Can anyone accurately define a SME? The reason for asking thisween SMEs and vendors, and the steps to be taken to make the market accessible. question is because so far nobody has been able to identify what the SME's natural habitat or staple diet might be - or to table a definition with any confidence or accuracy.
And yet, despite this ambiguity, we often hear how there is a huge untapped SME market out there, or how to take advantage of the great opportunity, and how re-sellers can really increase their margins. Ring any bells?
As vendors, we have a responsibility to make the SME market more accessible and digestible to our business partners, but in real terms this kind of ready-aim-fire method of reseller education and marketing isn't helping the channel build real market penetration.
Firstly, we have to decide what exactly a SME is. There are no real statistics, but it is generally agreed that more than 90 per cent of UK enterprises could be defined as small to medium-sized.
And this is where the problem lies, I think. Can it be that the SME does not even exist? As a case in point, let's take a photographic development firm that has a 1,000-strong workforce - it's likely to be less techno-sceptic than say, a steel plant that employs 500 people. Which firm is the SME? Both, according to received wisdom.
So instead of by size or turnover or workforce - perhaps we should define companies' technological needs in terms of the type of business they conduct and their experiences and attitude to technology.
According to a recent IDC survey, what unites all SMEs is attitude. They all want measurable return on investment. It's hardly surprising that resellers are reluctant to trade in the small business sector - they have to work twice as hard for less margin. But what's the answer?
For a start, we've got to stop talking about speeds and feeds - smaller businesses are not interested in processor speeds and software architecture.
There's still a huge chasm between technology and the average user's understanding of a particular product. As long as they have confidence in the fact that it really works, they do not ultimately need to know how.
Vendors must simplify purchase and deployment, making it easy for the SMEs we try so hard to impress. They have to see what an IT package can do for their organisation instead of just having the technology. We've got to sell them the concept of a better, more efficient way of doing business.
Look at an Ikea catalogue or visit one of the company's massive outlets, and there is a very definite feeling that this is not any old company that you're dealing with.
Ambling through a store or thumbing an Ikea catalogue, there isn't the feeling that you're simply looking at furniture or accessories for the home - it's more than that. Viewers look at the living rooms and bedrooms of the people they would like to be. Effectively, they buy into the lifestyle.
The industry can learn a great deal from Ikea. If SMEs - whether they've got 50 or 500 employees - can be shown how to become the lean, mean company they would like to be and taught not so much a new lifestyle as a new workstyle, then we are halfway there. SMEs are real creatures, vendors simply have to know where to look.
Security firm set to become part of acquisitive Shearwater Group
Distributor merges three northern sites into one new hub in Warrington
Activist investor puts forward five director candidates as turmoil continues at security giant
Nima Green asks what is driving public cloud uptake in Germany