Q&A: How Technology Can Sharpen a Small Business’s Competitive Edge



Nigel Burton, General Manager, U.S. Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners Group. Click image for high-res version.

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 3, 2003 — Microsoft realizes that each of the 7.5 million small businesses within the United States is unique, with its own concerns and business problems. These businesses face many issues, including how to manage their time, generate revenue, protect their company data and better manage customer relationships.

Small-business customers have told Microsoft that they need software and tools designed specifically for their needs. Their feedback resulted in two products that will launch this year — Microsoft Windows Small Business Server and Microsoft Office Small Business 2003 Edition — just two examples of the company’s commitment to providing small businesses with tools they need to focus on their business, and not the technology they use to run them. Customers are increasingly realizing the power of technology in helping them run a successful company, but there’s still a lot of room for small businesses to use technology tools to help them prosper.

PressPass spoke with Nigel Burton , general manager of the U.S. Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners group, about how Microsoft is supporting this unique market.

PressPass:

Burton:

I have been impressed with how small businesses have specifically been able to harness technology to improve their business. For example, Regional Retail Concepts, a Maryland-based airport retail chain, had very humble beginnings but used technology to its advantage. Using technology, they looked at new ways to manage their point of sale, taking some of their products and making them available on a Web site, increasing their market and adding new service for their customers.

Now many airports are installing wireless networks and Regional Retail Concepts is looking at how it can harness those networks by giving their store assistants portable computing devices that can always be connected to the Internet. This could provide an opportunity to give a higher level of service to their customers within the store. I find this so motivating and exciting, and I’m really very pleased to be able to work with companies such as Regional Retail Concepts.

PressPass: What is currently top of mind for small businesses?

Burton:

We recommend that all customers regularly deploy security protection measures such as those outlined by Protect Your PC. Businesses should verify their firewall configuration and audit Internet and intranet firewalls to ensure they comply with their security policy as a first line of defense. In addition, best practices recommend blocking all ports that are not actually being used.

Businesses should also keep their systems up-to-date with the latest information. This can be done by simply subscribing to Microsoft’s free security notification service and using Microsoft update services to automatically obtain fixes. Additionally, installing, configuring and maintaining antivirus protection is absolutely essential.

Businesses can find out more about the Protect Your PC guidelines at: http://www.microsoft.com/security/protect/.

PressPass:

Burton:

We realize that the small business market is unique and our goal is to ensure that these customers have the support and solutions they need to succeed in selecting, implementing and utilizing technology that will improve the efficiency of their business. For example, we are dedicating US$2 billion to research and development of technology for small and midmarket businesses this year alone.

We are on a journey similar to what started 25 years ago with the vision of a PC on every desktop and in every home. We want to help small businesses transform the way they run their businesses.

PressPass:

Burton:

Microsoft is also working with our partners to provide solutions that are flexible and adapt to customers’ business needs rather than forcing customers to adapt their business to fit technology capabilities.

PressPass:




How can corporations, like Microsoft, learn from the small businesses it supports?

Burton:

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