By Edward Gately
Small-and medium-size businesses (SMBs) increasingly want to incorporate the latest technology offerings to drive their business forward, and appear willing to allocate more of their budgets to drive that effort.
In response, IT companies looking to expand their work with SMBs – or engage with them for the first time – would do well to highlight their expertise and innovation skills, according to the findings of a new study by CompTIA.
Seth Robinson, CompTIA’s senior director of technology analysis, tells Channel Partners the findings “do move us more down the path … to the overall use of technology instead of various pieces here and there.”
Some 500 companies were surveyed as part of the national study, which was conducted in December. Of those, 46 percent said they look to outside IT firms when they need to gather expertise and new options; innovation is one of the things they value most when choosing an IT services provider.
More than 70 percent of SMBs used an outside IT firm at least occasionally in the past 12 months, while typical engagement centered on traditional and tactical IT activities, such as repair, troubleshooting, installation and integration.
SMBs are looking for technology that goes beyond selling and installing a product, and then providing troubleshooting assistance, Robinson said. Instead, they want “something that is going to bring them into this new era.”
“(IT companies) need to be more proactive, and package services and solutions in a way that these businesses need, rather than a point product,” he said.
A lack of “innovative technology” services is a significant reason why some SMBs choose to switch IT firms.
The study identified several areas where IT firms can leverage routine activities into more strategic engagements. Among those were:
A major challenge for channel partners working with SMB customers continues to be small businesses’ limited spending on technology. Two-thirds spend less than $100,000 annually on technology, and 29 percent spend $10,000 or less; however, two-thirds said they plan to increase their technology budgets and nearly half said they would be willing to increase their budget if presented with an innovative “solution” that would enable new business processes, according to the study.
“The budget situation has always been there, but that desire to use technology is growing, so that tension is growing stronger,” Robinson said.
The research confirms SMBs are generally satisfied with their technology service providers although they do not always view their provider as a “trusted advisor,” said Nancy Hammervik, CompTIA’s senior vice president of industry relations.
“This suggests there may be some opportunities for solution providers to better meet the needs of SMB customers,” she said.