Our recent blog post on the emerging SaaS model for ERP elicited a smart reader comment that left us shouting "Amen, brother," so well did it encapsulate some of our feelings about big vendors and their often-clumsy approaches to SMBs.
Among the many relevant points made by Doug Madden of FreeBalance: There is lots of room for disagreement over what constitutes an SMB. What's "small" to one company is "mid-size" or even "big" to another. Heck, when you get right down to it, there are plenty of different categories within just the "small" category. The needs of a business with five employees are likely to be dramatically different than those of a company with 50 employees.
Despite their obvious desire to woo SMBs (fueled by reports that SMB spending on IT will outpace that of their larger counterparts this year), companies like IBM, SAP and HP are struggling to understand the market. They must not only scale their products accordingly, but tweak their sales, marketing and support processes as well.
One example of a vendor that appears truly in touch with the needs of SMBs -- offered by Madden and seconded by us -- is SaaS provider Salesforce.com. "Salesforce seems to have found the magic to provide simple applications with the right amount of user configuration and platform customization to appeal to most SME customers," Madden writes.
Salesforce enjoyed an obvious advantage in that it built its applications from the ground up, rather than trying to make apps that had been designed for enterprises suitable for SMBs.
This last point is also mentioned by Madden, who says, "The pattern also seems to require that vendors work bottom-up to address this market rather than 'dumbing down' an ERP system."