In Downturn, SMBs Want Channel Partners to Deliver Holistic Solutions

Small, mid-sized businesses willing to spend money on IT solutions if it helps contain costs and streamline operations, survey shows.

Amid economic uncertainty, small and mid-sized businesses want channel partners to help them recapture financial stability by delivering solutions that leverage key technologies and address many issues at once.

A multi-country report of 600 partners recently released by Microsoft Corp. found that SMBs are willing to spend money on IT solutions if it helps them to contain costs and streamline operations.

The results, based on survey data from about 3 percent of Microsoft’s 20,000 SMB-specific partners, pointed to the key role played by solution providers in assisting small and mid-sized businesses to cut expenses by maximizing benefits from strategic technologies such as virtualization, server consolidation and SaaS.

Often lost amid reports of job losses and economic stagnation is the heightened role channel partners play as trusted advisors to spur recovery among small and mid-size businesses. Microsoft's 2009 Microsoft SMB Insight Report specifically highlights the reliance of SMBs on channel partners to help them improve their bottom line through a greater understanding of their business and a refined depth of expertise.

“The most successful partners are focusing on providing a one-stop experience for hardware, remote management, integrated consulting services and making technologies such as virtualization, server consolidation and SaaS readily available,” said Ross Brown, Microsoft vice president for solution partners and ISVs.

“Companies are looking at technology that will directly benefit their bottom line by reducing operating costs, improving productivity, retaining customers and acquiring new ones, so we see server consolidation and virtualization ranked as the top technologies for enabling growth in 2009,” Brown said. “Ultimately, smart SMBs are making IT investment during this downturn that will not only protect and strengthen their business but also prepare them for success when economic conditions improve.”

Brown said that Microsoft undertook the study because “partners are typically the IT department to their customers and are critical to Microsoft’s customer satisfaction so anything we can do to help partners and customers understand one another is a win-win proposition.”

High demand for virtualization

The report revealed the extent to which SMBs are reeling under the impact of current economic conditions. Nearly half of those surveyed predicted lowered IT spending in 2009 while 67 percent said they are cutting staff to reduce costs. Nearly the same number said they are slashing IT costs to contain overall spending. Only 20 percent said that they are investing in IT to address the dismal economy. More than one-quarter of SMBs said that new technology investments must boost the productivity of their employees.

To meet SMBs’ cost cutting and efficiency initiatives, virtualization and consolidation technologies are in the highest demand followed by SaaS, the report indicates. SMBs see virtualization as an optimization technology to ensure servers operate at maximum efficiency and capacity.

About 25 percent of companies surveyed pointed to those technologies as vital to cost containment and reduction. Together they comprise the best and most effective IT investment.

The study also pointed to open market opportunities available to channel partners to present to the SMB community. For example, SaaS use is expected to grow among SMBs by 20 percent from the beginning of 2009 to the end of the year.

“Supporting remote and mobile workers has emerged as a major trend as SMBs increase the number of remote works and look to empower employees in the field,” Brown said. “Many smaller businesses are considering augmenting their on-premise software with SaaS and look at how it can support operations at lower cost and more flexibility.”

TAGS: services,Microsoft,virtualization,SMBs,channel

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