IBM Global Services Australia (IBM GSA) delivered a warning to systems integrators last week that it's gunning for a slice of their SME business. IBM GSA confirmed that at least 30 per cent of its overall revenue now comes from SME customers and indications are that the outsourcing giant is mounting an all-out assault on this booming market.
But, according to Ed Kilroy, IBM GSA's general manager and CEO, the organisation's approach to SME customers doesn't reflect the boots'n all approach it employs to win massive outsourcing tenders with the likes of Telstra. Instead, it contends that consulting services are the best medium to approach SMEs that don't have a crystal-clear picture of what they would like technology to do for their business.
"The size of our SME customers is arbitrary," Kilroy said. "We deal with customers with as few as five staff up to organisations which have 250 staff.
"Our differentiator is that we can offer a range of individual packages that can be tailored to meet the needs of SME customers.
"It's an effective approach to small customers who probably thought they would never be doing business with a Goliath like IBM GSA," Kilroy claimed.
The outsourcer's most popular SME offerings are site services such as LAN connections, along with consulting and systems integration capabilities.
"IBM GSA's approach to SMEs is more along the lines of offering a value chain to customers rather than just simply coming in and bombarding them with an end-to-end outsourced solution."
Kilroy touched on a number of services offered by IBM GSA, including Midrange Express, which is designed for IBM AS/400 users and offers multiple support and services options at set costs, ranging from simple systems housing through to full systems management.
On the consulting front, IBM GSA offers Probe, a two-day benchmarking program that assesses an SME's business practices and identifies areas of the business than can be improved. Another integral part of the outsourcer's services offering is e-business advisory services.
Kilroy believes this compartmentalised approach to dealing with SMEs will put some minds at ease, especially those small businesses that have never dealt with IBM GSA before.
"It's about building offerings that make sense to a small business as opposed to putting together a massive outsourcing project. Customers have the choice of a range of services which can enhance many components of their value chain."
But when confronted with the customer perception that IBM GSA is too expensive, Kilroy moved to deflect the argument away from costs.
"There can be no denying that the argument is all about driving down costs when you're dealing with SMEs," Kilroy said.
"But costs are only one objective . . . you need to consider retention of skills as well. Costs will always be on the table but real value of an IBM GSA service can only be measured by how important the service is to enhancing the business.