Vendors have been espousing the benefits of converged voice and data networks for many years now but are these solutions ready for the SMB market? ARN in conjunction with Nortel and LAN Systems, brought together a select band of resellers to find out.
• Abbas Aly, Triforce
• Bengt Beyer-Ebbesen, VoIP
• Robert Brown, Total Computer Technology
• Steve Clack, Nortel
• Brian Corrigan, ARN
• Trent Goodall, Mobile Phone Service Centre
• Mic Henderson, LAN Systems
• Leigh Howard, LAN Systems
• Richard Hutchinson, Emerging Systems
• Michael Salama, MCR
• Susan Searle, ARN
• Mal Smith, CommSys
For the purpose of the discussion, SMB was divided into three segments - SOHO companies with less than 10 employees, small businesses with 10-150 users and mid-tier organisations with up to 250 seats. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.
MIC HENDERSON, LAN SYSTEMS (MH): Do you guys have a target market where you decide something is too big or too small?
ROBERT BROWN, TOTAL COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY (RB): Our sweet spot is 25-150. When I started out I would cross the road for five cents but now I have cut clients off because we are only invoicing $100 a month and they take forever to pay. What's the point when we have clients that spend hundreds of thousands a year and don't query bills? But it's not just about size - it's about relationships because we don't want to be thought of as just a supplier.
STEVE CLACK, NORTEL (SC): It's important to recognize that the SMB market is growing faster than enterprise. Any organisation that is looking to grow has to seriously consider SMB because that is where it is going to come from.
RB: It's probably under-serviced as well. Everybody wants huge clients but I can make more money on ten 50-seat clients than I can on one 500-seat client because the return on investment is quicker and the sales cycle is quicker.
BENGT BEYER-EBBESEN, VOIP (BB): There has also been a filtering down of requirements from larger clients. If you go back 2-3 years, smaller clients were not looking at the same features as those above 250 seats such as converged communications and desktop integration. Now some clients with five or six users want these features because they can see competitive advantage. We can deliver those services but it comes at a very high price if you want to do it with dedicated equipment. A better solution is delivering on a shared or managed services basis where you can drive down prices. SC: SMB customers are facing exactly the same pain pressures as enterprise - managing a more mobile workforce, customer retention and increasing revenues from services. The trick is finding solutions that fit the SMB budget.
RICHARD HUTCHINSON, EMERGING SYSTEMS (RH): There's a lot of expectation in terms of what technology can do for a business. There are now [converged communication] products that offer all the features of a large PABX at a price that is affordable to the SMB market. SSL VPN devices let people log into their network from anywhere. These are business enablers.
MICHAEL SALAMA, MCR (MSA): Is it the number of seats that drives adoption of technology or the line of business? We could look at the SMB market generally and say it is less educated but there are those that are highly educated and want to integrate technology with their way of doing business. They are a much better candidate for voice and data integration.
SC: We have to look at business concerns. A company with five or six staff can benefit from converged solutions but there are others with 60 staff where 80 per cent are in a warehouse. Real estate agents are a great example because they need to be contactable all the time. If we can sell them a business benefit then size doesn't matter.