The SMB Challenge
The IT challenges of SMBs are inherently different from that of large enterprises. In fact, these challenges often end up being far more complex for SMBs purely because of the restraint that has to be exercised by them on the budget front and on various other issues like server space, what model to go for, vendor management, getting the right skill set etc. To add to these, while a typical SMB in a tier 1 city shall still have someone on the lines of a CIO, the mid sized organizations in tier 2 cities and further down may not even have an IT department.
And even in metros, an organization with a workforce of say 500 odd people, will probably have an IT team of 4 to 5 people. In these cases, not only skill-set balancing becomes a major issue, but vendor management also becomes critical. the biggest challenge in a mid sized organization is to get the expertise to set up in the initial infrastructure. In most of the cases the CIO or whoever is looking after IT is forced to take the outsourcing decision because of limited availability of skillsets within the organization. That in turn spells opportunities for our partners to associate with these SMBs donning the hats of both distributor and solution provider.
Add to this, in organizations in smaller towns, these problems get further magnified; in addition to lack of skillsets, an overall lack of exposure to the modern technical and business updates virtually make IT a non-starter for most of them. There is a wide gulf in maturity between the metros and other Tier 1 cities with the hinterland. The issue of digital haves and digital have-nots get ruthlessly exposed here.
This definitely puts more responsibilities on the shoulders of upcountry partners—not only they should focus on these SMBs merely to generate moolah, but they need to perform that role of IT evangelists to build an overall tech ecosystem there. Incidentally, doing this would also ensure regular monetary benefits too for them. So instead of looking at short term gains here, partners should look at a slightly bigger role in these cases.
Since skills at hand is a major challenge which most of the mid sized organizations have to face, the partners should enter into a business relationship with them not just as a seller of IT hardware/software or a vanilla solution provider but also help them try to figure out new models, that can bolster their businesses.
Another issue for SMBs is the struggle with constantly increasing user expectation. Since people management is interwoven with vendor management (if you don't have the skill set within you have to look without!) and that too is entangled with budget problems, the best solution perhaps is to go by monthly payments. There too is a big opportunity for partners—in fact, if the SMBs do not understand this model, the partners should try to evangelize this further. Not only is this a sound way to deal with monetary issues for the SMBs, it also in turn will ensure regular cash flow for the partners.
Bottomline: partners should not just focus on SMBs by paying a lip service, they should be open to do business differently with them to ensure a win-win situation for both