The e-business solution for SMEs must keep three points in mind:
- SMEs want a solution, not this hardware or that software. A solution has many components: starting with an analysis of the needs of the SME, the actual hardware-software combo, then some customization to meet the requirements of the SME in the vertical industry and country in which they operate, the actual installation and training, and finally continued support and maintenance. SMEs would most likely outsource all of this since they do not have the necessary IT skills or the team in-house.
- SMEs must be provided instant gratification with the technology solution that we provide. It must be simple to use, easy to deploy, and provide clear tangible benefits. One advantage is that the decision-maker is the owner-manager. If he is convinced that the solution can offer a value-add and help his business, he will go in for it. So, in many ways, the sales cycle can be short (and could go either way).
- SMEs do not necessarily need to have the latest and greatest technology. The solution can use “lag technology” (one generation old, so it becomes cheaper) or de-feature the product being used, to make it simpler and less expensive. So, how can SMEs be made to use technology in a manner which is a win-win situation for them and for sellers?
The first step is to offer an understanding and modeling of the business process. In most SMEs, there are not many formal processes. But before software can be deployed, there needs to be a process in rules. This means we need to offer a mechanism for the SME to model the business processes being used. In the event that the SME is unsure of the exact business processes to be followed, there needs to be a library of business processes from which the closest process can be chosen.
The second step is to pick and choose the building blocks for the specific processes. This means using software components to model appropriate business objects and relationships. It also means allowing the SMEs to specify business rules easily. There may also be a requirement for customisation of some of the building blocks – this means offering the SME an easy way to not just piece together the “Lego Software” building blocks, but also create new blocks from existing blocks. The customisation cannot be done by consultants since SMEs do not have that much money to spend.
The third step is to generate the appropriate software prototype for the SME to use. There will be some iteration with the first two steps. This entire process needs to be rapid so that the SME can actually see the workflow being translated into an automated system.