Does the technology really matter in today’s world? Basically computer systems just work today, cell phones work almost anywhere now and with our mobile devices we are getting all of our office communications now while we are out and about. So does the technology matter? All the information flowing through cyberspace, through the airwaves, down the copper, does it matter how it gets to its destination?
For the small business owner who is attempting to crack into an emerging market with a breakthrough product, the answer maybe a plain old – NO. As a small business owner myself, when I want to make a phone call for example, I simply pick up the handset and expect a dial tone. Dial my ten or eleven digits and strike up a conversation with my party at the other end. How my voice enters the phone system and comes out the ear piece at the other end is not important to me. The intelligence going over the technology is what matters. In the end, the fulfillment of the required and desired task is what matters. “The technology itself is required to assist and enhance the fulfillment process,” states Zak McKracken, a Managed Services consultant in Australia.
Owners of small businesses are turning to features and benefits over the actual technology. We find that a benefit of working from home to catch up on loose ends when it is convenient is a great selling feature to emerging technologies like SSL VPN, where ease of use and security are important requirements to the overall benefit of working remotely. However, the technology needs to have a tremendous level of “ease of use” attached to it. Small Businesses do not want complicated steps that many small business IT consultants believe is necessary to properly secure a network for remote access, for example. The technology needs to be simple and effective or the small business owner will never invest in it.
The shift in the SMB consulting community needs to change. As Dave Sobel of Evolve Technologies in Washington, DC states, “I sell value, not technology”. This is what small business owners are looking for in today’s strong economy. But businesses today are still cautious on where they will invest their technology dollars. They require a solution that provides everything they need, it must be affordable and it has “to work better than predicted,” says Amy Babinchak of Harbor Computer Services, a Microsoft MVP in Security. Solutions need to have value: be full of benefits and provide the business owner with a tool to assist them in performing their tasks and services and to be competitive in the marketplace. Small businesses do not have endless IT budgets, so they need to do more with less. They need reliable solutions that work, without paying through the nose for IT support services.
Small business owners today are too busy trying to stay a step ahead of their competition to worry about computer systems. Those who do focus efforts on their systems may have to re-evaluate their business when they realize that they just wasted a whole year setting up a server and workstations instead of focusing on their product offering to the market. Small Business owners who try to do their own technology end up in a trap because they focus so much effort on their own systems that they lose the perspective of their real business function.
IT Consultants have been preaching in their communities “that they should become trusted advisors to their customers,” states Doug Geary of GearyTech in Toronto. “When you find yourself in that position, you will find the brand/flavour of your recommendations is mostly meaningless.” This is true despite the argument of many IT consultants. To a small business owner, it doesn’t matter if a server has SATA, SCSI or SAS drives, they just need to be able to store their information securely, reliability and most importantly with zero downtime. We see many technology focused consultants putting all their attention on the specifications of a server for example, “the RAM is this fast, the drives spin a 15,000 RPM, and RAID 5 means this.” Doesn’t matter! Can the server you are recommending meet their goals? If the answer is yes, then you have done your job.
Where does the technology matter then? It matters to the IT consultant who is working on building out the solution. It matters to the people that have to support it. It doesn’t really matter to the business owner. They want to have someone who is reliable, trustworthy and most important available when they need that team or person to take care of it. Today’s business owner puts a lot of trust in IT companies to provide them with a solution that will meet their needs and then they must be able to support it, and if they are not around down the road for some reason, someone else needs to step in and support it without rebuilding or going through a tremendous learning curve.
The actual technology only matters to the IT company. They are the ones that need to learn it inside and out, they are the ones that need to stay ahead of the technology curve and have the ability to inform their clients when new solutions are available to make the business owner’s life easier and/or more profitable.
So what is important to the business owner? It just has to work, when they need it, always. Benefits to their business are very important and features and “nice to haves” round it out. Business owners like mainstream, well known solutions. They want what their peers have because they saw it at the gym, lunch or out on the golf course. When they ask for it, it is because they saw their peers with it, and maybe it is a solution that allows his/her friend to work from home three afternoons a week or go to a school event and still have information from the business coming to them when they are away from the office. It is not the job of the IT consultant to discourage the technology, it is the job of the consultant to embrace it and provide it. Many times I see business go elsewhere simply because the company was ill equipped to adapt to the client’s changing needs or request, and the competitor could.