Technology consultants Access Markets International Partners have pointed to six trends among small and medium businesses that, they say, deserve more attention.AMI-Partners acknowledge that the most publicized trends -- inreasing adoption of managed services and software-as-a-service, virtualizations, and mobile applications are solid predictions. But, they say, there are six other trends that haven't been fully explored:
1. Businesses will start to spend on information and communications technologies again, after holding tight to the pursestrings for most of the past year. "SMBs showed signs of releasing pent-up ICT demand in the fourth quarter of 2009. SMBs will tentatively transition out of survival mode and focus on opportunities for business expansion," according to the report. AMI predicts that small businesses will focus on collaboration, networking, and disaster recovery, while medium businesses will adopt enterprise-oriented technology such as CRM, ERP, and server virtualization.
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2. Purchases will be based on tangible benefits. "Phrases such as 'save time' and 'save money' will need to be heavily supported with hard numbers and proof of outcome," AMI writes. Vendors will need to establish a relationship based on trust in order to close a sale.
3. SMBs will continue to be interested in and to adopt cloud computing solutions, but the full opportunity will not be realized because of the confusion in the market. Cost savings, efficiency, and disaster recovery are the main reasons businesses will turn to the cloud.
4. Social media will become a business intelligence tool in addition to a promotional tool. "As usage of social media grows so will the advantages and opportunities for SMBs to capture valuable competitive feedback," says the report.
5. More vendors and resellers will become "total IT solution providers." Consolidation in the IT industry and lowered spending by businesses have forced channel partners to add software, services, training, and support to their portfolio of offerings.
6. Businesses will see a widening "capabilities chasm" in the managed services market, as early and innovative providers refine their ability to address SMBs' needs. "There will be a lot more white-labeling, co-branding opportunities through 'my brand, somebody elseï¿¼s service' approach and countless new service offerings," the report predicts. "[This] will widen the chasm between MSPs, causing an unbalanced mix of abilities and competence within the managed services marketplace."
It sounds the year ahead will offer SMBs lots of opportunities to upgrade their technology, but along with the opportunities will come an occasionally confusing array of choices.