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BT chases the SME digital market

Emma Nash
British Telecom has established a new business unit to target the IT and telecoms requirements of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

The company has teamed up with Microsoft, Dell and Cisco to offer Digital Business, an integrated information communication technology service pitched at its 1.2 million SME customers.

Mike Langston, BT's managing director of small and medium enterprises, believes the new unit will attract between 30,000 and 50,000 customers over five years, generating £500m in revenue for BT.

"One of the things we've got is national coverage, and that's something most people don't have," said Langston. "We tend to have a fairly trusted brand that people are assured of still being there tomorrow."

BT Digital Business will sell five integrated packages comprising hardware, networking, software and communications technology directly to the SME community. The company already has 1,600 sales staff and 3,000 engineers in place, Langston said.

He acknowledged, however, that smaller SMEs often preferred to deal with smaller vendors, and that a network of smaller value-added resellers (VARs) would be useful.

"This service is not going to be serviced by our existing VARs," he said. "Although there is potential to go via that route in the future."

BT is currently under fire for the performance of its broadband division. However, Langston confirmed that broadband would feature prominently in the Digital Business package.

"We already bring broadband to SMEs at a rate of 1,000 per week," Langston said. "It's [broadband] been a slow start, but we've ironed out all the problems."

But others are not so confident. "When BT come out with anything I'm always sceptical," said Peter Scargill, national IT chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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