Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Selling Foundations to the Small End of the SMB market

  1. IBM positions Foundations for 5 to 500 users.
  2. Microsoft's Small Business Server links a maximum of 75 computers.
  3. The upcoming Microsoft Essential Business Server will service 300 computers or devices.
Are these categories too broad? I'd say that these numbers include a specialised sub-class of business with the following attributes:
  • Total staff is between one and thirty.
  • Total information workers is between one and ten.
  • Turnover somewhere between $100,000 and $10,000,000.
  • No full time IT staff - one of the other staff (probably the owner) does IT in addition to their regular duties.
  • Only the owner of the business has a discretionary budget.
  • Probably a good relationship with the local computer store who sells them new computers and printer cartridges as required but there is no concept of using IT consulting services. IT is seen only in terms of hardware plus packaged software (Excel, MYOB etc).
  • IT services just bump along with a break-fix mentality and the idea of upgrading the older computers from Windows 2000 and Office 97 hasn't yet crossed the owners mind.
For some of these smaller organisations the owner knows that the business will die when they retire so their objective is to maximise their own annual salary and dividends before they eventually have to wind down and shut the doors. The idea of making strategic long-term investments in IT systems is never considered.

I think autonomic computing is the key to selling to that kind of business. Showing the owner how they can spend less time tinkering with servers will be a hot button. It would be good to see some real life 'war story' kind of advertising pushing that point. The current advertising for Foundations on IBM's web site only shows ... "Fictitious character designed to illustrate customer pain points."

I guess that's always the problem when you launch a new line of software - you need a few weeks to get the first real-life customers bedded down and willing to talk about their experience.

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