Future of SMBs lies in doing away with layers and adopting flat IT
How IT is transforming SMBs.
IT has become Flat and small and medium businesses (SMBs) are beginning to know this and trying to understand its implications. The problem is that vendors are not having a direct dialogue with their SMB customers on the efficacy of Flat IT. All of them do have an increased dialogue with their respective channel partners but are unable to equip their partners to the extent of utilizing the effects of Flat IT. It can be taken for granted that the modified messaging is not easy, but it is not enough to say that they have an SMB strategy or even more specifically, SMB Cloud or SMB Mobility strategy.
Flat IT challenges IT vendors and channel partners to thread the various components of IT into one integrated solution. This is important as SMBs want integrated solutions that limit complexity and therefore seek channel partners and vendors that can deliver. Unfortunately, very few channel partners currently do so, as few seem to embrace a holistic view which is making SMBs unsure of overall benefits and a desire to spend.
Not only is it important, but now is the perfect time for broad/solution vendors with large partner networks such as Cisco, HP, IBM, Dell, SAP and others to evaluate their partners, seek and cluster them based on a capability to deliver complete solutions and introduce programs to support development.
On the other hand, single product vendors should identify the most complementary niche solution deployments, target and build strategic partnerships among vendors and channel partners to deliver holistic and easily deployable competencies and products.
In analyst speak, vendors have to help channel partners ramp up and focus on delivering Cloud and mobility based solutions that have higher relevancy to SMBs such as vertical industry solutions. To do this, channels need to go beyond technology knowledge and really understand the dynamics of industries their customers are part of. They need to become industry subject matter experts. Vendors need to look at their current set of horizontal products & solutions and develop case studies for utilizing them in a vertical setting.
Vendors whose channel partners are able to deliver a suite of services that cut across Mobility, Cloud and Managed services will find SMBs that are willing to listen to them. The only course for channel partners and vendors is to find the optimal intersection of the three. These “3-in-1” partners will define the next channel landscape. The new channel landscape will cater to the needs of the new SMB worker. And the new SMB worker will be employed in a business environment that utilizes Flat IT.
Traditionally, IT industry gets caught up in terminologies that say Cloud, Mobility, Managed Services, Big Data and so on. Cloud means different things to different businesses. Vendors and channels have a real opportunity here. They can explain what Flat IT can do for SMBs in terms of functionality, operational cost, fix cost, profitability, and how it benefits their business plan. In simpler terms, they can explain how can an SMB use a PC to connect to line of business applications faster, more securely, and from anywhere. We have begun to see some advertising from a few vendors, though.
All layers which form the building blocks are collapsing rapidly. What is arguably changing in this paradigm is affecting software ownership/delivery and servers/datacenter hardware requirements. A small business worker can access Office 365 from his notebook or tablet from Microsoft servers, co-located in a datacenter, hosted by Joe Hardware solutions, but he may not know that, and go about his business as normal.
Building Block IT was mostly on premise whereas Flat IT can both be outsourced and insourced. SMBs have been going through transformations for a long period of time; however, today’s transformation is more definitive and long lasting. Let us make the best of IT which is based on the needed technology rather than one which is available.
Anurag Agrawal is the CEO of Techaisle, a global market research and consulting company focused on SMBs and Channels. Prior to Techaisle, Anurag headed Gartner’s Worldwide Research Operations and before that was with IDC.
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