News.com has an interview with Microsoft’s Orlando Ayala, whose focus is to build up the SME business. “Ayala is charged with turning the Business Solutions groups products–Great Plains, Navision and Microsoft CRM–into a $10 billion business by 2010. Projected sales for fiscal 2003, which ends June 30, are $550 million.” Says Ayala:
We believe this is a market with a lot of pent-up demand to be fulfilled. We come from the assumption that the market is very fragmented and solutions are very difficult to use–specifically if you want to automate a small business. The company has decided to make an important push with $2 billion in investments over the next 12 months.
This is really a platform play. What the company is trying to do is enhance the basic platforms–.Net and Windows–and expand that to a horizontal platform. Too many ISVs are focused on horizontal platforms with no differentiation. We want them to outsource their R&D to us.
We have about 800,000 partners around the world. These are partners that basically sell everything. Out of those 800,000, with Great Plains and Navision, we are talking today about 6,000 partners that are fully skilled to sell these type of solutions. My goal for the next 18 months is to increase that by at least 50 percent, so in the range of 9,000 or 10,000 partners. These are very, very skilled types of partners, who can sit down with a small business and tell them how to connect to suppliers and squeeze all the value out of the CRM investment that we made.
SMEs are the next frontier in software, especially those in the world’s emerging markets. A co-ordinated strategy needs to be done by the open-source community to create compelling alternatives.