We had a great opportunity to listen to the needs of our SMB customers recently when we organised a roundtable discussion in London with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), three of our customers (including two UK Finalists from the Dell Small Business Excellence Award 2009) and four journalists who cover the SMB market. The topic was around how technology can help SMBs survive and thrive in a recession. As you can imagine in this current environment, there was lots of lively debate.
On technology itself, the discussion ranged from continually training employees and keeping up-to-date with technology, to the benefits of virtualisation and cloud computing. One of our customers, Warren Vick, founder and executive director of Europa Technologies, a digital mapping company, said that cloud computing allowed them to scale very quickly. A map that could have taken two weeks to render now takes hours because their servers are used to their full capacity – none stand idle.
There was also an interesting discussion around the right time to invest. Martin Port, managing director of Masternaut Three X, a vehicle tracking company, talked about how he’d ‘bitten the bullet’ and invested in Microsoft Dynamics (Great Plains) CRM software, and was already seeing great returns. Warren said he was investing now to get ahead – rather than wait for green shoots. All agreed that investments would only be made where there was immediate ROI – and not for the sake of using the latest and greatest gadgets. At Dell, we’re certainly seen more customers take up our 0% leasing offer so they can continue to make strategic investments in their companies.
The overall consensus was that IT suppliers need to focus more on solutions that solve problems than standalone pieces of hardware or software – which was great validation for the approach we are taking at Dell.
We ended the roundtable talking about Green IT – was it a PR exercise or a driver for efficiency – and the one piece of advice we’d each give to SMBs in the current climate. Here’s what we came away with
- Know your business and concentrate on it
- Invest in your company
- Find a good technology partner (not just a vendor)
- Consider how technology can expand yourself and your business
Great advice from an inspiring group of people. Below is video from the roundtable about the challenges SMBs face today. If you’re interested in hearing more from the event, check out the additional videos on the playlist on YouTube.