Small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) are becoming more sophisticated in their technology purchases and are embracing solutions such as software as a service (SAAS) and managed services, a report from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a non-profit information technology trade association reveals. A survey of more than 400 SMBs across the United States found nearly 30 percent of them plan to implement SAAS solutions in 2010 to lower costs and maintain their competitive edge, up from 22 percent and 14 percent, respectively, in the two prior years.
Thirty percent of SMBs said they intend to implement managed services solutions in 2010. Since 42 percent of SMBs do not have a formal IT department, relying instead on workers handling IT needs on a part-time basis, CompTIA Vice President of Research Tim Herbert said the managed services model is ideally suited to fill this skills gap. Herbert said the CompTIA study also indicates SMBs are placing increasing importance on technology solutions that drive revenues, produce immediate results to the bottom line and have a direct, positive impact on the customer's experience.
This is reflected in their growing adoption of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and other such solutions in 2009. "Between 70 percent and 80 percent of the SMBs we surveyed consider the usage of ERP, CRM and online e-commerce capabilities as strategic to their business," said Herbert. "IT solutions that are tied to instant return on investment in business communication and customer outreach efforts have the highest likelihood of adoption."
The CompTIA study also identified key core values that SMBs look for in their technology providers: 86 percent demand partners that truly understand their business needs; and 83 percent want partners who are able to provider scalable solutions. Survey responses also suggested SMBs are looking to maximize their IT investment by making better use of existing technologies, people and budgets.
Though the survey shows SMBs are somewhat upbeat about business prospects in 2010 - with seven in 10 expecting positive revenue growth - they also expressed a desire to keep current IT systems operational for a longer timeframe. Herbert said SMBs are challenged by lean IT budgets and are looking to reduce the complexity and cost of maintaining their IT infrastructure, and the inability to integrate existing legacy products and services with emerging technologies also causes them anxiety.
"Technology providers may be well advised to approach SMBs with either new IT solutions that represent low perceived risk or replacement solutions that positively impact productivity and efficiency," Herbert said. "There-s also an opportunity to provide ongoing maintenance services to help SMBs better manage their IT systems under current business conditions."