SMBs Fear an Overreliance on Microsoft

Many SMBs share a growing concern about overreliance on Microsoft systems, according to a new Yankee Group survey. Approximately 43 percent of respondents --IT purchase decision-makers from companies of two to 499 employees--to the "SMB Infrastructure Survey" admitted a fear of becoming heavily dependent on Microsoft's products and services. Within that group, 72 percent indicated that they are actively seeking other vendors to diversify their portfolios. "The SMB market is the next big thing for Microsoft, estimated to be a $10 billion business for the company by 2010," says Helen Chan, Yankee Group SMB strategies senior analyst. "However, Microsoft is not alone in its SMB ambitions, as vendors such as SAP, Oracle, Siebel Systems, and IBM are aggressively moving down-market." What this escalating worry over Microsoft dependency could provoke, according to Chan, is the opening of opportunities for competitive vendors to ease their way in, including within the realm of CRM. Because small companies may not find all included features and functionalities of MS CRM necessary, may not have an adequate IT staff, and often need to pay costly fees for upgrades, Chan recognizes that this solution is beneficial for a certain percentage of SMBs, but not all of them. With a multitude of vendors to choose from nowadays, many SMBs are, in addition, relying on a technology consultant partner to help assess their individual needs. "There aren't many vendors that play in all the same spaces as Microsoft, so it's impossible to say that there is another vendor out there who is exactly the same," Chan says. Taking into account the diversity of each company's strengths, weaknesses, and target areas, she continues, "It is difficult to say how Microsoft feels about other vendors." From a vendor standpoint, however, Chan believes that aligning the product with the right target market and finding the appropriate channels to use are the fundamental factors in developing CRM prominence. Many vendors, she points out, are using the channels they already have, and just revamping their products to target the SMB and midmarket segment. She mentions, for instance, how the IBM/Siebel partnership basically involved a leverage of their respective channels to promote their message to SMBs and midmarket companies. "The marketplace is getting a lot noisier and more competitive than it ever has been," Chan says. "All of the new technologies available are making CRM much more than what it used to be, extending it out of just CRM and into other areas."
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