As part of its efforts to capture a larger slice of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) market, IBM is planning to launch a service bureau in the fourth quarter this year that will allow SMEs to link up and use the bureau's business applications remotely, said Francis Ngai, IBM China/Hong Kong's manager of general business.
"Our concept is to save SMEs the need to buy their own systems," Ngai said.
SMEs will only need a couple of PCs and a dial-up Internet connection or a leased-line link with the service bureau in order to access and run applications residing on an RS/6000 server located in the bureau, Ngai said.
"It's almost like outsourcing," he noted.
IBM commissioned the Hong Kong Productivity Council to survey more than local 5500 SMEs earlier this year. Survey results show that 24 per cent of SMEs lack technical expertise; 24 per cent lack the financial resources to implement IT systems; and 10 per cent lack information on what is available to conduct electronic business.
"A lot of SMEs think IT requires a lot of investment, especially during the beginning stage," said Samuelson Young, general manager of IBM Hong Kong. However, SMEs using the service bureau will pay by the hour, Ngai noted, adding that the charges have not yet been finalised.
Initially the bureau will target the distribution, manufacturing and service industries in Hong Kong, Ngai said, adding that the bureau will further segment the industries to better meet the needs of SMEs.
The bureau will provide applications covering supply chain management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and business management applications, he said, declining to give details.
The service bureau is part of IBM's larger efforts to boost business in the SME market. The company also plans to launch a Business Needs Assessment Tools (BNAT) questionnaire to help analyse SMEs' business and IT needs later this month, according to Ngai.