SAN FRANCISCO, July 23, 1999 — They call it competition, but to many small and medium-sized businesses, it’s more like survival.
Today, on top of issues like inventory and budgeting, businesses have to factor in the growing need to keep pace with technology that is changing the marketplace almost daily. It’s a need that is not easy for many businesses to address. Last year, small and medium-sized businesses spent more than $26 billion on technology hardware, software and support combined, yet only 18 percent of small businesses have a full-time staff person dedicated to information technology. Some businesses turn to solution providers for assistance. Many others simply forge ahead – often without all of the information they need to determine which choices might contribute best to their bottom line or, better yet, their ability to compete.
That could change with new efforts by Microsoft that focus specifically on small and medium-sized businesses (defined as those having between five and 500 PCs). News about those efforts was announced today at Fusion ’99, the annual worldwide symposium for Microsoft Certified Solution Providers (MCSP).
MCSPs are the consultants and technical specialists often called upon to implement solutions for businesses using Microsoft technology. The MCSPs attending Fusion ’99 were the first to hear about new tools from Microsoft that are designed to help small and medium-sized businesses implement technology effectively and take advantage of e-commerce opportunities. Like all of the announcements at Fusion, these support Microsoft’s goal of providing a bridge between customers and the technology resources they need.
“MCSPs are an important link in connecting businesses to the solutions they need,” said Paul Bazley, general manager of Microsoft’s Small and Medium Enterprise Marketing Division. “The more we can do to connect businesses to the expertise of this group, the better we can equip them to move forward technologically.” Not only was Fusion ’99 the place where MCSPs learned about the new tools they can use to help businesses meet their growing technology needs, it was also the site for the formal announcement of Microsoft Business Advantage.
Microsoft Business Advantage
Imagine that you’re a business owner with some big plans for the future. You want to develop a great Web site, allow your customers to order products online, and ensure your growing staff will be able to share applications and information across the network. And, while you’re at it, you’d really like to order multiple copies of Office 2000 so that everyone in the office can upgrade at the same time. Until recently, a business might need to do bit of research about how to develop a Web site, and pick the brain of the neighborhood computer expert to see if adding that new server was really worth its time.
That could change with Microsoft Business Advantage, a transaction and solutions Web resource providing businesses with three distinct types of technology assistance:
An online licensing feature allows businesses ordering five or more software licenses to obtain volume discounts of up to 23 percent or more;
A solutions site allows businesses to access a host of technology solutions, specifically geared to the stage at which the business needs information. Curious about how putting your catalog online might benefit your business? Case studies illustrate how particular solutions helped other businesses. Need to know what resources it will take? Simply click to another section that will tell you which software and hardware you need to make it happen. In addition, the site connects you at logical points to the other two components of the site: to the online licensing section if you are ready to purchase software; or to the referral engine if you are looking for some technological expertise.
The referral engine allows businesses to search for an MCSP according to the type of solution needed. Based on the user’s geographic location and technology needs, the engine connects the business directly to one or more of the 9,000 MCSPs best qualified to implement that particular solution. The business gets a listing of every MCSP within a 50-mile radius that meets the specifications, complete with contact information and a profile on the company.
The three components of the site provide exactly the type of one-stop shopping experience that controller/systems administrator Roy Martinez says he’s been looking for.
“There are so many questions that can be answered with all the information in one place,” says Martinez, whose company, Borba Farms in California’s San Joaquin Valley, uses modern technology to produce food and fiber. “There is a real need for that one-stop shopping, where I can go to not only figure out how a product will integrate with my system, but I can license it right away and be connected to the technology providers who can deploy what I need.”
An Easy-to-Read Roadmap to E-Commerce
Also announced at Fusion were a series of e-commerce packages that allow MCSPs to address more easily and quickly the e-commerce needs of small and medium-sized businesses. The e-commerce packages represent the first effort within Microsoft’s E-Commerce Alliance to address the small and medium-sized market specifically.
The Microsoft E-Commerce Alliance is an effort that brings together technology experts of all kinds to develop e-commerce solutions using Microsoft platforms for all types of customers. The focus on e-commerce ties closely to the increasingly strong presence of businesses conducting business online. In all, there are about 3.6 million businesses with Internet access, and about half of those are ordering online. It is a trend that many say will continue, with more and more businesses seeking to use the Internet as an additional sales outlet.
In addition to e-commerce packages focused on larger businesses, one of the offerings outlined at Fusion gives MCSPs a set of tools that allows them to quickly create packaged or custom solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. Another effort provides a unique blend of inexpensive and easily deployed solutions that are highly flexible and customizable. Each effort benefits customers by providing MCSPs with a set of easily customizable tools that are affordable for small and medium-sized businesses to implement.
Connections to Experts
With nearly half of the nation’s more than 7.2 million small and medium-sized businesses online, terms like e-commerce, knowledge management and Web server are becoming more and more common in the business world. As the landscape of the business world becomes increasingly tied to the technology it uses, efforts such as Microsoft Business Advantage and the E-Commerce alliance will continue to provide a strong tie between small and medium-sized businesses and the technology they need.
All statistics Access Media International (AMI-USA.com), Global Small and Medium Business Market Overviews, 1999