Mark Robinson, Market Business Developer at Canon, shares his thoughts on how resellers can tap into demand in the SMB market
Technology is an area of expertise that has become increasingly crucial for smaller firms. Digital transformation has affected most aspects of modern life, especially from a business perspective. From daily admin processes and workflows to optimising content, small businesses need to make optimal use of the technologies available to remain competitive in their markets.
While larger businesses are able to devote human and capital resources to keep up with the fast pace of change in technology, many SMBs do not have dedicated expertise and do not see improving systems and software as a high priority.
Inexperienced small business owners need the expert advice of resellers, who can translate technical jargon and help source tailored solutions to meet each firm’s specific needs.
Understanding the skills gap
The reasons for delaying technology upgrades are varied, with cost, need, lack of technical resources or little knowledge about a new product or technology amongst those most likely to be cited. For many SMB and SOHO owners, sourcing IT is just another task on an ever-growing to-do list.
According to a report by ICM on behalf of Canon, more than one third of SMB and SOHO owners in the UK say they lacked IT software skills when they started their businesses. Another 33% say they needed more knowledge of IT hardware.
It might be unsurprising that technical awareness is low amongst entrepreneurial business owners, but the skills gap could lead to long-term problems. Modern businesses, whatever their size or sector, run on technology, and their reliance on IT is only likely to increase. The added value that resellers provide through integrating, advising, consulting, training and implementing IT systems can often be the difference that enables customers to get the most out of their technology purchases.
The ICM study shows that small business owners believe they already spend too much time on IT-related tasks. Thankfully, the challenge of IT management is not intractable. Rather than seeing technology-led change as a barrier, smart small business owners view digital transformation as a way to reduce the amount of time they spend on technology and a means to improve productivity. This presents a huge window of opportunity for resellers.
Overcoming the transformation challenge
Some SMB and SOHO owners might be concerned that, unlike larger businesses, they do not have access to a sophisticated technology infrastructure. Ten years ago, a lack of in-house resources might have prevented a smaller firm from scaling up and meeting new demand quickly.
Now, however, SMBs and SOHOs can call upon cloud services to expand their IT resources in line with changing business needs, and, unlike larger businesses encumbered by legacy IT systems, smaller firms will often have the opportunity to build their technology strategy from the ground up. Rather than having to worry about managing an in-house storage system and a set of business applications, SMB owners can go to the cloud and procure the services they need on-demand.
In light of these challenges, and the onset of cloud services, dealers must be able to work with small businesses to provide support across fie key areas:
Clarity: Providers will need to create services that are precise, with payment structures that are easy to understand.
Simplicity: SMBs want to spend less time on IT management concerns, not more.
Security: Passing control shouldn’t mean a loss of assurance; great partners put information integrity at the top of their priority list.
Reliability: External service provision is only as good as the service level agreements that suppliers are able to guarantee.
Sustainability: Long-term partnerships are great, but if circumstances change, SMBs will need to be able to remove their data safely and simply.
Small business owners who find a partner able to cover these five areas will be in a great position. Rather than worrying about a shortage of in-house IT skills, small firms will be able to work with their partner to transform business operations for the better, and resellers will be able to create valuable, long-term partnerships and increase both customer satisfaction and sales.