TECH TALK: SME Technology Utility: SME Technology Utility
Here, then, is my solution: create an Technology Utility company, to offer a one-stop solution for SMEs globally covering business and technology needs in four areas:
- Computing: Management of SMEs local IT infrastructure – the remotely managed desktop
- Communications: A Local Server on the SMEs LAN with “intermittent connectivity” to the Internet
- Software: An integrated e-business suite of applications covering ERP, CRM and SCM
- Services: Outsourced IT-enabled services from an Indian base in core business areas
The target customers (SMEs) should not have to worry about their IT infrastructure. PCs are not going to go away; they are the bedrock of companies. What is needed is for the service provider to assume responsibility for the PCs and the IT infrastructure that exists within the company. This is the starting point of relationship. The service provider becomes the trusted brand and channel that is allowed within the enterprise. Power thus comes from these relationships, the seats that are controlled.
The operative word is “remotely” – in no way can this work if a support person has to go to the company. So, this becomes like a computing utility – customers are completely freed up from the hassles of IT and offered computing on tap for them to leverage and focus on their business.
Customers need to be reliably connected to the Internet and its services. The key here is to create a nearly “always-on” (intermittently connected) infrastructure – without this, software cannot be offered as a service. The solution for this is to offer a Server which sits on the company’s LAN, and takes care of not just connectivity and communications needs (Mail, Proxy), but also has the core enterprise software suite running locally. This way, the company feels more secure and has access to the service even if the network connectivity is not available. It also gets the benefit of speed and “always-on” connectivity. The LAN Server also gives the service provider the ability to help manage their local IT infrastructure.
Data can be replicated on a Master Server on the Internet also, thus offering redundancy and availability from other locations also.
The Computing and Communications services are the foundation for providing the primary offering of the Software suite. Without taking away the hassles of IT and connectivity management, one cannot hope for rapid adoption by SMEs.
The real value of the Internet is in helping businesses becoming efficient, in helping them grow their revenues while cutting costs at the same time, about getting access to information in real-time and leveraging it in ways previously not even thought of. This wave in enterprise software is only just beginning. There are millions of companies using computers across the world, but few are using it in an integrated sense. This is where the opportunity of tomorrow lies: creating a set of standardised applications for companies which can be used across their functions internally, and collaboratively externally – with suppliers, customers and partners.
SMEs globally need an e-business suite for doing just that – automating and integrating not just their internal functions, but also helping them collaborate with its partners. The suite will provide a single offering covering internal processes (ERP, EIP) and external interactions (CRM, SCM). The suite will be modular and Lego-like: SMEs can use it the way they want, piecing together the building blocks. They can also be offer a library of business processes, models and architectures to draw upon, and thus put in place not just their internal processes but also the software support for them through this suite.
SMEs need help in many areas on an ongoing basis, because they are always resource-constrained. The service providers now become their extended enterprise – the partner of choice for specific business areas by offering outsourced (from India) services in specific verticals like accounting, sales, strategy, or simply, helping configure processes and the software. Services leverage the India base and provide potential upside on the revenue front. Services help to not only complete the offering for SMEs, but also help to build a strong and deep relationship with them.
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