatives:

  • Vendors Making it Easy to Adopt Cloud Services – Amazon leads the cloud computing movement because they make it very easy for companies to adopt their platform and storage services with implementation and pricing services that are easy to understand and try without the need for complex contracts and pricing. Vendors that seek to service the SMB market need to learn from the simplicity and flexibility of the Amazon Web Services model.
  • Change in Appetite for Risk – SMB and mid-market companies focus on risk has changed, driven by the realities of the current economic environment. Instead of making do with outdated systems and slowing adoption of new technologies, these companies are now more comfortable with the risks associated with cloud computing solutions. This is driven by examples of success achieved by some of the high-profile companies through “show-me” examples. They are feeling more comfortable with security, access and reliability issues.
  • More Effective Backup and Disaster Recovery SMBs usually do not have remote data centers. Cloud services provide them the ability to encapsulate the internal virtual machines and replicate them to the cloud off-site. Virtualization vendors like VMware and Citrix are making this easier.
  • Shift away from New On-premise Hardware Purchases – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises look at the Key IT initiatives that are being considered in the decision-making processes, initiatives that will help save costs and show quick ROI are getting attention. IT strategies based on flexible monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment is gaining momentum. New hardware purchases and upgrades have a lower priority; business applications that are critical to the business operations are getting approval. However, implementing new business applications sometimes require additional new hardware purchases, the spending on hardware purchases can be alleviated by adopting flexible pay-as-you-use cloud computing solutions and services with business applications which are delivered software-as-a-service (examples NetSuite and Salesforce.com) or hosted in the cloud (example Rackspace).
  • Increase in Adoption of Virtualization – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises adoption of virtualization solutions enters mainstream, adoption of cloud computing solutions is becoming easier.
  • Significantly Reduced Application Implementation Time – SMBs don’t have to go through a two week purchase order process and an additional two weeks of configuration and testing before an application is available for productive use.
  • ISVs Solutions Supporting Cloud Platforms – Majority of the ISVs are now developing solutions that are multi-tenant and built to be delivered over the cloud. Some of them are using cloud platforms like force.com or Quickbase built to support cloud solutions.
  • Savings in Power and Data Center Space – Cloud computing enable SMBs to control server and storage sprawl by moving some of the applications and storage to the cloud vendors data centers, freeing up data center space and at the same time saving on power consumption costs. These SMBs do not want any more hardware in their equipment closets.

February 23, 2009

Cloud Computing and Managed Services Opportunity – Is it the Large Enterprises or SMB/Mid-Market Enterprises?

The convergence of web delivered IT services – Cloud Computing, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Hosted Applications, Software-as-a-Service, Virtualization – will continue to redefine and add value to the SMB/mid-market IT services landscape, especially in the current economic climate.

Our outlook calls for rapid increase in adoption of various Cloud Computing and Managed Services components over the next 2-3 years as businesses look to cut costs and reduce capital expenses. This adoption will still be on a piece-meal – with Online Storage/Archival and related services, Hosted applications, Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery and SaaS delivered Business Applications being the most sought-after capabilities (SMB/Mid-Market Key IT Initiatives in the Current Market Environment blog). We see early adoption of these services starting in 2008-2009 and gaining more momentum into the mainstream market by 2011-2013 when the global economy emerges from the current financial conundrum.

It is interesting to see some of the SaaS companies like Salesforce.com focus on small number of enterprise accounts which account for half of their revenues through their direct sales force (they don’t have much of a channel presence). Even in the recent earnings call for NetSuite (again majority of the focus is on direct sales with some VAR efforts), all the financial analysts had questions only on the large account focus. In the U.S.(total 6.5 million businesses with commercial locations), there are less than 0.1% large enterprises(more than 1000 employees) and 0.4% midmarket-enterprises(500-999 employees); the remaining 99.5% are SMB companies. As the low hanging opportunities in large enterprises are already converted into customers, the growth of these SaaS companies is slowing. Why the continued focus on large enterprise, direct sales focus?

Well, to begin, if a vendor is serious about selling to the SMB segment, they should first seek to become their market channel, or connect to their channel – a strategy and value proposition they need to create. The SaaS value propositions that convinced the large enterprises do not always work well for the elusive SMB segment, which is a much more difficult and complicated market, but offers tremendous revenue potential. Although, with somewhat different value propositions, pricing and revenue models.

Who are the well positioned channels or links to the channel to enable selling to the SMB and mid-market enterprises? This can be addressed by segmenting this SMB/mid-market market and then looking at the channels that are well positioned to sell to the various segments based on the existing relationships and touch points. A topic for a future blog!

