Magazine article Management Today

More Data Is Needed to Cater for Small Firms' Requirements

Magazine article Management Today

More Data Is Needed to Cater for Small Firms' Requirements

Article excerpt

Normally, I skim read stuff from so-called thinktanks but one recent pamphlet was different. Small Firms On-Line, produced by the Institute for Public Policy Research, challenges some of the IT industry's basic assumptions about small firms' IT requirements. IT suppliers generally view the vast and largely untapped SME market as a kind of Bermuda Triangle where many initiatives have sunk without trace. But perhaps, contends the pamphlet, these suppliers have been looking at the market from the wrong perspective. First, most IT services and applications are focused on the needs of large companies and fail to address the real but often niche requirements of small companies. Small companies come in an extraordinary variety of organisational shapes, sizes and IT competency. But IT system suppliers find this lack of homogeneity difficult to cater for and often prefer easier-to-identify market segments and 'expert' customers.

Second, most small businesses still use IT predominantly for automating repetitive or routine administrative activities such as accounting and stock control. SMEs have not yet realised IT's potential for improving relations with customers, suppliers, potential customers, and even government. Most small companies still view IT in terms of 'money saved', rather than 'opportunity created' or 'relationships improved' (or even transformed). While small business buyers often fail to appreciate how IT can transform business processes and relationships, IT suppliers usually don't understand the specialist requirements of the smaller firms. …

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