Q&A: Unique Program Aims to Make Technology Easier for Small Businesses

Duncan Ingram, managing director of BT Openworld. Click image for high-res version.

Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s vice president for worldwide small business strategy. Click image for high-res version.

REDMOND, Wash., April 30, 2004 — The small business segment is a unique audience with special requirements. In order for technology geared to small businesses to be accessible and effective, it must be affordable, easy to manage and incorporate support programs. A strategic relationship recently announced in London between Microsoft and British Telecommunications (BT), one of Europe’s leading providers of telecommunications services, aims to transform the quality and delivery of technology available to small businesses in the UK. A market test of the new initiative in two regions of Scotland will target this currently underserved segment of the business community and seek to narrow the technology gap between large and small businesses.

PressPass spoke to Steve Guggenheimer , Microsoft’s vice president for worldwide small business strategy, and Duncan Ingram , managing director for BT Openworld, about BT Connected & Complete, featuring Microsoft Technology, a new one-stop IT solutions and broadband service.

PressPass: What is BT Connected & Complete, featuring Microsoft Technology, all about?

Guggenheimer: Teaming with BT, this new offering is setting out to provide small businesses with secure broadband access, software applications, services, support and maintenance – all from a single source and on a single bill. This is about innovating to deliver on small business’ need for solutions that provide simplicity, reliability, connectivity and affordability.

This alliance was developed out of our belief at Microsoft that the IT industry has done a better job focusing on the needs of big business than the needs of small business. As a result, small business customers have not been able to realize the advantages from information technology that large companies have. Microsoft and BT are bringing together their best assets and committing to better serve the small business market.

Ingram: There are over 40 million small businesses worldwide; in the UK alone there are close to 2 million, accounting for 40 percent of GDP. These small businesses must have robust technology, services and support to compete and be successful. Small businesses are becoming more savvy and understand the way they use technology can significantly impact their bottom line. We’re looking to revolutionize the way small businesses deploy technology to help them build more profitable customer relationships and reach their business goals.

Press Pass: Specifically, what does this offering comprise?

Ingram: We’ve named this service “BT Connected and Complete, featuring Microsoft Technology,” and that’s what we’ll deliver: comprehensive and integrated voice, data, software, services, support and maintenance to help small businesses improve their productivity. We’re providing easy access to solutions specific to the needs of small businesses at the right price. Most small businesses lack IT expertise; rarely do they have dedicated in-house staff to see to their technology requirements. We’re addressing three key needs of the small business customer by making technology easier to buy, easier to install and use, and easier to maintain.

Businesses subscribing to this service will find that they have an excellent resource for robust technology without having to fuss about IT infrastructure.

Guggenheimer: Subscribers will have access to a wide range of broadband-enabled solutions, including Microsoft Solution for Hosted Exchange 2003 and Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003. The Office software has been specially tailored to meet the needs of small businesses by including tools to help manage contacts more efficiently, track sales and leads, run reports, create professional presentations and easily develop sales and marketing materials. Hosted Exchange will help subscribers increase their productivity through shared calendars, access to e-mail and contacts from the Web or smart mobile device, and data back-up.

These tools can dramatically improve connectivity, communications and collaboration. Plus, this new offering provides this complete service via one monthly payment on one bill. That means that small businesses will be able to manage cash flow while gaining the advantage of access to the latest enhancements through software upgrades and updates that are part of the service.

PressPass: Do you see the service creating new business opportunities in the communities where it is offered?

Ingram: Absolutely. As part of BT Connected and Complete, we are developing a strong partner channel to provide the dedicated IT resources necessary to manage the technology infrastructure. This will enable small businesses to form a relationship with a local partner for technology services, including training, maintenance and security. Through our support of the partner channel, this service will create a new customer pipeline and allow a broad set of partners to generate new revenue opportunities through sales and service efforts.

Guggenheimer: The innovative way that this service will be delivered really makes it easier for small businesses to implement and use technology. The hosted services and relationships with local partners for regular support and periodic “IT-health checks” will help our customers realize the full value of their technology investments and thrive in the growing digital economy.

PressPass: How did this alliance come about?

Guggenheimer: We work with many partners to deliver services using Microsoft platforms and solutions, and we’re always interested in aligning with forward-looking companies to serve small businesses around the world. BT is a natural choice for us to work with on this initiative. Microsoft has collaborated with BT for the past eight years in the areas of broadband, mobility, intranet services and wireless data applications. The two companies have a shared value in their commitment to constantly improving customer satisfaction. This alliance will address many of the pain points of the small business market with a new and innovative delivery system for IT products and services.

Ingram: BT has existing relationships with small business customers and the infrastructure to provide broadband access and online services, as well as to administer subscription offerings. Microsoft has first-rate software offerings tailored to small-business needs. BT and Microsoft’s long-standing relationship reflects each company’s commitment to industry leadership by consistently raising the bar to provide the best products and services to consumers and businesses alike.

Research shows that an overwhelming majority of small businesses prefer to buy telecommunications services packaged from a single provider. BT Connected and Complete, featuring Microsoft Technology satisfies this predilection, combining convenience with ease of cost. I believe that many small businesses will find this a particularly appealing and winning combination.

PressPass: How are you going to bring this service to market?

Guggenheimer: This is an important trial for us in providing software as a supported service. This has everything to do with the convergence of IT with the Internet to provide the capabilities that small businesses really need.

BT is at the forefront of providing broadband and “carrier-grade” communications capabilities, so the UK is the right place for us to test this offering. We are taking a pragmatic approach to the rollout and will use the market to learn best practices and prove the business model to solidify the program offerings before scaling the program more broadly.

Ingram: We’re going to take it one step at a time. The first phase, in June, will be in the Glasgow and Edinburgh markets. Once the market test proves successful, we plan to roll it out nationally in September.

Guggenheimer: This program has been developed based on a tremendous amount of input from small business customers and I am personally very excited about how it can meet their communications and IT needs. We’ll be listening to feedback from both customers and partners, and improving the program on an ongoing basis. The market is lacking a single-source, combined connectivity and applications service for small businesses. BT Connected and Complete, featuring Microsoft Technology fills the gap by delivering technology and services in a new and highly cost-effective way.

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