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There’s an SME Knocking at the Door…

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DQW Bureau
New Update





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As the world re-lives 9/11, enterprises still

grapple with security, data loss, downtime... and the cost of ensuring uptime.

That’s especially high in a country plagued

with infrastructure issues.

The financial sector is way ahead. It invests

heavily in security and disaster management. So does telecom. Where data equals

revenue, ‘business continuity’ is non-negotiable. But others, including the

big daddy IT user — manufacturing — are far behind.

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For most, disaster management, remote hot sites,

et al, are ‘future plans’. Especially with so many strategic initiatives

losing out to quick-return projects under today’s RoI demands

But the wider IT usage gap is the one between the

large enterprise, and the rest of India’s business world. There, IT is

visible, but rarely mission-critical.

A snapshot of the larger SME: A messy network

with dozens to hundred of PCs, basic Net access, word processing, an accounts

package, and payroll (and Hotmail). Discrete little apps, added in pieces over

time. A bit of “CRM” — usually contact management. These apps don’t talk

to each other. PCs and servers have been added ad-hoc. Storage is just internal

drives, and perhaps tape backup.

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In IT terms, small and mid-size enterprises are a

mess. And the biggest challenge, and opportunity, for vendors of IT products --

and services.

Products: Yes, the SME is price-sensitive. There

are good SME connectivity and network products, but key devices and apps remain

complex, or expensive. Servers are a case in point — what the SME needs is a

box with ready file-and-print and datacom apps. An ‘appliance,’ if you like,

but without the high price tag. Other technology, such as NAS, is still

expensive, but getting better.

Scalability, integration, the apps platform:

Alien words here. SMEs will not invest Rs 50 lakh upfront in an ERP system.

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They’ll get small, discrete, even custom, apps.

They’ll later grapple with incompatibility and support. They need a modular,

scalable system on a consistent platform. But few vendors bring to the SME such

a value proposition: Choose the platform.

Buy a low cost module. Integrate other apps

later. SMEs don’t know that they need an integrated system — or even why

accounts, payroll and HR software should work seamlessly together.

Services: The yawning gap for the SME. Beyond

maintenance and ‘integration’ (cabling, network setup), there’s little

available from the cottage industry targeting the SME. There are those who will

set up apps for SMEs, but they’re usually the vendor’s dealers, who don’t

make objective consultants. “But the SME does not pay for services”.

Yet this is the big challenge and market. For the

pioneers who get their foot in the SME door.

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