The vendors that have a good lead in the cloud computing segment are Amazon.com, some of the hosted services vendors like Rackspace and Savvis, and managed services vendors like Iron Mountain, IBM, BT and EMC. Virtualization will play a big role in this migration; vendors like Citrix, VMware and Microsoft are developing cloud services and platforms to help virtualize the data centers of some of the cloud solution and services vendors. Who out of these vendors understand how to navigate the complex SMB segment?

Cloud Computing and managed services providers (and their technology partners) need to learn from the business models of SaaS companies and early cloud computing vendors. Then put in place strategies and channels to capitalize on the huge IT services opportunity in the SMB and mid-market enterprises that lack the IT and financial resources of large enterprises, outside of the small number of technologically sophisticated SMBs and software developers (ISVs) that are the early adopters and have the IT resources to leverage the cloud solutions and services. In addition, by taking advantage of the internets’ low-cost marketing and delivery capabilities, companies can profitably mine the “long tail” of the SMB market.

February 6, 2009

IBM Dynamic Infrastructure Announcement and the Mid-Market Enterprise

With today’s ‘Dynamic Infrastructure’ initiative announcement, IBM is positioning itself as a holistic technology solution and service provider and partner. It combines all the element of separate cloud delivered services (cloud based, managed, and on-premise) and also traditional on-premise hardware, software and services.

  • Managed Services
  • Cloud Computing
  • Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service
  • Traditional on-premise based software, hardware and service

If IBM is to become a trusted partner of mid-market enterprises, they need to present a vision of a holistic technology/solutions partner that understands the mid-market enterprise and the value proposition that IBM’s Dynamic Infrastructure brings. Several vendors can offer pieces of these solutions like managed services or SaaS, etc., but no single vendor has the experience, product/services portfolio, industry experience and partner/ISV ecosystem to become this trusted partners. IBM has the market presence, solutions and partner ecosystem to be this vendor with the ‘Dynamic Infrastructure’ initiative.

Why will IBM be more successful with this strategy in the mid-market?

Several vendors have offered pieces of this service successfully to the SMB and mid-market. However, the mid-market enterprises has limited IT resources and technology expertise. Some of these businesses have adopted segments of this type of solution, piece-meal from several different vendors. Vendor A provides managed security service, vendor B provides online backup service, the vendor C provides on-premise virtualization solutions, etc. When the mid-market enterprise experiences problems – they don’t know who to turn to. Some managed service providers (MSPs) are re-inventing themselves as aggregators of several of these services and have started to see partial success. These MSPs lack some of the deep industry/technology expertise and also some of the flexible computing cloud computing infrastructure that provides the reliability, high-availability and SLA’s essential for getting the mindshare of mid-market enterprises for whom things like these are critical.

How will this service resonate with mid-market enterprises in today’s tough economic climate?

  • If these recessionary conditions are deep and protracted – the mid-market enterprises need to reduce costs by reducing IT resources, postponing upgrades of existing IT infrastructure and applications. These enterprises (especially if they are growth oriented companies) will be able to benefit significantly by this initiatives. When looking at a 3-5 year TCO provided by this initiative. This initiative helps preserve upfront capital expenditures and cash and shifts them to monthly operational expenses.
    • IBM can also benefit with the availability of IBM Financial Services programs for the mid-market
  • If these recessionary conditions are shallow and short – mid-market enterprises will be more inclined to stay the course and possibly look at new initiatives like ‘Dynamic Infrastructure’ over a longer time horizon.

What IBM needs to do to win in the mid-market enterprise with this initiative?

  • Need to engage the regional mid-market service providers(MSPs) more as they have the direct relationship with the mid-market customers.
  • These mid-market service providers can provide the ongoing day-day relationship with the client, 7X24 active management of the services provided to their client, onsite component of the interaction with the client.
  • These MSPs will provide the on-going care-and-feeding and training required to make this program successful.
  • IBM needs to provide a more comprehensive value proposition and short-term ROI with financing and flexible payment plans to get the mindshare of the mid-market enterprises and the ecosystem partners.
  • Convince VAR to work with IBM to offer a bigger portfolio of IBM Dynamic Infrastructure services.

February 4, 2009

SMB’s turning to Conferencing Solutions in tough economic times

In today’s tough economic times, driven by higher travel costs, staff reduction, and tight credit – SMB are turning to solutions that will reduce costs and provide clearly identifiable short-term ROI. In the past year, conferencing solutions service providers that provide hosted audio and integrated web/video conferencing services are experiencing dramatic increases in adoption of these services among SMBs and mid-market enterprises. Not only are more SMBs adopting these solutions, the existing users of these solutions are also using these solutions more often.

