A single supplier could ease SME tech headaches

Solar Communications has become the latest to voice the benefits of the one throat to choke approach citing its own research to back the view up

The channel plays a crucial role with small customers looking for help with their technology needs and that situation is prevalent now more than ever with many SMEs struggling to get the most out of IT.

The classic channel model is to find the user pain points and then come in with a solution to the problems and when it comes to dealing with smaller customers there are plenty of firms looking for that sort of help with many failing currently to get to grips with communication technologies.

With almost 90% of all SMEs reporting problems with introducing new technologies to their organisation the size of the problem is a significant one and some of the pressures that are coming from the boardroom to improve the way a business operates are causing headaches in the business.

Research from Solar Communications has found that a third of small firms are finding meeting the technology needs of the workforce a challenge, a similar number is not coping with the demand for simplified processes and there are also problems juggling suppliers.

The reasons why the inability to roll out new technology is such an issue is because it not only has a negative impact on competitive advantage but it also causes unrest with staff if they are not able to take advantage of more flexibility and mobility in the way they work.

Mark Colquhoun, CEO of Solar Communications, said: “The research suggests that many UK SMEs are finding technology to be a challenge for their business, rather than a real enabler. The increasingly complex nature of today’s technology environments is presenting issues to today’s SMEs, with multiple suppliers, technologies and points of contact to manage.”

His advice is to go for the ‘one throat to choke’ approach to make life simpler and to get a wider solution implemented by a single supplier.

“A strategic partnership with a single supplier can deliver significant benefits, reducing administrative workloads to improve efficiency and business agility in order to create competitive advantage in the market,” he added.

The report echoes some of the wider trends in the channel with some segments like security already seeing a move away from point products to a more consolidated approach as users look for more manageable options that come from just one or two suppliers.

The Solar report finds that not only is there a challenge for SMEs in coping with numerous supplier relationships and the management of different systems but that it can also be a problem when it comes to chasing the invoices and getting a clear picture of what is happening to the business.

Comms has been one of the areas where because of convergence between the voice and data channels there has been some consolidation of supplier relationships. But speaking to MicroScope a couple of months ago the CEO of Excalibur Communications James Phipps warned that there continued to be different mindsets between those selling voice and data there was also a different reaction from customers that have traditionally brought the services from seperate suppliers.

"There can be a trust issue with a single supplier and the customer can feel very exposed and you can see it as a one-stop-shop with one throat to choke or as having all your eggs in one basket," he said.

"If you can knit convergence together than you can demonstrate real benefits to customers from having an end-to-end solution," he added that establishing a plan and forming a partnership with the customer was vital to making sure that plan delivered.

The arguments for using a single supplier according to Solar include getting cost savings, improved efficiency, straightforward procurement, reduced administration and easier technology integration.

When it comes to finding someone that fits the bill customers are looking for channel players that are going to excel when it comes to delivering service. From a position of being able to survey the market and bring expertise the ‘trusted advisors’ that attract users should be in a position to provide choice but a wide solution.

There doesn’t seem to be an argument about SMEs recognising the need to invest in IT to move their business forward with recent figures from the the accountancy industry body ICAEW showing 80% of SMEs believed that IT would play a major role in their expansion plans.

Read more on Sales and Customer Management