IT can help smaller businesses to gain new customers to ride through the recession, according to the latest research.
A survey of 1,000 SMEs for Salesforce.com, which was conducted by Vanson Bourne, rated finding new customers as the most important issue for smaller businesses.
IT plays a crucial role in helping businesses create new opportunities to sell products and lowers the costs associated with managing customers, research claims.
However, the survey showed that IT was a bigger expense to SMEs than the cost of running facilities or HR.
SME businesses may be tempted to cut IT costs, but this is not the answer, said Ciaran Rogers, who looks after IT at sailing charity UKSA, which is a Salesforce.com user. "IT can be seen as an unnecessary expense, but for me IT is an opportunity. To cut IT would be inconceivable."
"The past 18 months have been challenging for SMEs. In 2009, SMEs have to enable business with technology." advises Kneko Burney, president and chief strategist at Compass Intelligence.
However, she believes most SMEs have no idea of IT. In the past, smaller companies may have been burnt by buying inappropriate customised applications, while others continue to pay high maintenance fees on IT infrastructure, servers, licences and support staff for traditional enterprise software.
So SMEs need to attract new customers while the IT systems they use are too expensive to run and support. Cloud computing can help smaller businesses lower IT costs, according to Steve Garnett, EMEA president at Salesforce.com.
He said that unlike traditional software, where an upgrade requires an army of Accenture consultants, SME users running cloud-based software get their upgrades automatically.