  • Audio Conferencing (leading vendors – Intercall, ATT, Verizon ,IP-PBX and hosted VoIP vendors):
    • Distributed workforce conference calls
    • Improve employee collaboration and productivity
    • Support for mobility, don’t need to be in front of screen for conference
    • No need to be at desktop, works well when on the road
    • Integration of VoIP solutions reduces costs by reducing call toll charges
    • Increased adoption of podcasts
  • Web Conferencing (leading vendors – Cisco/WebEx, Microsoft LiveMeeting, Citrix OnLine Go-To-Meeting, IBM Sametime Unyte and Lotus SameTime):
    • Easy-to-use
    • Save travel costs and participant time
    • Support revenue generation activities
    • Availability of hosted service with pay-as-you-go
    • Ability to host impromptu meetings
    • Improve employee collaboration & productivity
    • Better support a global distributed workforce
    • Improve organizations efficiency
    • Better communication and collaboration between employees, customers, partners, suppliers
    • Fewer number of experts become more productive by scaling knowledge
  • Video Conferencing (leading vendors – Polycom, Tandberg,Lifesize,Cisco/Webex,IBM):
    • Save travel costs and meeting expenses
    • Need to interconnect distributed branch
    • Better and more interactive communication and collaboration between employees
    • Ability to utilize off-the-shelf video cameras and headsets
    • Availability of affordable web and on-premise based solutions
    • Increased bandwidth availability
    • Increased adoption of rich media communications – video
    • Better interaction with outsourcing partners
    • Fewer number of experts become more productive by scaling knowledge


This bodes well for the vendors, VAR’s and service providers involved with selling these conferencing solutions. However, businesses need to be careful when selecting a vendor. Stability and financial viability of vendors/service providers becomes more important in the current economic climate, as startups feel the squeeze.


January 30, 2009

SMB/Mid-Market Key IT Initiatives in the Current Market Environment

Filed under: Cloud Computing, Managed Services, Mobility, Security, Storage — Tags: , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 4:23 pm

Recently (December’08), I had the opportunity to participate in a CFO/CIO panel with participants from New England SMB/mid-market businesses, organized by Managed Technology Partners. The topic of the panel discussion was ‘What key IT initiatives that are still being considered and issues to be considered in the decision-making processes’. Looking at the current turbulent economic conditions, SMBs and mid-market enterprises are under tremendous pressures. Most of them have never experienced these types of market conditions before. Given that, most of the panel members and attendees had a very positive attitude.

The discussion centered on not only the key IT initiatives in the current market environment but also some of the key consideration that need to be taken into account in the decision process.

Decision making process needs to take into account some key considerations:

  • Cost containment – the need to preserve cash, decisions need to consider whether an initiative will save money or make money or both
  • Focus on short-term ROI – The projects need to show short term ROI and support the cost containment focus, shift model to monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment
  • Existing investment – Review existing system utilization and put together plans for getting the most out of them. This includes considering options like costs for running/managing/upgrading existing systems, virtualization to improve utilization, alternate solutions provide that could meet the cost savings focus, etc.
  • Right-sizing – wanting to be sure right technology solutions are selected that match the business’ needs including longer-term viability
  • Existing IT resources – Expertise, utilization and availability to adequately support business needs

The key IT initiatives that made it to the top of the list are:

  • The continued need for security (data and access) and business continuity solutions – this is especially important in the current environment as studies have shown that human error or intentional tampering are the leading cause of data loss.
  • Providing remote access for users as the percentage of remote/Teleworkers increases
  • Backup and recovery that is right for “my” business – the “availability” of data is critical
  • Access (or lack of) to expertise and alignment of IT with the business
  • Determining the right support models – that reduces costs and maintains up-time
  • Vendor and VAR viability as part of the decision-making process

There was also conversation around the need for a strategic focus on IT and planning to ensure IT meet the business needs, both short and longer term.  Also, to ensure technology decisions are part of a larger discussion that provides for better prioritization, opportunities for economies of scale, making sure decisions are not make in silos, and the financial impact as it relates to other initiatives and objectives.

We are in a period of unprecedented changes to the business climate that will challenge both vendors and solutions providers in ways never seen experienced in the past. To be successful, vendors and solution providers need to take a focused approach with solutions and messaging that address the above considerations and issue.

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