Can Consumer Techs Satisfy SMBs' Collaboration Needs?

Ann All

Motorola recently introduced a wireless LAN and an adaptive access point with three radios, somewhat breathlessly implying that the products would make it possible for companies to have all-wireless offices -- and assuming, naturally, that this is a goal for many businesses.


Is it any wonder, then, that SMBs feel they are being left behind by their larger counterparts -- or perhaps fear making ill-advised purchases just to keep up with the bigger guys? This appears to be the tone of a question posed by someone named Diane on "With all the talk about wireless, what tools do smaller businesses really need?"


In answering her question, Yankee Group analyst Steve Hilton promotes the idea of consumer technologies. He references a couple of Yankee Group studies, at least one of which I mentioned in a blog earlier this year. That study, "Unleash the Hidden Power of Your SMB," found that consumer-oriented tools such as instant messaging, wikis and blogs were often major productivity drivers for SMBs.


In the article, Hilton says many SMBs employ such tools because their IT departments (assuming they have them) haven't been able to accommodate their collaboration needs. He writes:

Employees need real-time, near-real-time, and non-real time communications to effectively and efficiently get their jobs done. Often the SMB IT departments haven't implemented enterprise-class (or SMB-class) solutions, so the SMBs use technology tools from their personal lives for work to get the job done.

(Of course, this is an issue at larger companies as well, as I've noted in several blogs, including this one.)


Some of the leading productivity boosters, according to Hilton, are blogs, wikis, WWAD-enabled laptops and instant messaging. One of the takeaways from Hilton's response that I found most interesting is that these tools don't necessarily increase productivity within the office. So employees who spend big chunks of time outside the office will likely gain the most from them.


Hilton also implies that many of these tools will fade in importance as SMBs move toward a more integrated unified communications solution. Because vendors have been slow to roll out SMB-friendly UC products, however, SMBs will likely continue implementing them on an as-needed basis, as I wrote back in October.

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