Small business, enterprise challenges. That’s the title of my post this month. On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward, but there’s much more to it than that. Smaller businesses—and I look at that range as 10-250 users—rely upon IT just as much as large enterprises, so no mystery there. For businesses large and small, IT is (whether we like it or not) the lifeblood that keeps our firms going. Just stop and imagine what it would be like without your IT functioning as it needs to be. How would your firm do? It’s a shuddering thought. No matter what size you are, you will have challenges that IT can and will help you address in the running your business, whatever that may be. However, in the past, only large enterprises were the ones that had or could afford the “best IT solutions.” That’s just the way it was. Over the past few years, that notion has been turned entirely on its head. Read on, and I’ll explain.
Small businesses and larger enterprises have always had the same challenges when it comes to IT. Running IT services, (take your pick: email, productivity, etc.), backup capabilities, instant restore, high availability/fault tolerant solutions, security, ransomware protection, ease of use and good processes and procedures. These are things we all want and need. For many of these things, only larger firms implemented and could afford them, yet all firms need them. Larger firms have teams of people that run IT, while in smaller firms owners and other designated (often not IT) people, or just one IT person is responsible for IT. In enterprise firms, the IT people focus on IT and often overlook the overall needs of the business, while in smaller firms the focus is on running the business, with less thought and weight given to IT. It’s a significant distinction in how each tends to approach IT. However, that's all changing.
Now smaller firms need (or demand) the same level of features that were historically only used by larger enterprises. They see larger firms using these capabilities and determined that they need them for their firms. You know what? SW firms, HW providers and MSP’s were more than happy to comply. These providers released versions of their solutions catered explicitly towards and focused on the small business. They made them easy to use, easy to manage, and much more cost effective than the “enterprise” class solutions. SMB’s bought—and continue to buy them in quantity.
Here’s another interesting point: SMB’s were looking for “easy to use” solutions. Easy to use and simple. That’s what SMB’s (and frankly most of us) want and demand, and that’s what they got. Again, they want to focus on running their businesses—period, full stop, end of story—not IT. Then another interesting thing happened: The enterprises wanted the simplicity and ease of use that SMB’s were experiencing in their enterprise create/inspired solutions and wanted that for themselves. A bit of a mind bend, in a circular argument, wrapped up in one.
Just look at many of the “enterprise” solutions and today’s interfaces and tools. See much command line? Nope, people want that clean and straightforward Google-like user experience. Most IT innovation and its use are driven from the enterprise down to the SMB. Not in this case. The simplicity and user experience today are being driven up from the SBM to the enterprise. The SMB’s are driving the narrative on usability. The IT concept for the solution moved DOWN from the enterprise, but the execution and simplicity of it moved back UP from the SMB to the enterprise. Absolutely fascinating, when you think about it.
So what does that mean to the SMB? Manufacturers, VAR’s and MSP’s will continue to adapt and bring enterprise-class solutions to the SMB market. They also will continue to create compelling designs and make them affordable, so SMB’s actually want to buy and use them. This is excellent news for the SMB market as it will provide well-needed innovation. It not only makes sense and benefits customers but the manufacturers and service providers as well. The SMB market is much bigger than the enterprise market. Why wouldn’t these providers and manufacturers want to create solutions that serve this market? Everyone wants to sell to the enterprise, but the SMB is a bread-and-butter market and generally buy a lot more in totality.
As an SMB it certainly makes sense to explore the types of enterprise-class/inspired (pick your term) solutions available to you and your firm. It's an exciting time with access to these best-of-breed (and affordable) solutions that can help you run and protect your business, but only if you take advantage and put them to good use.
There's a lot out there, so where to begin? Talk to your trusted service or solution provider, and they will guide you on what's best for you and your firm. Even better if they have experience with the enterprise market and SMB market, as that understanding will be invaluable to you as you make your decisions. As an SMB you will have enterprise-class challenges, but fortunately, there's a host of solutions available to you, your needs, and your budget.