• United States

Why mgmt. software must reach out to small businesses

Apr 12, 20043 mins
Data CenterSmall and Medium Business

* SMBs need good management software as much as large businesses

High technology has long had a history of showing that smaller is better – reducing mainframes to desktops to handheld devices, packing ever more componentry onto smaller chips and reducing the weight and power of the data center to fit into a vest pocket.

From an infrastructure management perspective, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to look “downward” to managing smaller environments with fewer IT resources, those that nonetheless often face complexities and challenges similar to those of larger enterprises.

In the U.S. alone there are nearly 25 times the number of businesses from 50 to 1,000 employees as there are above 1,000 employees, and effective infrastructure management and security for smaller businesses will become increasingly essential for the world business community to evolve.

Management for SMB must be in many respects as good, or even better, than management for larger enterprises. It must be robust, resilient, reliable and easy to use, and it must have service metrics fully competitive with those provided by its brethren in larger markets. Finally, it must be able to scale upwards, as smaller businesses grow, without being disruptive or forcing a “forklift” upgrade.

Given the evolution of business relationships today within the U.S. and globally, there is a generally unspoken phenomenon regarding the position of smaller businesses within global markets. As supply chains evolve and become more finely tuned, and business competition forces high-end consolidation, the relationship of smaller business to the larger conglomerates becomes one of tight integration with little room for failure. Smaller businesses must maintain the same levels of performance to sustain supply-chain competitiveness as do their bigger partners. If they falter, they not only suffer themselves, but they also can become a fatal link in a business process with revenue exponentially greater than their own individual annual sales.

Take for example an automobile manufacturer that integrates a stereo system made by a smaller, innovative supplier at least one ocean and one continent away. This feature may be one of superior quality and reduced price – and so results in overall competitive advantage. However, the development of the components of the stereo may depend on multiple companies spread across the planet, all of which have to be delivered on time to the final car assembly. If just one of the key stereo components is unavailable, the automobile manufacturer will have to make a choice between delaying shipment to ready buyers or making a substitute that can affect brand sales, brand satisfaction and brand loyalty. In other words, a protracted failure in the computer systems of a six-person company in Singapore might result in revenue losses in the many millions of dollars for a car manufacturer in Detroit.

Management software for smaller businesses is therefore not only a rich, largely untapped market – it also will become an ever more pivotal business requirement. Smaller businesses will have less wiggle room in a demanding, tightly integrated world – just as they will face dramatic upside opportunities to compete against larger suppliers. The total process will mean more innovative products and services worldwide, with a greater diversity of business sizes and business styles. But it will all fall apart – or certainly lead to a backlash towards corporate centralization – if smaller businesses aren’t provided more robust products to manage the performance and security of their environments.